small & small format cameras


Size is a feature of cameras which is easily overseen. It is important though, as people have to carry their cameras. The smaller and lighter a camera is, the higher the probability that it is put into the pocket or a bag and just carried around without a certain purpose to take a specific image. To create, design or produce a small camera is much harder than a larger or just a standard size one. You can start with a small negative format, but then you have to compromize with image quality and sometimes usability. Or, you can take a decent film format and just try to arrange the neccessary parts and functions in a way, that all is usable but just takes the minimal space needed.

I personally think that camera designs which focus on size and usablity are particularilly fascinating, if not beautiful. Therefore, I made this chapter one of my core areas of my collection. And, there is Yoshihisa Maitani, an outstanding camera designer who left us with four timeless beautiful and compact designs, which are all in my posession. Have fun browsing around...

Small cameras for 24 x 36 mm images

Leica III
Kodak Retina 118
Kodak Retina I (126)
Leica III (Germany, 1933-1939). Central model of the pre-war Leica screw mount camera series. With collapsible lens quite compact. Leica introduced 24x36 on cine film to still photography. Kodak Retina (118, Germany 1935). Very compact foldable design. First camera on Mount Everest, introduced standard 135 cartridge to the market. Kodak Retina I (126, Germany 1938). Another pre-war Retina from my collection.
Retina I
Agfa Karat
Paxette 1b
Kodak Retina I (010, Germany 1946). Early post-war Retina. Agfa Karat 6.3 Art Deco (Germany, 1937). Agfa's answer to Kodak's Retina and the new 135 cartridge. Uses Karat cartridges. Braun Paxette (Germany, 1950). First post-war camera from Braun. Very compact with optical light meter.
Rollei 35
Rollei B35
Rollei 35 (Germany, 1966-1971). Smallest 24x36 camera until the Minox. Ingenious design of Heinz Waaske. Rollei B35 (Singapore, 1971). Cheaper base version of the series with uncoupled Se-meter and simpler lens. Rollei 35 SE (Singapore, 1982). Top model of the Series with Sonar lens and LED indicators.
Olympus OM-1
S310 Konica C35
 Olympus OM-1 (Japan, 1972-1987). Smallest SLR of its time, setting new design standards. Maitani! Zeiss Ikon Contessa S310 (Germany, 1971). One of the last German cameras of this kind. High end with aperture prio AE. Quite compact, although fully loaded. Konica C35V (Japan, 1971-1076). Very compact automatic camera. Her 3 year older, similar sister C35 set new standards for this camera class.
Olympus XA
Minox 35 GT
Olympus XA (Japan, 1979-1985). Smallest rangefinder camera for 135 film ever. A real pocket camera and a design jewel. Maitani! Minox 35 GT (Germany, 1981). Smallest 24x36 camera from 1974-1996. Different models with quite some automation available. Minolta TC-1 (Japan 1996). Smallest 24x36 film camera since. Unfortunately, missing in my collection.

Half format cameras (18 x 24, 24x24, 25x25) on 35mm film

Originally, 35 mm wide film was used for cinematography. Here the image format was 18x24 mm. However, most still cameras used 24x36 mm in landscape mode (nowadays called "full-format"), as it would offer a higher resolution in times when emulsion technology was not quite as advanced. In order to build small cameras some designers "re-invented" the 18x24 mm format, mostly in portrait mode now, and called it "half-format". During the 60ies this became quite popoular, especially in Japan. When real small "full-format" cameras became available (see above) they took over this market niche again.
However, and you'll see below, there were also squared format cameras available. They mostly used special cartridges and you need to load the film yourself. 

Robot Junior
Mercury II
Zeiss Ikon Tenax I (570/27, Germany 1939-1941)
Robot Junior (Germany, 1954). Special rotary shutter, based on a design from 1934. 24x24 mm square format, spring motor. Quite heavy despite small size. Universal Mercury II (USA, 1946). Not particulary small half format camera, due to unique rotary shutter. First camera with a flash hot shoe! Zeiss Ikon Tenax I (570/27, Germany 1939-1941). 24x24 square format. Affordable and pocketable camera. One of the first with a fast advance lever. Continued production as "111/23" from 1948 to 1953 at VEB Zeiss Ikon, DDR.
Bolta Photavit IV
Bolta Photavit IV (Germany, 1948). Smallest 35mm film camera of its time. 25x25 mm images, special cartridges. A spooling tool is included in the package. Olympus Pen F (Japan, 1963-1966). Most unusal SLR, half format. Specially designed rotary shutter as well as porro prism finder. Very compact and beautiful, excellent lenses. Maitani! Olympus Pen FT (Japan, 1966-1972). Consequent improvement of the Pen F in the same body, adding TTL-metering and a self timer.
Taron Chic
(Japan, 1961)
Olympus PEN EES-2
Taron Chic (Japan 1961-196x). Unusual half-frame with built-in selenium meter and a vertical design. Olympus PEN EES-2 (Japan, 1968-1971). A popular later member of the georgeous PEN series of very compact, high-end but affordable cameras. Maitani!

Small format cameras (110, Minox, 16 mm)

Cameras for very small formats need to make compromises regarding image quality. Enlargements larger than 10x15 cm rarely looked good, due to missing resolution of the film and/or the lens. Some of the cameras are really tiny, like the iconic Minox from 1937, which I don't own yet, unfortunately. Some are not and even bigger than small normal cameras, but still interesting to be collected.


Minox B
(Germany, 1958-1972)
Acmel MD
Hit Camera (Japan, 1950). Very small and simple (box-style) camera for 17.5mm wide roll film, image size is 14x14 mm. Smallest camera in my collection. Minox B (Germany, 1958-1972). THE miniature camera. Unfortunately, not the original Latvian model from 1937. Very timeless design, though and a must for every camera collection. Acmel MD (Japan, 1991-1997). Automatic camera for Minox film. Negative size is 8x11 mm.
Pentax auto-110
Minolta 110 Zoom
Disc 4000
Pentax auto-110 (Japan, 1978-?). The smallest system SLR with exchangeable lenses ever made. For 110 cartridge, negative size: 13x17 mm. Minolta 110 Zoom (Japan 1976-1979). First SLR for 110 cartridge. Not very small, though. Was succeeded by a more compact version, the last 110 SLR! Kodak Disc 4000 (USA, 1982). Kodak's last trial to create a people's camera. Not very compact though, compared to the tiny negative format of 8x11 mm.

Minolta 16-II
Agfamatic Pocket 4000

Minolta 16-II (Japan, 1960-1974). Very nice and usable implementation of the Minox concept for 16 mm film in special cartridges. Image size: 10x14 mm. Agfamatic Pocket 4000 (Germany, 1974). Agfa's very succesful implementation of a beautiful real pocket camera for 110 Instamatic film.