Friday, December 30, 2011

Family Photo

All my Kodak Retina folders date from the 1940s and '50s, and all produce excellent images. The Retina I in the rear has an Ektar lens made in the U.S. The IA model in the back-left has the Xenar lens, which I believe is a Tessar clone. The three to the front have the six-element Xenon lens.
  Kodak acquired the Nagel Camerawerk in Stuttgart in 1931. The first Retina model was brought out there in 1934, along with the 35mm cassette which popularized the format. The last folding models of the Retina line were produced in 1960, but the line continued with fixed-lens models until 1969.

There is a good description of the whole Retina line and its history at Wikipedia.


jim said...

I have a Retina Ia here and I've put film through it a couple times. I'm sure the lens (Xenar) is wonderful, but I just can't get past that itty bitty, squinty viewfinder. It makes the camera so unpleasant to use. Are any of the other Retinas not so afflicted?

Mike said...

I know what you mean; I'm a little taken aback when I pick up the Ia for the same reason. I think it is partly a matter of expectations, but it may also be that there was an assumption that the image would be pre-visualized and that the function of the viewfinder was mostly to set the limits of what would be captured.

The IIa does offer a bit larger image through the viewfinder, and the IIc has a pretty nice brightline finder with parallax marks.

The Ia offers about the same view as my Voigtlander Vito II and my Zeiss Ikonta 35 from the same era. So the Retina Ia was pretty much average for its time for compact 35mm shooters. None of them were very friendly to glasses wearers.

Mike said...

I should add that the manufacturers were not unaware of the shortcomings of the built-in finders on the small cameras. Kodak and others at the time offered accessory viewfinders that provided much nicer views; some were optical, and others were wireframe sportsfinder types which were particularly helpful in catching fast-moving subjects.