The F-21 is a very small fully mechanical camera with a wind-up film transport mechanism, built by the Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod (KMZ), the Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk from 1951 to 1995. It was very popular with the Russian Secret Service, during the cold war for a variety of covert operations. It is also known as Ayaks, Ajax, Аякс-12 or KGB Camera.


The camera body measures approx. 7 x 5.5 x 2.5 cm, excluding the lens. It has three different shutter speeds (1/10, 1/30 and 1/100) plus a manual setting (lens continuously open).
The frame size is 18 x 24 mm, while the images are taken on a 21 mm film, resulting in rather sharp and good quality photographs, compared to the subminiature cameras of those days, that had a 8 x 11 mm frame size.

As it only be advisable for a secret agent in the field, he would need to cut and process his own film negative. To this purpose, the Soviet KGB as well ahead of their time; they devised and built some contraptions to be used for slicing 35mm (readily available everywhere) to 21 mm strips for the F21 and subsequent MF-1, constructed in the same KMZ factory.

The principle is simple enough; what is surprising these cutters seem to not care of film scratches. I never used such cutters, so I do not know if there is a anti-scratch system on board (something like a stainless steel bar or foam).

Anyways, the machines shown here are scarce up to a certain degree, meaning that they come mainly from the Ukraine or the CIS countries where they were manufactured and used. They are not always available, the sellers in those countries coming forth every now and then with such machines for sale.


Rotary type, film enters the box one side, one crank of the handle seen on the side of the contraption and exits the other side, cut to 21mm width, ready to pop into the camera. Dark medium is a must, of course.


To my knowledge, the “16” in red seen on the box is not related to 16mm.

cutter_16mm_rear cutter_16mm_result

This film cutter appears every now and then on online auctions, seems to command prices between $ 200,00 – 300,00. Probably (probably!) can be modified to cut 16 or 9.5mm strips of film from 35mm stock.

Another example of film cutter for this camera is this one:


This would seem to be of the “pull it yourself” type :-).


This one appears to be a complicated machinery, and one only can wonder if this whole mechanism, full of intricacies, is destined solely to cutting 35mm to 16mm! It would seem like something devised for the early USSR space crafts :-))).

Crank handle type, rotary blades, seem to have means in place to modify either the format or length of the film it handled.

f-21-cutter_bottom f-21-cutter_front f-21-cutter_left f-21-cutter_rear f-21-cutter_result

For a machine whose only use is cut film, looks darn intimidating and complicated, to be honest. I have seen items similar to this asking for 300-500 USD.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

If you're not a robot, calculate this: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.