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Gizmos A - Z

Accoson Sphygmomanometer

Aibo ERS-111 Robotic Pet

Aldis Folding Slide Viewer

Amerex Alpha One Spycorder

AKG K290 Surround 'Phones

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Aiwa TP-60R Tape Recorder

Amstrad CPC 464 Computer

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Atari 2600 Video Game

Atari 600XL Home Computer

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Bambino Challenger Radio

Bandai Solar LCD Game

Bellwood, Bond Spycorder

Binatone Digivox Alarm

Binatone Long Ranger 6 CB

Binatone Mk6 Video Game

Bio Activity Translator

Biri-1 Radiation Monitor

Bowmar LED Digital Watch

Brydex Ever Ready Lighter

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Canon Ion RC-260 Camera

Cartex TX-160 Multiband Radio

Casio VL-Tone Keyboard

CD V-700 Geiger Counter

CD V-715 Survey Meter

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Channel Master 6546

Chinon 722-P Super 8 Cine

Citizen ST555 Pocket TV

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CocaCola Keychain Camera

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Commodore 64 Home PC

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Concord F20 Sound Camera

Craig 212 Tape Recorder

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Daiya TV-X Junior  Viewer

Dancing Coke Can

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Eagle T1-206 Intercom

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Euromarine Radiofix Mk 5

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Yupiteru MVT-8000 Scanner

 

Widget Of The Week

Minolta –16 II Sub Miniature Camera 1960

Spy cameras come in all shapes and sizes but as anyone who was around in the 60s and 70s knows, it needs to be small, easily concealed and make a satisfying click when a secret agent snaps away at a super villain’s doomsday machine plans. These are all qualities possessed by the Minolta –16 II, which was clearly based on one of the all-time classic spy cameras, the Minox B, featured in countless movies and TV series over the years.

 

The Minolta –16 is just a little larger than the Minox, and nowhere near as sophisticated but it really looks like a piece of serious spy kit. It has the all-important push-pull film advance and shutter cocking action, and when you press the shutter button all the little gears and levers whirr away inside the shiny metal case. It’s definitely not a toy, though and is perfectly capable of taking good quality pictures under a wide range of conditions, including complete darkness, though you need the optional accessory mount for the optional flashgun. There are a number of clever design touches, including another one borrowed from Minox, and you can tell when a frame has been exposed as the front leaf of the shutter mechanism has a blue circle printed on it, which disappears when the button is pressed.

 

Sadly, though, its picture taking days are well behind it and even though it is in full working order. The film cartridges, which hold up to 20 shots of 16mm wide film are long obsolete and almost unobtainable. Old cartridges can be spooled with modern 16mm movie film stock but only a tiny handful of labs are able to process the film, and will charge you a pretty penny for the privilege.

 

Don’t let that put you off owning one, though, they are beautifully made, it’s all metal construction and very solidly built, and you can still have endless fun clicking and cocking the shutter. The feature list is also impressive, it has a high quality, 4-element fixed focus lens, and a good assortment of exposure controls, which includes a 5-speed shutter (1/30 to 1/500th sec & B-mode), plus a 6 step aperture control (f02.8 – f/16) and both are controlled by a pair of small thumbwheels on the right side of the camera body. It has an interchangeable lens and filter facility and they slide on to the front of the camera, in front of the main lens – this one is fitted with a 1A sky filter. There’s a simple optical viewfinder, a frame counter on the underside and a flash sync socket on the top right side, close to the shutter button. To change film cartridges the camera has to be pulled apart, quite literally, and pressing a small button allows you to detach the outer shell and access the main body of the camera. There are no exposure aids so taking a picture is down to good old fashioned skill and judgement but back in the sixties this would have been second nature to the majority of seasoned camera owners.

 

What Happened To It?

The design of this camera dates from the mid 1950’s, though the original Minolta –16 didn’t reach the shops until 1957. This one is the Mk II version, from 1960. Outwardly it looks very similar to the Mk 1 but it has a better shutter, slightly smaller but more advanced lens plus extra shutter speeds and aperture settings. In spite of the proprietary film cartridge, which no other camera maker adopted, and this model only being around for 3 years, it sold very well, especially in the US, and other Minolta cameras, which also used this cartridge, remained in production for almost two decades. The lack of support almost certainly killed it off though, that and intense competition in the 70s from the Kodak 110 format, which quickly became an industry standard, in spite of being inferior in almost every way. I don’t recall ever seeing the Minolta –16 II on the big (or small) screen, and this certainly wouldn’t have done it any harm but I would be very surprised it hadn’t had made a fleeting appearance at least movie or TV programme, and if you ever spot one, please let me know. 

 

This one is a fairly recent acquisition and came from a bric-a-brac market on the South Coast, haggled down from £15 to £10, which is around half what you can expect to pay for a really nice one on ebay. It is in very good condition, and it came with the detachable flash/accessory/tripod mount, and a single filter but it lacks case and instructions. Complete outfits, especially if they are boxed can easily fetch £100 or more but there are usually one or two on ebay at any one time for under £20. Even apparently rough ones are worth considering, more often than not they were well looked after when used and probably have spent the past few decades collecting dust in the back of a drawer and just need a little TLC to get them back to showroom condition. Surprisingly these little cameras haven’t had much impact in the collectors market, which means that at the moment they are relatively plentiful and cheap, but don’t expect that to last.

0714


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen               1960

Original Price         £20

Value Today           £20

Features           proprietary 16mm film cartridge, 1:2.8, F22mm 4-element Rokkor lens, fixed focus (2.7 metres); Shutter: B-mode, 1/30, 1/60, 1/124. 1/250. 1/500th sec; Aperture: f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16. flash sync socket, optical viewfinder, sliding accessory lens/filter mount, tripod, frame counter, wrist strap, detachable flash/accessory/tripod mount 

Power req.                     n/a

Dimensions:                   78 x 45 x 24mm (closed) 105 x 45 x 25 (cocked)

Weight:                          152g

Made (assembled) in:    Japan

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):  6

 


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