Walter Zapp

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Walter Zapp
Walter Zapp 2000.jpg
Walter Zapp (2000)
Born 4 September [O.S. 22 August] 1905
Riga, Russian Empire (now Latvia)
Died 17 July 2003(2003-07-17) (aged 97)
Binningen, Switzerland
Education Autodidact
Occupation Inventor
Employer Valsts Elektrotehniskā Fabrika (VEF)
Minox GmbH
Known for Invention of Minox subminiature camera

Walter Zapp (Latvian: Valters Caps; 4 September [O.S. 22 August] 1905 – 17 July 2003)[1] was a Baltic German inventor.[2] His greatest creation was the Minox subminiature camera.[3]


Minox Riga camera made by VEF
Limited edition Minox CLX camera, with Walter Zapp signature

Zapp was born in Riga, Governorate of Livonia (now Latvia).[2] In 1932, living in Estonia, he began developing the then subminiature camera by first creating wooden models, which led to the first prototype in 1936.[3] It was introduced to the market in 1938. Minox cameras were made by VEF (Valsts Elektrotehniskā Fabrika) in Latvia. VEF made 17,000 Minox cameras.

During the Spring 1941 Resettlement of Baltic Germans, Walter Zapp moved to Germany. From 1941 to 1945, he worked on the development of electron microscopy at AEG in Berlin.

After World War II, in 1945, he founded the Minox GmbH in Wetzlar, Germany. The company still exists.

In 2001, when he went to Latvia for the last time, he said that he had gone to celebrate his 100th birthday in Latvia. He died aged 97, in Binningen near Basel, Switzerland.[2]


The innovative design and technical solutions of Zapp's camera were patented around the world. VEF received 66 patents in 18 countries for Zapp's inventions.[4] Later in the 60's, Zapp was named as the inventor in several patents granted to Minox GmbH for improvements and modifications of a subminiature camera.[citation needed] On the beginning of 90's, Zapp patented his last invention, the Minox T8 pocket telescope.[citation needed]


Walter Zapp (1944). "Ein russisches Galvanometer". Physikalische Blätter (in German). 1 (9): 138–140. doi:10.1002/phbl.19440010907. 

Awards and honors

In 2001, Walter Zapp received a honorary doctorate of the Latvian Academy of Sciences and was decorated with the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana for his special services to the Republic of Estonia.[5] Eesti Post has issued a Europa postage stamp in 1994 to commemorate Walter Zapp and his patented invention (Estonian patent No. 2628), the Minox subminiature camera.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Walter Zapp". Find A Grave. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Apinis, Pēteris (2006). A Hundred Great Latvians. Riga: Nacionālais apgāds. p. 126. ISBN 9984-26-288-X. OCLC 238892134. Walter Zapp was born on 4 September 1905 in the family of a Riga merchant. His father was a British subject, but his mother was a Baltic German. 
  3. ^ a b "Rangefinder". 59 (12). December 2010: 98. 
  4. ^ Pēteris Skorovs. "Minox Patents". Historical patents. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  5. ^ Teenetemärkide kavalerid: Walter Zapp Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  6. ^ "EUROPA. Eesti patendid/ 072-06-1994". Postmargid. Eesti Post. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 

Further reading

  • Morris G. Moses, John Wade. Spycamera: The Minox Story. 2nd, illustrated edition. HOVE FOTO BOOKS SATTER Incorporated, 1998. ISBN 1874707286, ISBN 9781874707288
  • D. Scott Young. Minox: Marvel in Miniature. 1st Books, 2000. ISBN 1-58721-068-1
  • Hubert E. Heckmann. MINOX The Queen of Spy Cameras, Variations in 8x11. Wittig Books, 2012. ISBN 978-3-88984-153-7

External links

  • Minox Historical Society
  • Obituary at the Independent

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