The Russian made Narciss of the early 1960's was the first 16mm SLR in the world. Made between 1961 and 1965 in the Soviet Union in quite low numbers; only 10,939 were produced. The first two digits of the serial number give the year of manufacture. It was built on a request from the Soviet medical community designed as a medical camera for endoscopic purposes, and eventually sold also to the public with quite a good success. It had an interchangeable lens in a 23mm thread. Besides the interchangeable lens it also has an interchangeable viewfinder, and a high-magnification finder was apparently planned but never built.
Negative size is 14x21 (same as the Tessina which uses 35mm film) and is the largest negative using 16mm film. Shutter speeds are B, 1/2-1/500 with flash sync at 1/30. The mirror returns to viewing position as you advance the film. The shutter dial rotates while firing like the old Leica screw mounts shutter dials. Although the top plate is so flat it would seem to possibly have a mirror finder, it does have a small pentaprism system.
Lenses are: MIR-5 28mm (f2.0), MIR-628mm (f2.8), 35mm (f2.8) and Jupiter-17 50mm (f2.0). An adapter was available to put 39mm screw-mount lenses on the camera as well as attach the camera to a microscope. The adapter was supplied with the standard kit along with a mask for an enlarger and spool for developing.
The camera came in white (cream), black and the extremely rare crinkled-grey colour version, that resembles a machinery tool. Engraving with "Narciss" in Russian (Cyrillic) or English (Latin) style script.
It was designed for un-perforated film in special cassettes for 25 exposures. With its fixed take up spool, the film is rewound into the cartridge just like 35mm.
It's very robust and dependable so almost all of the examples are in fully working conditions.
The body of the camera is exactly the same dimensions as a Minox 35mm with lens retracted.
Very well thought out and designed, it's unfortunate the camera does not have a better fit and finish. Some 20 years the predecessor of the Pentax 110 very remarkable for the period.
Additional material supplied by Davide Cavallaro.
Last updated 19th June 2002