Minox camera inventor dies in Switzerland

Minox “spy camera” inventor Walter Zapp, who produced the first models of the tiny device in his Latvian homeland, has died at age 97 in Binningen, Switzerland, according to media reports.

Zapp was born Sept. 4, 1905, in Rīga. He died July 17 in his Swiss home.

Born in Latvia into a German family, Zapp developed an early interest in photography. In the early 1930s, he created the first design for a miniature camera that would later become the Minox. The first cameras were produced in 1938 by VEF-Rīga.

The camera soon was being marketed around Europe and in the United States.

Zapp fled to Germany in 1941 during World War II. After the war, he and a partner founded the Minox company to continue manufacture and development of the camera.

The Minox camera gained popularity as a spy tool during the war and later often was featured in films and television shows with espionage themes.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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