The Smallest 35mm Film Camera Ever Made
Comparing Minox 35, Olympus XA, Rollei 35, Minolta TC-1, and Revue 354 min read by
A truly pocketable 35mm film camera is a perfect photographer’s companion.
Digital cameras are still inferior to film in this category. For one, they aren’t small — that’s if you want to take advantage of a full-frame sensor. Whereas mobile devices use plastic lenses, a lot of image processing, and their results lack details when examined up-close — no matter how many megapixels they boast.
There are plenty of choices for pocketable/miniature film cameras out there, many of which I’ve had the privilege to test and review on this website. Today, I’m putting a few of them to the test to see which one deserves the title of “the smallest.”
I weighed and measured 5 film cameras, often named “the smallest” online and in print. And while they’re all small and brilliant in various ways, there can only be one winner.
🥇 Minolta TC-1 is the smallest full-frame 35mm film camera ever made. It measures 99mm × 61mm and weighs 224g (less than 8oz). See my review of this incredibly-compact premium point-and-shoot with perhaps the best 28mm lens ever made here.
🥈 Revue 35 XE (a.k.a Voigtländer Vito C and Blada CA35) is the lightest 35mm film camera I’ve tried. It measures 103mm × 64mm and weighs 175g (just over 6oz) with film and battery! Though it loses some points to TC-1 for size — and features — it may feel the best in your pocket. The review for this underdog of a camera can be found here.
🥉 Minox 35, which is often touted as the smallest 35mm film camera, is neither the smallest nor the lightest. It measures 101mm × 62mm and weighs 222g (less than 8oz). Still, it’s off only by a few millimetres compared to TC-1 and lighter by about 2g. So it makes the list but not at the top as I think many would’ve expected. Check out my review of this popular camera here.
Rollei 35 is still the smallest mechanical film camera. This is your best bet for total control over your exposure in such a compact package. There were lots of models in the series; I’ve recently reviewed Rollei 35 S — a premium package with 𝒇2.8 Sonnar lens — and Rollei 35B — a budget-friendly Rollei.
Olympus XA is the smallest rangefinder film camera. Though not perfect, this aperture-priority shooter with a crisp 𝒇2.8 lens is very pocketable. This was one of the first cameras I reviewed on this website.
Chinon Bellami isn’t the smallest — but it’s close. This camera can also be found to be reasonably priced (under $200) and has an excellent lens.
Ricoh FF-1s is only slightly larger and weighs only a few grams more than Minolta TC-1. Aside from its limitations, FF-1s has an excellent lens and is just as affordable as Chinon Bellami.
The smallest can mean many things. I use a combination of weight and front plate area.
The weight is measured with a matching battery and a roll of 36exp. film. I used a digital scale that’s precise to 1 gram. Note that film canisters may vary in their weight slightly.
I measured the cameras’ height and width with a digital calliper. The widest and tallest areas were used for the measurements. I decided to ignore the depth as it was roughly the same for all the smallest cameras (and is unlikely to get smaller due to having to fit a film canister).
All the cameras selected for measurements shoot unmodified 35mm film canisters. Thus Tessina, a tiny wonder that can oddly fit on a wrist, did not qualify (as it requires you to re-spooling your film).
All the cameras make 24mm × 36mm exposures — that is, no half-frames and no squares.
Finally, my selection was limited to quality-built, well-known cameras.
However, if you have a camera that’s lighter and smaller than Minolta TC-1, please let me know! Even if it’s an unknown brand or something homemade. I love these things.
❤ By the way: Please consider making your Minolta TC-1, Minox 35, or Rollei 35 purchases using the links above so that Analog.Cafe may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!