The Minox GT-E 3 Compact 35

An aperture priority exposure of f/11 and an estimated focus of 6' produced nice detail in this colorful classic car at a recent show in Indiana. Captured on Agfachrome PT Precisa 100 film.
Photos © Robert E. Mayer, 2000

Exceptionally small, light, and very solid are the descriptive attributes of this compact camera. It is an example of German precise engineering and design. A throwback to the fully manual operating camera era. The film speed ISO has to be set manually (even if you use DX coded cartridges) and focusing is also manual without even rangefinder assistance; lens aperture as well as film winding and rewind, also. But, this is a precision instrument and it's nice to go back to "hands-on" photography after years of working with totally automatic 35mm compact and SLR cameras. You might call it a thinking person's camera because it requires you to make the adjustments yourself and not rely on preprogrammed automation as is the case with nearly all other brands of current compact 35mm cameras.

Focusing is accomplished by moving the outer ring of the lens to set any of the well-marked footage distances from infinity to 2.3'. For quick settings, there are green marks on the distance scale at 15' and f/8 aperture for a universal (hyperfocal) setting to obtain the best depth of field for most general subjects. The aperture is manually adjusted by moving a knurled ring near the back of the lens to set the aperture-priority automatic setting. There are no detents, so the aperture can easily be set at in-between f/stop settings.

There were lots of colorful cars at this particular show, and plenty of sunshine for good exposures at an aperture priority setting of f/11 on Agfachrome PT Precisa 100 film.

The top is simplified with a frame counter. It also features a small square shutter release button; threaded cable release socket; battery check button; self-timer switch; 2x exposure compensation switch; battery check button; flash hot shoe contact; and a film rewind knob. The only control on the back is the stubby winding lever that requires two strokes to fully wind the film to the next frame. On the base is a standard 1/4-20 tripod socket, a button that is depressed to allow a manual film rewind, a dial for setting the ISO film speed (25-1600 range), and a small switch that unlocks the back.

The viewfinder has been simplified as well. There are bright frame lines around the edges with a parallax correction mark just below the top field to use for close subjects. Along the right edge, just outside the field, is a scale with 30, dot, 125, dot, and 500 indicating the main automatically set shutter speeds. At the top and bottom of the shutter speed range are crosshatch stripes which visually warn you when the exposure is beyond the range for the aperture selected. A very visible black needle moves in an arc and indicates which shutter speed the camera automatically selects. There is no automatic lockout to prevent the release of the shutter if the aperture/shutter speed combination might result in an over or underexposure. Although the electronic shutter does have an extended range of speeds (down to a long 30 sec at ISO 25 or 1 sec at ISO 1600) the slower speeds are not shown in the viewfinder so you don't actually know what speed slower than 1/30 is selected. If the shutter speed chosen is below 1/30 you just have to believe it is within the range for proper exposure by practical experience as the needle just shows in the bottom crosshatch area.

You never know what you will see next, so you have to have a camera handy. Yosemite Sam was lurking inside the rather dull engine of this older car. The light was a bit dimmer, so I opened the aperture priority to f/8, focused, and captured good detail on Agfachrome PT Precisa 100 film.

A custom designed flash unit comes with the kit. It slides onto the camera's hot shoe and conforms to the top contours of the camera body so it appears part of the camera. When attached the small flash is very close to the tiny square shutter release button so you have to gingerly touch it with your fingertip.

Manually adjusting the focus and aperture on the small diameter lens also requires small fingers and a deft touch. I would have preferred having detent click stops on the aperture settings, but since it is aperture priority automatic, this is not a major problem.

The instruction book is easy to use. Concise text and diagrams on practically every page guide you through the simplified steps of setting and using this little gem. It is printed in English, and is very pocketable although you should not have to refer to it often as the camera is very easy to understand.

Loading film is slightly tedious, as there is not much extra space anywhere on this tiny camera body. Once the back is removed, the cassette must be carefully placed into the chamber then the leader is placed over the sprockets so the film will advance properly. When sliding the back into place be certain that the pressure pad does not accidentally move the film from its normal flat path to the take up spool or you may have a film jam.

The kits Minox FC-E flash has three user-adjusted automatic ranges. A legible scale on the back shows the aperture that must be set for each of the three color coded ranges according to the ISO speed of the film. A sensor on the front of the flash determines the bounce back of light from the subject and squelches the flash intensity according to the aperture selected. A glow light illuminates when the flash is charged and there is a flash test button, but there is no confirmation signal and nothing shows in the viewfinder to indicate when the flash is charged and ready for use. Since this is a viewfinder camera, you do see through the viewfinder when the flash fires. It has an adequate ISO 100 GN of 58.

These purple clematis blossoms were mostly in the shade, so the small Minox FC-E flash was slipped onto the camera and set for yellow automatic exposure of f/8 to better balance the background lighting for this exposure on Agfachrome PT Precisa 100 film. This flash fill light exposure was far more pleasing than an existing light view made of the same subject.

A few rolls of different speed color slide film including Agfachrome CT 100, Fujichrome Sensia II, and 400, and Kodak Ektachrome 400 were exposed under a wide variety of situations in all types of light from bright sunlight to dim interiors. Exposures were made using the aperture priority automatic setting and the results were quite respectable on exposure-sensitive slide film where even a half stop error is normally visible. Exposures using the flash as the prime light source and as fill light for daylighted subjects outdoors also were properly exposed. My crude brick wall test with the tiny camera sitting on top of a heavy tripod showed the lens covers evenly out to the corners producing sharp detail with minimal distortion. As usual, all of my color slide film was processed by Accu-Color Lab, Inc., Fort Wayne, Indiana. I was not disappointed with these images.

The Minox GT-E is an attractive textured gray crackle finish camera. It requires you to think on your own and not depend upon automation to make the proper exposure and focus. I'm so used to automatic cameras I even forgot to reset the ISO speed when I switched from ISO 100 to 400 film for some existing light exposures. If your local dealer does not stock this line, you can obtain additional information by contacting the importer Leica Camera Inc./Minox, 156 Ludlow Ave., Northvale, NJ 07647; (201) 767-7500; fax: (201) 767-8666; www.leicacamera.com.

There was plenty of bright daylight for an aperture priority exposure of f/16 on fast Kodak Ektachrome X EPL 400 film. Most of the same roll was made of interior subjects by existing light, but it also worked well outdoors in brighter light.

Minox 35 GT-E At A Glance
The tiny Minox 35 GT-E camera is not suitable for the casual snapshooter. It requires a degree of photographic expertise coupled with enough manual dexterity to make the several vital adjustments necessary before taking a picture. Both loading the 35mm film and then rewinding the film after it's exposed are done manually. But, if you know what preset aperture is best for a given lighting situation, you can also accurately estimate the subject distance to set on the lens. With its fast f/2.8 lens, it can be used for unobtrusive candid existing light work if you estimate distances correctly. If a flash is required, you must know when to slide it on then manually adjust it and the lens. If these parameters don't bother you, then this small and very pocketable 35mm camera just might be what you need for a carry everywhere, record anything, camera.

Technical Specifications

Film: Standard 35mm cartridge, 24x36mm image
Lens: German-made Minox MC Minoxar 35mm f/2.8
Focusing Range: 28" to infinity; depth of field indicator Automatic Exposure Control: Aperture-priority AE (continuous from f/2.8-f/16)
Shutter: Electronically controlled with automatic settings from 1/500 sec to about 30 sec (ISO 25 film) or 1 sec (ISO 1600 film). Mounting the flash automatically sets the shutter to 1/125 sec.
Backlight Switch: Doubles exposure times in auto daylight mode
Shutter Release: Soft release. Blocked and inoperative if cover not fully open.
Cable Release Socket: Next to the release button
Self-Timer: Electronic, approximately 10 sec delay. Red flashing LED during rundown.
Viewfinder: Bright-frame direct finder with shutter speed indicator
Frame Counter: Counts forward. Returns to start position on removing camera back.
Flash Contact: In hot shoe; X-synchronized. Shutter automatically set to 1/125 sec.
Tripod Socket: Standard 1/4-20 thread
Battery: Two CR 1/3 N cells
Battery Check: Test button should make needle in viewfinder move to at least 125
Camera Body: Glass fiber reinforced Makrolon
Size: 3.9x2.4x1.3"
Weight: Approximately 6.7 oz (without film)

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