The Minox, produced in Latvia in the 1930s and in Germany after World War II, became the classic spy camera. But there was a problem: “The Minox was too big for spies in the 1960s,” Hiley explained. “The challenge for us was a camera that could be used with one hand,” the better to disguise the photographing of documents if someone walked in unexpectedly on a spy at work.
So the CIA’s Technical Services Division designed two subminiature cameras for photographing documents. They resemble long cigarette lighters, and can indeed be operated with one hand. They used Minox cassettes loaded with Kodak 3410 thin-base film. (For camera buffs: The shutter was fixed at 1/100 of a second and each camera had an 8.2mm f/3.6 lens.) The first camera had a capacity of 100 pictures, the next generation 200. How the techs doubled the picture capacity without making the camera bigger is still classified, according to the CIA.
In the 1960s, CIA technicians developed a microdot camera that clips to the edge of a desk. The device resembles a quarter with a vertical antenna. It can capture 11 images that fit on a period no bigger than the one at the end of this sentence.