Julian Tanase Photography

My Minox journey continues…

Tochka 58M – one of the many KGB tools

Tochka 58M – one of the many KGB tools

This camera is generally known as Tochka 58. It’s a representative model of Russian “spy camera” conception, made with espionage and surveillance in mind. The name TOCHKA means “point” in Russian, and the numbers affixed to the name represent the year of its inception by the special workshop of the Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk, aka KMZ. Camera specifications and, up to a certain extent, its dimensions and mechanicals have been inspired by its predecessor the Minox.

There were two main models made, a 58-S252-A and 58-S252-B, the camera presented here is of the B type. Both take 9.2mm (or according to the KMZ and manual, 9.5mm) film negative, in a metallic Minox-type film cassette, also of Russian conception (but almost identical to the Minox one). Basically, you may distinguish the models by the existence of a small viewfinder on the B model, whereas the A model has none.

Camera size: 83 x 28 x 20 mm, almost similar that of the Minox A camera

One of the main differences between a Minox and a Tochka 58 is the existence on Tochka of a 45* internal mirror. This is needed because the image that comes through the lens cannot be projected directly onto the film. So the Russians devised an internal mirror so to project the light onto the film.

The release button sits within a threaded port, where the remote cable is intended to be fixed. This cable was of a cup-type, not unlike the Leica release attachment. There is no marking on the body, no engraving whatsoever. Some models have the serial number stamped on the chassis, I see none on this camera.

Both the focus and the lens are fixed, shutter speeds are controlled by a small dial situated on the bottom of the camera, with speeds ranging through 1/5, 1/10, 1/20, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 and 1/500 of a second, no B or T setting. The shutter is very silent, almost inaudible. The noise one hears seems to come from the spring itself.

The minimum distance to shoot I believe it to be 0.35m, but there is no distance dial, so one has to approximate. I know there are other models with such a distance dial, where markings gives the user distances from 0.35m, 0.5m,1m and infinity. Although  this camera has no such dial, I would guess it has the same lens specs. Of course, I may be wrong here, so if you know what’s what on this, I stand corrected.

This quirky design of putting the lens on the front of the camera, opposite the film plane, proved a challenge, I’m sure. I understand why this solution was chosen, for the way this camera is made makes it ideal for surveillance attachment, but not so usable as a regular camera. Actually, both of the Tochka models were designed to be used primarily with an assortment of body attachments, or to be affixed onto various supports such as suitcases,

As said, this model has a minute viewfinder, of a bubble type. Dim and almost unusable to see what you’re aiming at, it is nonetheless a useful thing to have, I guess. At times, it can indeed be useful for say, checking an object in front of the lens, but it is ever so disconcertingly dim that one cannot achieve any proper framing, in my own experience.

Another difference between Minox and this Tochka 58 is the film advance: where Minox advances the film by push-pull action, the Tochka has a built-in spring-wound motor on the right side of the body. One has to wind up the spring, and the energy accumulated is enough for some 20 frame advancement. Seeing that the original film cassettes had 20 exposures only, this means that an entire film could be shot without touching the camera, all done remotely from the pocket of your coat.

There is an exposure counter situated on the far right of the lens, but it does not work on this particular camera here. There is another model of Tochka, with an added feature of a distance dial, but this one here has it not.

My own experience with Tochka 58-B

OK, I have loaded a Minox cassette in the camera, Fomapan 100 rated 50, and took it for a spin. My first impression was that the shutter speeds seem erratic, and too slow to my ear, and the results showed that I was right, as most of the frames came out grossly overexposed.

Also, the scratches on the film are present in a concerning size and number. This could be due to the film gate or from the dirt accumulated in that area, but it is nothing a good CLA could not sort out. I have seen this with Minox II cameras, due to its particularities concerning the lens / film gate.

This camera feels like it was not made for regular shooting: the position in hand is awkward, and operating the shutter button makes the camera go wobbly for a fraction of a second. This in turn, you guessed, makes a blurry photograph. I have tried to steady my hand as best I could, but the problem still remains. I guess if used with a tripod and cable, this issue may go away. I am not aware any tripod head for this type of camera however.

I would also suspect that the lens itself has become somehow out of focus, perhaps it was dismantled and not put back right, or the lens housing suffered somehow; the fact is that the lens appears not be able to focus properly. Even at infinity, the lens is out of focus.

The exposure counter is inoperable, and although I tried to count the frames, I came really short. It would appear that the frame advancing through the film gate has some issues, be the cause a slower or damaged spring or gear issue. I know this format is 8×11, and the spacing of the frames was right, so no idea what gives here. Anyways, I would suggest to the owner of this camera to send this camera to a repair shop asap. Using it in this condition does nothing but to worsen the mechanics. Which may end up in more damage.

Not quite clear about the light leaks, for the film had several such damage on it. Not catastrophic ones, but it had light leaks nonetheless. The back of the camera opens by means of pushing the eyelet on its right side. A catch is released when the eyelet is pushed, and the back plate detaches so you can unload (and load) the film cassette.

Well, the backplate is not exactly light proof; its attempts to keep the light out are made by means of small indents that interconnects with the margins of the camera itself.

But in this case, the securing latch is worn off, and the backplate is not fixed and snug onto the camera. Not to mention that I suspect some light may come from the viewfinder port which can be seen here: it is situated right between the spool chambers, and there are chances that particular place is not light proof when you close the backplate. Really no idea, but it looks like a thing to be worried about.

To be honest, the image here is the only one which is almost palatable, but still out of focus.

One more thing: the film came out much shorter than I thought. Initially, counting the frames gave me some 30 something, but I was wrong as the actual negative shot had only 16. The frame counter (if it worked) would have been useful, but it’s dead, so there it is.

A bit disappointed with the results, for I have expected something along the Riga or Minox II photographs. I had no reason to suspect anything else, and certainly not that bad a negative. However, I do understand the Tochka has its limits, as Minox has its own. I truly believe that if it is sent to a good repair shop, and properly overhauled and CLA’d, this little thing could be making really nice photographs.