Goerz Minicord III
Current value, Minicord variations:
The list of countries that made cameras is pretty short. The first country that comes to mind is Germany as a single entity that later split into East and West and, after unification, hardly anything. With a slow start before the war, Japan now leads the world by making precision instruments.
Another country that made cameras is the UK, where the sector wilted as they could not make the cameras leak oil, as their motorcars famously did. France, making cameras with the French twist, always ahead of time and misunderstood, referring again to the motor industry, look at the classic Renault, Citroen, and, if you remember, the Panhard. Italy made a few superb cameras and plenty of forgettable models. As the soviets are meant to do, the USSR pillaged and copied technologies and claimed them to be their own, the same as they have invented the radio and the incandescent light bulb. At the time, the US had a thriving industry, and Kodak swallowed most. Of the rest, neither small nor big fish are still with us.
Other countries had dipped their feet into the camera-making industry. The Czech under Czechoslovakia, Poland, The Nederlands, Spain, Hungary, and Argentina come to kind. Sweden and Switzerland made a few models that became legends. The Pacific Tigers joined at the electronic stage, so they are out of this honor roll.
Austria is associated with the Tyrol, Alps, castles, and a singing nun; the Vienna opera and museums, Klimt and Kokoschka, an endless list of composers, and good food (the potato salad!). Also, an Austrian native because of whom my family left neighboring Germany in 1933 with just the shirts on their backs. On my recent pre-COVID trip, I planned to call on the camera shops clustered in central Vienna, only to spend the entire stay knocked down by pneumonia, tended by a bigger-than-life Armenian doctor taken from a Hemingway tale. No camera shops this time, hopefully, once the world is COVID-free.
But, there were cameras made in Austria. My list is about two dozen long. Online search yields more. Here I look at the Minicord, a genuinely unique camera, outstanding in any way you look at it.
The Minicord is made by CP Goerz. Tracing origin is confusing. There is a German CP Goerz that merged into Zeiss early last century. It could well be that a branch settled in Austria, making a few cameras, amongst a list of other optical and measuring instruments, mostly military devices. The company had a pied-à-terre in ===== as well, assumed to be sales and service offices.
CP Goerz Wien made three models, the Minicord, Goldeck, and Gugo. Goldmann, another Austrian camera maker, also made a Goldeck, but it is a different camera.
The Minicord came in several flavors, dressed in several finishes, and with synch port, as the Minicord III. No II, though.
The Minicord III I have is a tiny affair, punching way above its weight. It is a true twin lens reflex at the size of a deck of cards; I believe the smallest made. It is often mentioned together with the Italian Gami that shares the same film format. I don’t have a Gami, so I cannot compare. Further, the Gami is a rangefinder, not a TLR.
Using a 16mm film, the same stock as cine cameras, and a self-loading option, the user is not limited to proprietary, factory-supplied media. It takes one hand to operate and easily fits in a skinny jeans pocket if such a cut was available at the time.
Small in size, yet heavy, it is made of a steel frame with a plastic (bakelite?) body, with controls mounted at all sides.
At the bottom is a fold-in, serrated arm that fits into three fingers, with the index finger alternating between cocking the shutter and pulling the trigger.
The cocking lever has a very short travel; I cannot recall any other camera with a similar move. The image size is a mere 10mm – 3/8″, so that distance is all it takes to set the camera for the subsequent exposure. The trigger is a push-in lever threaded for a remote trigger. As said, the winder and triggers are so close that you all need to move the end knuckle between them. A cold shoe is on the right, with a frame counter above it. On the left side are the shutter speed dial, set via a tiny cog, surprisingly easy to use. A synch socket and a DOF table are on the same side. The speeds seem to be stepless, as there are no stops on the speed selector dial. Turning it, it pushes an arm that sets the limit on the shutter.
Being TLR, focusing is via a slanted viewer on top, set at about 30 deg, which takes getting used to viewing through. At first, it seems the viewer aims too high, so tilt the camera nose down a bit. The cog-mounted taking lens turns the viewing lens, Rolleiflex style. The lens is a generous 2,0/25. The aperture dial is on the front end of the lens mount, takes holding the lens with two fingers and using the fingernails to change the aperture setting; else, the focusing ring turns with it.The viewer is very bright but small due to the camera size. A +/- 4 diopters viewer adjustment dial is a nice touch for glasses wearers like myself.
In most cameras, the back opening mechanism is a moving catch that locks on a pin. Here the mushroom-like tab release two catches on the sides, and all three hold the back cover in place. A back-mounted film speed memo dial. Inside the cover sits the film cartridge, either pre-loaded or self-loading spool that locks into a holding frame, with a take-off spool at the frame’s other end. A 60 cm – 2′ length of 16mm film is good for 40 exposures. A pre-loaded cartridge had 24 exposures.
The shutter is a focal plane simple guillotine, again, a very short path.
Having toyed with the camera, I couldn’t see the winding mechanism. There is no visible device that either turns the spools or moves the film. It took some cocking and firing till I found it. At the bottom of the film bay, a machined track guides the film in front of the shutter cavity. When cocking, a tiny arm pops up from a hairline slot by the film guide, locks into the film perforation, and moves it forward.
While the media was easy to obtain, it took custom enlargers and projectors. The enlarger uses the camera body as a media holder, which is unique. As Goerz made only 8,000 cameras, I cannot see this ecosystem as viable; perhaps if the camera was to be offered some thirty years later, it would have had a better fate. For more accessories, see the 37 pages manual for a detailed list.
|Brand||Goerz CP Wien|
|Model||Minicord III brown|
|Weight||325 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||325 gr, Body with lens|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens|
|shutter||Focal plane guillotine|
|Winder||Push in lever|