Early production cameras (ca. No.01000 - No.01100) feature the Minox logo with en elaborate VEF Riga logo underneath. Later this was changed to a simplified Logo incorporating VEF and Riga into the Minox Logo. During the russian occupation the Riga within the logo was first crossed out and later on not engraved at all. During the german occupation the word Riga was restored to the logo. Some very very rare cameras feature just the Minox logo without VEF or Riga and feature Germany. Some other rare cameras, made from spare parts, feature a blank back plate.
The Made in inscription
These engravings reflect the history of Latvia at that time. After about 6000 cameras the company was forced to engrave every item "Made in USSR". As cover plates had been preduced, the mayority were recycled by milling away the old "Made in Latvia" and replacing it with "Made in USSR". Once these plates were used up, cameras were delivered with normal "Made in USSR" engarvings. When the germans occupied Latvia, the Made in USSR were converted back to Made in Latvia. Again recycled/milled/re-engraved examples exist.
The Patent inscription
VEF proudly engraved the early cameras with "Pat. app." highlighting that the camera was based on new innovate ideas that made this tiny camera superior to previous subminature cameras. Once the first patents were granted, the slogan was changed to "Patented". The last recorded "Pat.app." is currently our No.02008, and the earliest "Patented" No.02155.
The Lens cover
The lens cover engarving "Minostigmat" was originally written in a very small font horizontally on the lens cover. This extremely small font was subsequently changed to a slightly larger but narrow font. Later the font size was increased further which now utilised almost the whole width of the lens cover. Later on the engraving was changed again to a diagonal engraving.
The Serial number
The lens window
Early production cameras feature small 9mm x 10mm (height x width) lens window cut inside the body shell. This window was subsequently widened to 9mm x 11mm (height x width) giving it a more obvious rectangular look. The alteration was likely done to increase the light reaching the lens, hopefully providing better exposed pictures. This was especially vital as the old films of the 1940s were very very slow and required a lot of light.
The lens frame
In addition to widening the lens window the frame between the outer shell and the lens cover glass was changed from a black coloured frame to a sliver/grey coloured frame. It may have been done to same time e.g. no painting required or was done deliberate to improve the light reflection.
The camera polish
Early cameras are polished with a higher grade belt than later cameras. They are slightly more shiny than later production cameras and when you hold both in your hand you can feel the difference. The early cameras are very slippery while the later cameras have a little more grip, as their finish is not as smooth. You can easily determine if your camera has a fine or coarse polish, as the inner camera end cap (where the screws are visible) is either shiny or matt. Shiny end caps are genreally found on early, finer polished cameras while matt end caps are generally found on less polished later cameras.
The end cap (screws)
Variations: 2 (+1)
Many cameras were produced with 2 screws to fix the top plate to the body. This was eventually changed as 1 screw quite sufficed for this job. The change was quite late during production and could have either been to speed up production and or to safe parts/money during war time production.
An additional variation can be obsereved in some end caps featuring a small hole. Why this alteration was made, is unknown.
(photos [c] submin.com)
The film advance spool
Early production cameras feature a 12-toothed film advance spool. This allowed the mechanism to directly and firmly grip the film canister and advance the film accurately. VEF originally send out cameras with the 12-toothed spool as it did not show any weakness in initial testing. However after having a large number of customers shooting several rolls of film, some problems were spotted in the design. Thus quickly the 12-toothed design was dropped and a 3 toothed film advance spool introduced. The theory that it was a design flaw is supported by the fact that nearly 1 in 3 cameras were re-fitted with a new 3-toothed spool. Owners of 12-toothed cameras have told me that they never had problems. So I dont know how vital this change really was and how often problems occured.
There are also cameras with sharp 3-toothed film advance spools. These are actually german replacement parts, as Minox Germany re-designed the spool for the Minox model A to have sharp edges. Sometimes an original VEF screw is used, other times a modern german one.
The frame indicator
As you may have noticed the vast majority of VEF Minox cameras were delivered with a nice "Red" Dot in the exposure counter window. I was notified that Vef Minox with a "red triangle" instead of a "red dot" exists. They seem super rare. This camera is No.09192 (see picture below)
One reason that we have variations is that the exposure counter window is made out of glas and can brake! Now and then you can see actually a VEF Minox with such as 'cracked' glas. Others likely were fixed over time. They were fixed either with