Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kodak Retina IIc (Type 020)

Prior to the appearance of the Retina IIc, the Retina family of cameras looked more to the past for design inspiration, incorporating the best of what went before, but not really breaking much new ground. The IIc is still clearly a member of the family, but it has many design innovations which point to future developments.

The Retina IIc features a more rounded, streamlined appearance, the outside finish is greatly superior to earlier models, and all the moving parts have a feel of solidity and precision. The bigger and brighter viewing system has a brightline frame. The biggest change is not evident in the appearance, but becomes immediately obvious in use; the quiet Synchro Compur shutter has dispensed with the stiff little pre-tensioning spring which made shutter speed setting a little awkward in older models. As a result, the photogapher will be much more willing to leave the shutter at the 1/500 setting, even in the cocked state, for prolonged periods.

In spite of obvious enhancements in materials and design, the IIc probably did not seem like a step forward in some respects to users of earlier models. The IIc is a little bigger and heavier, and does not slip so comfortably into the pocket as its predecessors. The rangefinder, though probably more reliable and precise, now lacks parallax correction. The EV system, which couples shutter and aperture settings, seems like a real design error, though it was one that many other manufacturers indulged around the same time. The speed/f-stop settings can be uncoupled by slightly depressing the aperture lever, but this does slow the shooting process a bit.

Minor complaints aside, the Retina IIc is a pleasure to shoot, and the f2.8 Xenon lens is every bit as sharp as the faster f2 lens on the older models. The bottom-mounted film advance lever is fast and smooth in operation. The solid feel of the camera and the responsiveness of the controls inspire confidence for capturing any kind of subect under any conditions. Beyond those practical considerations, the IIc design also provides a glimpse back into the critical transitionary period after WWII when the world began to rebound from the ravages of the war to embrace a new vision of modernity.

Some pictures from the Retina IIc:


JR Smith said...

My Dad bought his Retina new in the Army PX. He brought it home with him and recorded our young family on Kodachrome. The camera is in my hands now as are all of those great Kodachromes.

Nice write up on a camera that has so many memories for me.

Mike said...

The IIc is a camera I likely would have been happy with if it were the only one on the shelf. I haven't given it nearly the chance it deserved to show its stuff.