Nimfra-3 camera (Pic: Courtesy of Catawiki)
The camera was designed to take covert photos through holes drilled in walls or ceilings (All pics: Courtesy of Catawiki)

A rare Soviet camera intended to take covert surveillance photos through walls or ceilings is being offered for sale on online auction site this week.

The little-known C166 Nimfa-3 camera, featuring a Zorki-4 rangefinder attached to a special lens assembly, is being offered on Catatwiki. The auction went live on Friday (10 December).

The Nimfa-3 is being offered with a large number of accessories, including the reflex-style prism housing and the special lens housing used to take pictures through drilled holes. The camera’s prism resembles a much cruder version of the Visoflex reflex housing made for some Leica cameras in the 1950s and 60s.

The camera kit includes the special extension tubes to increase the length of the lens.

It also includes the special trigger attachment used to trip the shutter button, a simpler version of that used in the more common Fotosnaiper outfit.

The Nimfa-3 outfit is being offered by a seller in Bulgaria, who Catawiki said inherited it from their parents. The bids begin at €2,400 (£2,000/$2,750) and the camera is expected to fetch between €5,000 (£4,460/$6,150) and €7,000 (£6,250/$8,560).

The Nimfa-3 was one of several modified rangefinder cameras adapted for this specialist role for use by Soviet-aligned security agencies such as the KGB. The KGB and sister agencies in the Warsaw Pact used an impressive array of specialist cameras, some of which were hidden in fake bags, umbrellas or even jackets.

These secretive cameras were mostly unknown until the fall of the Soviet Union, with relatively few made. A Lenok model, which was a similar design using a modified Zorki-6 camera,  sold at the Julien’s Auction sale of the New York Crypto Museum earlier this year. This camera, also in its original wooden crate, ended up selling for $5,000 (£3,780).

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Stephen Dowling
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