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.
Pocket Kodak (USA, 1912-1926)
Early small cameras

Nagel Pupille
(Germany, 1931)
Agfa Karat Cameras for Karat, Rapid
and SL cartridges

Olympus PEN EES-2Half format 35mm
(18x24 mm)
Zeiss Ikon Tenax I (570/27, Germany 1939-1941)
Square format 35mm (24x24, 25x25)
Pentax auto-110Small format cameras
(110, Minox, 16 mm)

Early small cameras

Cameras of the 19th century were bulky, heavy and mostly required a tripod. At the end of the century rollfilm was invented and simple box cameras became available, which could be carried around more easily. However, it was the Vest Pocket Kodak of 1912 being the first camera, which could be called small enough to be carried everywhere. Besides the 127 roll film, which was invented for this purpose, there were a few other attempts to create some small film cameras. This is their section, which I hope to fill up further...

Pocket Kodak (USA, 1912-1926)
ICA Icarette (Germany, 1912-1925)

Contessa-Nettel Piccolette (Germany,
Vest Pocket Kodak (USA, 1912-1926). Very succesful (>1.8 mio units) camera. One of the first, that really fit into a vest pocket. Introduced 127 roll film. ICA Icarette (Germany, 1912-1925), with Zeiss Ikon label until 193x. Successful vest pocket camera and the first camera for the quare format 6x6 on 120 film.
Contessa-Nettel Piccolette (Germany, 1919-1926), with Zeiss Ikon label until 1930. A VP Kodak clone with some neat extra features.
Krauss Rollette (Germany, 1924-1931)
Ernemann Bobette I (Germany 1926)
CP Goerz Roll-Tenax (Germany, 1914)
G.A. Krauss Rollette (Germany, 1924-1931). First German camera using the 129 film and a very compact design concidering 40% more image area than the VP film 127.
Ernemann Bobette I (Germany, 1926). Early pocketable camera for 22x33 mm images on proprietrary 35mm rollfilm. Continued as Zeiss Ikon Bobette after 1926. C.P.Goerz Roll-Tenax 4x6.5 (Germany, 1914). An early German VP Kodak competitor with Compound shutter.

Half format cameras (3 x 4 cm) on 127 roll film

During the late 1920ies and the early 1930ies both, film quality as well as camera technology improved and it became possible to produce small and pocketable cameras. Many think that the Leica created this small format market, but in its early days most of the available cameras used the so called Vest Pocket film (127) with 16 exposures of portrait orientation 3x4 cm (or 1 5/8 x 1 1/4 inch) sized negatives. Most of the cameras appeared in a relative small time window between 1930 and 1932, and disappeared again just a few years later, when the 135 cartridge with its 36 exposures won the market. However, there are still a few cameras which (again) appeared during the 1950ies. This is a segment I will keep looking for in the future and add some more to my collection.

Pupille (Germany, 1931)

Vollenda 48
Vollenda 48 (Germany, 1932)

Nagel Pupille (Germany, 1931). The "Queen" of all 3x4 cameras. Elaborately and imaginatively designed, precisely manufactured. Nagel Vollenda 48 (Germany, 1931-1936). Nagel's entry into this camera class. It was larger than the pupille, but due to an Aluminum body slightly lighter.
Nagel Vollenda 48 (Germany, 1932). Second version of this camera with slight changes.

Kochmann Korelle 3x4 (Germany, 1931)
Welta Gucki
(Germany, 1931)
Goldi (Germany, 1930) or clone
Kochmann Korelle 3x4 (Germany, 1931). Quite common 3x4 camera with a Compur shutter
and a Schneider Xenar lens.
Welta Gucki 3x4 (Germany, 1931). Similar to the Korelle, but with a simpler shutter and lens. Smallest of my 3x4 cameras.
Zeh Goldi (Germany, 1930). This is a no-name model, Zeh produced it for other under different brands. It also got copied in Japan...

Voigtländer Perkeo (Germany, 1932). Named after a known court dwarf, Voigtländers interpretation of a 3x4 folding camera. Zeiss Ikon 520/18 "Baby Ikonta" (Germany, 1932). The low price model for the market from Zeiss Ikon carried the famous Iknota name.


Derby 2a (Germany, 1931-1935)
KW Pilot
(Germany, 1931)
Zeiss Ikon Kolibri (Germany, 1931). Zeiss Ikon's high end model for the 3x4 camera market. Quite special design. Foth Derby 2a (Germany, 1931-1935). Very interesting camera with a focal plane shutter. KW Pilot (Germany, 1931). The one and only TLR among the 3x4 cameras. High end features and high price. Quite rare.
Puck (Germany, 1948-1950)
Tanit (Italy, 1955)
Baby Minolta
(Japan, 1935)
Ising Puck (Germany, 1948-1950). Most sofisticated camera of this relatively unknown producer. Ferrania Tanit (Italy, ca. 1955). Simple Box-style camera, just to boost Ferrania film. Baby Minolta (Japan, 1935). Early Japanese bakelite camera for 127 film and two formats. Simple shutter and lens.

Small cameras for 24 x 36 mm images

Originally, cameras using the 35 mm cinematographic film were quite compact, although the earliest models from the 1920ies resembled movie cameras and were quite bulky. The Leica from 1925 was compact though and much more pocketable than many other (larger format) cameras of its time. However, over the years more and more functions entered the cameras (like rangefinders, exposure meters, etc.) and the manufacturers got lazy to design the cameras in a still compact way. This section is for both, the early compact cameras and the late approaches to really produce compact designs despite the 24x36 mm image size.
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

Mimosa II (DDR,
Paxette 1b
Kodak Retina I (010, Germany 1946). Early post-war Retina.
Mimosa II (East-Germany, 1949). Compact and unusually shaped viewfinder camera. First post-war design from East-German Zeiss Ikon branch, launched under a photopaper brand.
Braun Paxette (Germany, 1950). First post-war camera from Braun. Very compact with optical light meter.

Welta Welti (Germany, 1935-1939 and 1948-1953)
Jubilette (Germany, 1938)

Beltica (Germany, 1951)
Welta Welti (Germany, 1935-1939 and 1948-1953). Another competitor of the Retina in very similar style. Balda Jubilette (Germany, 1938). Aniversary modell of the Baldina, Retina's strongest direct competitor. Belca Beltica (East-Germany, 1951). Technically the same as the pre-war Baldina. However, a technical evidence for the impact of war and German separation
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.

Smena 8M
(UDSSR, 1970-1995)
S310 Konica C35
 Smena 8M (UdSSR, 1970-1995). Exceeding 21 mio units, most produced analogue camera of all times. 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.
Olympus OM-1

Olympus OM-1 (Japan, 1972-1987). Smallest SLR of its time, setting new design standards. Maitani!

Cameras for Karat, Rapid and SL cartridges

Eastman Kodak was most successful in launching new film formats and cartridges on the market (see my post about the Vest Pocket Kodak). But also Kodak's most important European competitor Agfa tried to establish one own standard, which is the Karat cartridge for 35 mm fim in 1937, which basically failed during the difficult times of WWII. Interestingly, there were two attempts during the 60ies to revive the concept: One by Agfa in West-Germany called Rapid, which was even used by some Japanese camera producers. The other was by Orwo, the East-German Agfa successor, who called it SL-Kassette (Schnell-Lade Kassette = 'quick loading cartridge').
Agfa Karat

Agfa Isoflash Rapid

Penti II (DDR,
Agfa Karat 6.3 Art Deco (Germany, 1937). Agfa's answer to Kodak's Retina and the new 135 cartridge. Uses Karat cartridges. Agfa Isoflash-Rapid (Germany, 1965-1966). Agfa's answer to Kodak's Instamatic was a reborn Karat cartridge from the 30ies. Penti II (DDR, 1961-1977). One of the most successful German pocketable cameras. Its predecessor Orix re-introduced the old Karat as SL-System.

Electra (DDR, 1967)
Yashica half 17 EE Rapid (Japan, 1965)
Rapid S2 (Japan, 1965)
Pentacon Electra (DDR, 1967). Electronically controlled shutter and aperture prio auto exposure in a modern plastic body. Not very small, though but using the SL cartridge. Yashica half 17 EE Rapid (Japan, 1965). Fully automatic (electric eye) half format camera for Agfa Rapid cartridges.
Nice and compact design.
Fujica Rapid S2 (Japan, 1965). Fully automatic (electric eye) camera for Agfa Rapid cartridges and 24x24 mm negatives. Very solid build, clean design.

Half format cameras (18 x 24 mm) 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. 

Korelle K
Olympus PEN EES-2

Mercury II
Kochmann Korelle K (Germany, 1932). Early half format 35mm film camera in modern shape. First Bakelite camera produced in Europe. Quite innovative and rare.
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! Universal Mercury II (USA, 1946). Not particulary small half format camera, due to unique rotary shutter. First camera with a flash hot shoe!

Yashica half 17 EE Rapid (Japan, 1965)
Yashica half 17 EE Rapid (Japan, 1965). Fully automatic (electric eye) half format camera for Agfa Rapid cartridges.
Nice and compact design.
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)
Penti II (DDR,

Yashica half 17 EE Rapid (Japan, 1965)
Taron Chic (Japan 1961-196x). Unusual half-frame with built-in selenium meter and a vertical design.
Penti II (DDR, 1961-1977). One of the most successful German half-format cameras. Used the SL-System film. Yashica half 17 EE Rapid (Japan, 1965). Fully automatic (electric eye) half format camera for Agfa Rapid cartridges.
Nice and compact design.

Square format 35 mm (24x24 mm, 25x25 mm)

Square format has always been a subject for aesthetical disputes. Some like it, some hate it. However, camera manufacturers used it for 35mm cameras and created some quite interesting and compact designs.

Ikon Tenax (Germany 1938)

Zeiss Ikon Tenax I (570/27, Germany 1939-1941)

Robot Junior
Zeiss Ikon Tenax (II) (580/27, Germany 1938-1941). First camera with a fast advance lever, exchangeable lenses, high end quality and price. Hubert Nerwin's masterpiece and highly collectible today.
Zeiss Ikon Tenax I (570/27, Germany 1939-1941). 24x24 square format. Affordable and pocketable camera. Like its older sister with a fast advance lever. Continued production as "111/23" from 1948 to 1953 at VEB Zeiss Ikon, DDR. Robot Junior (Germany, 1954). Special rotary shutter, based on a design from 1934. 24x24 mm square format, spring motor. Quite heavy despite small size.

Bolta Photavit IV
Rapid S2 (Japan, 1965)
SIDA (Germany,
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. Fujica Rapid S2 (Japan, 1965). Fully automatic (electric eye) camera for Agfa Rapid cartridges and 24x24 mm negatives. Very solid build, clean design. SIDA (Germany, 1936). Simple miniature box-camera for special 32mm Sida roll film. With some interesting history behind...

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.