Minox 35 EL Camera

The First Miniature Minox Camera for 35mm Film

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Minox 35 EL was the first model in the series of some of the smallest full-frame 35mm film cameras ever made. It’s relatively rare as the most popular ‘35 version by far is the 35 GT. Yet, as with many film cameras of the period, this early iteration is easier to use thanks to its stripped-down feature set and the manufacturer’s extra care for their debuting product.

Minox 35 EL vs Minox 35 GT.

All Minox 35s are easy to use. They are aperture-priority cameras with a zone-focusing ring and a double-stroke advance lever.

The only thing I found consistently confusing on all ‘35 models is the battery test function, which is a small, unmarked black button on the top plate. You need to hold it down while looking through the viewfinder; if the exposure needle stops at 124, the charge is full.

Both EL and GT cameras were made for PX27 batteries, which can today be replaced with four LR44s stacked.

The GT version adds two small unmarked black toggles on the top plate. Their functionality is tough to guess correctly without a manual, but upon further examination, they’ll reveal themselves as a timer control and an exposure compensation switch.

Minox 35 GT, next to a film canister.

The cosmetic differences between the cameras are fairly minor. The most noticeable one is a red shutter button on the EL, which appears in yellow on the GT.

The EL has no timer and exposure compensation, which makes it a more straightforward camera to figure out.

Not pictured is a black insert for the hot shoe that comes with the EL model, making it look even nicer than the GT. Also, the ISO selector wheel at the bottom of the camera looks slightly and inconsequently different (although later GT models could take films with ISO 1600).

Operationally, I found that the EL model has a tighter film-advance action than the GT, which managed to irritate my thumb. This may turn out too much for some users as my fingers are already quite strong and calloused thanks to the weekly sessions at a rock climbing gym. Also, note that different film canisters will provide various amounts of resistance; I recommend Kodak film for cameras that struggle with a tight film advance.

Minox 35’s controls and ergonomics.

Minox 35s occupied the position of the smallest full-frame film cameras since ‘74 — until Minolta TC-1 took over that post in the mid-90s. But while the size improvements that TC-1 brought are minimal, Minox made a huge step forward in terms of usability, weight, and compactness when compared to another famous former champion in the category: Rollei 35.

The genius of Minox cameras is their familiar layout on a remarkably compact and lightweight body (this is in contrast to Rollei 35’s odd and slow-to-engage controls). As a result, the camera is very fast to get ready and easy to operate — as long as you’ve used film cameras before and know how to zone focus.

But of course, being the first model in the series, this camera suffers a few drawbacks. The hard-to-push double-stroke film advance lever is one. The other issue is its fragile light meter, known to break unexpectedly.

Ilford HP5+ with Minox 35 EL.

Lens operation and image quality.

Minox 35’s lens markings are in metres. If you’re used to measuring distance in feet, the conversion is simple: a foot is ⅓ of a metre. Which is good news as you’d have to eyeball the distance to your subject with this camera for every photo. If that sounds daunting, consider spending ten minutes with this guide that explains the easy and fast way to zone focus.

Once properly focused, the Color-Minotar 𝒇2.8 35mm lens can be very sharp, particularly in the center. And despite its wide angle of view and medium speed, Minotar is capable of producing very pleasing bokeh when shot wide-open.

The only downside I’ve noticed in my experience thus far is the slight softness in the corners in certain conditions.

Ilford HP5+ with Minox 35 EL.

Tips for buying Minox 35 EL camera.

Minox 35 EL is a fine camera. It started the legendary series of almost magically-small full-frame 35mm film cameras with a great lens.

However, you should also be aware of the drawbacks; most notably: ensure that the light meter is tested and functional. Good photos of the camera should show any issues with the lens (fungus, scratches), the viewfinder (fogging), and the body. You may also want to double-check that both hinges work properly and that film speeds are readable on the bottom plate.

And as always, check your seller’s ratings (if you’re shopping at an online marketplace) and don’t be shy to ask questions.

By the way: Please consider making your Minox 35 EL camera purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!