NAGRA JBR

NAGRA JBR: JBR, or Junior Body Recorder – a stereo tape recorder, constructed by NAGRA (Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne -Switzerland), as the successor of NAGRA SN, on the FBI’s special order.

For a long time, the fact of the existence of this device was kept secret. Due to a lack of a reproducing head and an aluminum case, the device was not detectable by electromagnetic detectors at that time.

The recorder could record two independent audio channels for two hours. What is noteworthy is the fact that the tapes were played in another device – NAGRA PS-1 and the existence of a control track on the recorder prevented any interference in the recorded material. The NAGRA JBR’s successor was the digital NAGRA CBR.

PANASONIC RN-36

A tape recorder that recorded monophonic sound on microcassettes. Its small size was achieved by not applying a built-in speaker.

Listening to the recordings was possible via headphones (2.5 mm microjack) or a loudspeaker attachment. RN-36 offered two recording speeds on micro magnetic tape: 1.2 and 2.4 cm/s. The maximum recording time was 3 hours in LP mode.

An additional advantage was the ability to move the microphone from the dictaphone jack to a wired extension cord in order to bring the microphone closer to the sound source. Panasonic RN-36 was powered by an AAA battery. Due to its miniature dimensions, allowing easy camouflage, it was used for secret recording.

NAGRA SN

The ‘SN’ abbreviation derives from the words Série Noir (black series). It was produced by Kudelski-NAGRA Plant, with its registered seat in Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne, Switzerland. A professional tape recorder designed and produced in the 1960s by Polish electronics engineer Stefan Kudelski (1929 – 2013).

Originally commissioned by American President John F. Kennedy for use by American secret services.

However, thanks to the quality of workmanship and its reliability, NAGRA conquered the commercial market and soon became the basic tape recorder used by radio and television reporters all over the world. Due to its small size (14.5x10x2.6 cm) and excellent recording quality, this equipment was used by all intelligence services until the late 1980.

The sound recording was made on three types of tapes (red-shortest, green-medium and blue-longest). In a single-track mode, the maximum recording time was 1.5 hours. In subsequent versions, the sound was recorded in a two-track mode, which allowed for up to six hours of recording. The NAGRA SN was part of the equipment of one of the American lunar missions of the Apollo program in the early 1970s.

TESSINA 35

A miniature, hand-held (it could be worn on a belt like a watch), dual-lens camera designed and manufactured in the 1950s in Grechen, Switzerland by the Siegrist company.  The creator of this camera was Rudolph Steineck.

Tessina, with dimensions of 25×68×53 mm, is considered to be the smallest camera in the world using a standard 35 mm film. Tessina is equipped with two lenses, the first with a focal length of 25 mm f/2.8 for capturing images, and the second for framing them in the prism finder using an internal mirror placed at an angle of 45°.  Due to its size, Tessina was very easy to camouflage – for example, it could easily fit into a pack of cigarettes.

The most interesting element of this construction is the spring-based mechanism of the photosensitive film tensioning system.  The mechanisms built into the body became a standard only in the 1980s. Tessina took part in the “Watergate” affair. During the detention of burglars in the Watergate complex on 17 June 1972, FBI investigators found Tessin on one of the so-called “Hydraulics”. It was confiscated by the police and used as evidence in a later trial.

F-21 AJAX

F-21 is a mechanical, miniature camera manufactured by Krasnogorski Mechanicheskii Zavod (KMZ) in the years 1951-1985. During the Cold War it was often used by KGB officers and other Warsaw Pact special services.

The dimensions of this camera are 77x55x40 mm, its weight is 180 g. Ajax registered a 18×24 mm photo format on a 21 mm photosensitive material. Due to its small size and an automatic, spring-based winding of the film, this camera was perfect for taking a series of secret photographs from camouflage.

Important elements enriching the functionality of this camera were accessories that allowed to camouflage the lens and the shutter release mechanism in various items of clothing. The F-21 inspired German engineers to create another camera used by the special services of the Eastern Block, i.e. Robot Star 50. The F-21 was succeeded by F-27 Neozit (1985) and Zachod (1989).

START 66

A Polish medium-format camera manufactured from 1954 in WZFO (Warsaw Photoptical Works). A typical representative of a dual-lens reflex camera. The upper lens with a mirror and a focusing screen was used for framing and focusing, while the lower lens was used for taking pictures.

A characteristic feature of this type of camera was the so-called prism finder. In order to frame the picture well, it was necessary to look into the prism finder from above, which was very difficult when the exposure to light of the photographed subject was low. The great advantage of this type of a camera is the 60×60 mm negative format, which, in comparison to small-format SLR cameras (24×36 mm) gave a significant increase in the resolution of the negative. Other cameras of this type were able to reproduce images in 45×60 mm or 90×60 mm formats.

MINOX

A professional, miniature camera designed and manufactured in 1937 as a prototype of UR-Minox at VEF (Valsts Elektrotehniska Fabrika) in Riga by the German designer Walter Zapp (1905-2003). Thanks to its compact design, it became an inseparable attribute of “spies”. This camera was primarily designed to reproduce documents, but it was also easily used to take panoramic pictures.

Minox was able to expose up to 50 frames of 8×11 mm on a 9.2mm-wide negative. Minox negatives were devoid of perforation, typical for a 35 mm film. The dimensions of the smallest type A camera were 80x27x16 mm and its weight was 130 g. Later on, B and C models were produced, whose dimensions and weight were slightly larger, and the last units – LX – were equipped with an automatic setting of exposure parameters.

The characteristic feature of Minox was an attached chain with a scale of distance from the photographed document. This equipment was used by intelligence agencies from all over the world until the end of the 1980s.

ZEGARKI

Watches have accompanied the officers of the intelligence since the moment of their creation. Time control and aesthetic values are a matter of course for operational work, but watches are commonly used in the intelligence work to camouflage microphones, and now also entire recorders.

The watch shown in the picture on the left (1970s) served as a camouflage of a microphone. The actual microphone is so large that it occupies the entire interior of the watch, which means that the device is devoid of the time measuring function.

In the picture on the right an electronic watch can be seen, (1980s) performing the same function. The electronic watch was fully functional.