12 Awesome Vintage Spy Cameras From The 20th Century

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Who doesn't like to dress up or act like James Bond or Sherlock Holmes, we all just fancy the word detective itself. So, one of the most important & a basic tool for a detective is its camera. As better the camera, sharper the images and stronger the evidence.

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So it was very crucial to have a good handy camera at your disposal at all times. But only camera being good wasn't enough, one needed it to be undetectable, discreet and even invisible. Well, all such types of vintage spy cameras are listed below. Have a look.

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The Ansco Memo


Though it's quite big to get noticed but still comparatively small given the era and the technology available at hand. It was small enough to fit in a pocket and fast enough to snap photos discreetly, hence the 35mm Ansco Memo became very popular with the private investigators during 1920s & 30s.


Ticka Expo Watch Camera


The Ticka Expo Watch Camera was designed by Magnus Neill & manufactured by Houghton in England during the years 1906 to 1914. It used 17.5 mm roll film and could take 25 16x22 mm images. Around 10,000 units were sold for $1 each.


The ABC Wristwatch Camera


It looks cool but then again only a fool will not spot this slightly vague watch. Having said that, the ABC Wristwatch Camera which was made in Germany in 1949 proved to be pretty useful as it was quite handy.


The Echo 8 Lighter Camera


The Echo 8 was made in 1951 and it automatically clicks a picture as soon as light up the lighter.

But this also means that you have to actually lit up a cigarette every time you want a click, so in a way welcoming the bad habit.


Tessina 35 (Cigarette Camera)


Now after the secret lighter camera now it's turn for the cigarette box camera, Tessina 35. It was in production for 38 years-from 1957 to 1996.

It was small enough to fit into a cigarette case and maybe you can use your Echo 8 as a backup.




Probably one of the best spy cams made back in the day as it could take as many as 50 pictures without reloading and was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It also took excellent, high quality images and agencies used to create special cases designed to conceal the Minox, like hollowed out brushes.

It's one of the most recognizable spy cameras ever made and Minox even created a digital version of it recently.


Pigeon Camera


Probably like the GoPro's of the World Wars, Pigeons were used to get the imageries of the enemy's line of attack. An automatic camera would be strapped to these birds, then they would fly off & do the rest of the work.


Looking through walls


Well the walls don't only have ears but sometimes eyes too! Especially in this case where East German agents used these Stasi ‘robot' cameras i.e. a camera with a very long lens in 1980s.


The Buttonhole Camera


Agents from the US, Soviet Union and all over Europe modified clothing to hide cameras and buttons were the perfect disguise for a lens. The Button Camera was first developed by the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1950s and then KGB made similar ones later in 1970s, but most agencies had their own version of the getup. It was very simple, just reach in your pocket, squeeze the trigger and you're done. Only one had to beware of coat-checks.


The Infrared Briefcase Camera


Not all surprises come in small packages, but some actually come in big sizes. Just like this Stasi Briefcase Camera, it was bulky and difficult to carry. But what it offered was an infrared film and a flash that was invisible to the human eye. This features made it a perfect option for taking pictures in the dark.


Keychain camera


Just as the name goes, this one easily gets disguised as your keychain. Only problem would be if you forgot to carry your keys. Oops!


Microdot cameras


Imagine taking a photo so small that you would require a microscope to see it; well that's exactly what this camera does. Microdot cameras are basically one of the first steps towards the method of data compression. As the photos were so small they could be easily concealed and transported using pigeons, cufflinks and etc. This method of information smuggling was used widely in WWII and the Cold War.

So what do you have to say about these cool spy cameras? And do you have seen or got a chance to actually possess anyone of these, then do write to us in the comments.


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