Peek into Espionage’s Past: A Look at Fascinating Vintage Spy Cameras – Design You Trust — Design Daily Since 2007

Peek into Espionage’s Past: A Look at Fascinating Vintage Spy Cameras


This photo collection showcases a remarkable range of vintage cameras, including some ingeniously disguised as everyday items. Highlights include a camera hidden in a matchbox, one designed as a pocket watch for covert operations dating back to the 1880s, and others mimicking books, cigarette packs, binoculars, radios, and even handguns.

h/t: rarehistoricalphotos

The Lucky Strike Spy camera was developed in the late 1940s by the US Military.

Post-World War II, a camera was fashioned to look like a cigarette packet but was never mass-produced. Between 1949 and 1950, the Mast Development Corp developed the Lucky Strike Spy Camera for the US Signal Corps, designed to blend into a Lucky Strike cigarette packet and capable of taking 18 shots on 16mm film. In the 1950s, Japan saw the creation of two pistol-based cameras for police use, though they eventually fell out of favor.

The 1904 Ticka Watch allowed the user to take surreptitious photographs.

The collection also includes a highly prized 1886 Ladies-Pattern Patent Watch Camera by J. Lancaster and Son, cleverly designed as a pocket watch. These cameras, auctioned at Bonhams a few years ago, reflect a time when photography was more about discretion, with inventors creating various hidden cameras for covert photography—a stark contrast to today’s ubiquitous smartphone cameras. This collection, primarily from a single enthusiast, offers a unique glimpse into an obscure facet of photographic history.

This ABC watch camera, made in 1948, features a lens in the back of the watch’s body.

This ladies’ pattern patent watch camera would be used by a female agent in 1886.

This gun camera was developed in 1954 and shot on a 16mm film and is one of two gun cameras that were used by Japanese police.

This 1952 Mamiya pistol camera was also made in Japan.

This book camera was made in 1888 in Germany.

‘Mast Concealable camera’ from 1950.

This 1886 concealed vest camera was designed to be worn inside clothing with the lens pointing out of a buttonhole.

A 1981 ring camera from Italy.

The Russian Minox camera is disguised as a radio.

The bizarre French-made Le Photo Revolver.

This Expo Police camera from New York went on sale between 1911 and 1924.

This 1886 device was described as the Improved pattern patent watch camera and is one of the few surviving examples which uses photographic plates, pictured in the foreground, instead of film.

The Watch Camera from 1894 allowed the user to quickly pull out the device, take a secret photograph, and return it to their pocket unseen.

This Le Physiographe camera from 1896 was patented in both Britain and France and was disguised as a pair of binoculars.

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