Kodak Retina family

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Kodak Retina family

Common wisdom cites Kodak as the creator of the home photographic hobby in the late 1880s and into the 20th century. It is correct, to a degree. Early cameras were massive contraptions of wood and brass, kind of elite cabinet making, complemented with a crude lens and media holder. They were not easily portable, more of a luggable. There were only a few such style cameras made by Kodak, where they bought out the competition and available new technologies. Kodak took over manufacturers such as Blair, Folmer and Schwing or Rochester and continued with their product lines to be made famous as Kodak models.

Kodak’s contribution in bringing photography to the masses was via selling volumes of simple, no-frills, cheap cameras. Box style or folders, cameras were still too large to be truly defined as so-called vest pocket cameras. Kodak’s business model relied on selling film, so as long as competitor’s cameras used Kodak made film, Kodak had no pressing incentive to produce better cameras.

The early 1920s saw new winds blowing from across the ocean. Germany, heavily burdened by reparations imposed at the Versailles agreement’s, was in dire need of hard currency. Reparations payable were equal to about 100,000 tonnes of gold, nearly half of all the gold mined in the world till date, and quoted in gold. There was no practical way for the post-war German government to come even close to that. Guess it was meant to devastate the German economy for generations to come.

An alternative to the non-existent gold was hard valued goods, such as steel, coal and industrial products. Germany gradually defaulted on these payments, so France, followed by Belgium, invaded the Ruhr valley, cutting away the productive mining and industrial area. That had left Germany with one option to gain hard currency – industrial export.

Assuming the winning nations of WWI had noble and just intentions, the pressure on the German economy brought upon hyperinflation and unrest, which within two decades brought Hitler to power and caused a human-made disaster and the holocaust. As said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Back to photography. In the early 1900s, Kodak’s mainstay was medium format films. The new photographic wonders from Germany, by Leitz, Zeiss and Ihagee, amongst others, used a new format, the 35mm film. Kodak was no longer the only game in town. The European made cameras were better than Kodak had ever made or capable of making.  Even decades later, the top five American made cameras*, three of which were Kodaks, could not practically compete with the imports. Later on, In the 1940s, when Kodak tried making homegrown fully featured cameras, the results were unpractical devices such as the Chevron and the Medalist.

With a market receptive for a better camera, homegrown makers as Universal and Argus at one wing and the German imports at the other, Kodak needed a camera to hold the fort. It had to be advanced enough to appeal to the upcoming generation of demanding photographers and priced to compete. Leica cameras were sold at about $200, so this could be used as a reference point.

Developing such a camera line is a tedious process, and I am not sure if Kodak could meet the quality offered by the imports. Kodak needed a solution fast. German manufacturers were easy prey, so Kodak shopped there and ended up buying a new startup headed by August Nagel, an ex Zeiss camera designer. Nagel made medium format folders and a few miniatures, all held in high regard by the industry. Kodak brought their marketing network and the financial muscle to the deal; Nagel brought expertise, experience, and innovation. Kodak pointed Dr. Naglel in a direction and wisely left him to do his wonder.

Nagel’s single most important achievement was in a minor detail, which had later become a part of most cameras made: the 35mm cassette. The format had been available earlier, but the single cassette configuration and daylight replacement made the difference. Kodak keeps mum about the cassette origin, do not explicitly says that it is their development.

The early camera prototype in the Retina line was a monoblock, but the first production camera was a small folder, or klapp, fold in German. A similar concept to the popular folders of the time, but smaller, shorter focal length, attention to detail, better finishes, advanced features, and best of all, palatable price. The price for the first Retina was USD 52.50, cheaper than other similar cameras. This price equals just under USD 1,000 in today’s worth. The early models enjoyed moderate sales, to be picked up later with each consecutive model.

The war stopped the supply of all European imports to the US.  The first post-war Retina, the 010, suffered from production inconsistencies and saw slight changes and finishes as parts supply built up.

The classic Retina line included 34 variations, the earliest introduced in 1934, with the last introduced in 1960. Two other Retina camera models, the S1 and S2, were made later, but they had little in common with the classic Retina line.

There were three model families, defined by Kodak as Retina as I, II and III. However, this selection does not mean much. Excluding the odd ‘S’ models, the classic Retinas have 26 klapp and eight monoblock bodies, 19 viewfinders and 15 rangefinders, 15 series I, ten series II, four series III, two marked Retina only and three marked Retina Automatic. All that in happy disarray. Post-war camera models began with 0, but overall model numbers and order of introduction do not correlate. All that means nothing to an individual camera but is very confusing to the collector.

Retinas were made in Germany and, to a smaller extent, assembled UK and France for the local market. That is why some models are freely available in some countries or continent while scarce elsewhere. This is also demonstrated in the model numbering, such as IIa, IIb and so on, where cameras are almost identical but destined to different markets.

As early models progressed, there were sometimes unremarkable differences. The models kind of evolved rather than redesigned. Changes could be in the exposure counter placement, rewind release location, wind and rewind knobs diameter and height, while the rest remained unchanged. See the sketch below for a demonstration of series I evolution. New models came to market while earlier models were still on the shelf. Add to that, while transitioning, some models carried a mix of fresh and previous features, and lenses or shutters cheerfully intermingled, so model identification could sometimes prove difficult. It is also evident with models with or without an accessory shoe and speeds variants

The influx of single lens reflex cameras made interchangeable lenses a must-have. To make up for that, in later Retinas, the front lens element could be replaced with either wide or long lenses, with matching viewer compensation masks.

The table below lists the Retina models by introduction year order. I sourced the data from four printed books, complemented with reliable (I think) online sources. Not surprisingly, data does not line up, with different information stated. I will appreciate corrections and clarifications where needed

This page came to being as I could not find my way within the Retina models. I have 15 Retinas on the shelf, ranging from I to III. I will add specific information later.

User manuals see at Butkus site. Current Retina and all other camera see at Camdex, the classic camera project.

 

Kodak Retina camera list, in order of introduction

Retina  117 1934 Klapp Viewfinder      60,000
Retina  118 1935 Klapp Viewfinder       9,000
Retina I 119 1936 Klapp Viewfinder        39,000
Retina I 126 1936 Klapp Viewfinder   39,000
Retina II 122 1936 Klapp Rangefinder 5,000 Europe only
Retina I 141 1937 Klapp Viewfinder 30,000
Retina II 142 1937 Klapp rangefinder   50,000
Retina I 143 1938 Klapp Viewfinder 22,000 Europe only, same as 141
Retina I 148 1939 Klapp Viewfinder 15,000
Retina I 149 1939 Klapp Viewfinder 10,000 Europe only
Retina I 010 1946 Klapp Viewfinder 70,000
Retina I 167 1946 Klapp Viewfinder 2,000 Retinette
Retina II 011 1946 Klapp rangefinder  50,000
Retina IIa 150 1948 Klapp rangefinder  5,000 Europe only
Retina I 013 1949 Klapp Viewfinder 110,000 Europe only
Retina II 014 1949 Klapp rangefinder 180,000
Retina Ia 015 1951 Klapp Viewfinder 140,000
Retina IIa  016 1951 Klapp rangefinder   40,000
Retina Ib  018 1954 Klapp Viewfinder 161,000 Europe only
Retina IIc 020 1954 Klapp rangefinder 136,000 Interchangeable lens
Retina IIIc  021-1 1954 Klapp rangefinder 100,000 Interchangeable lens
Retina IIIc no meter cover 021-2 1957 Klapp rangefinder 110,000
Retina IB Single Viewer 019-1 1957 Klapp Viewfinder 20,000
Retina IIC  Big C / Big window 029 1957 Klapp Viewfinder 19,000 Europe only
Retina IIIC Big C 028 1957 Klapp rangefinder 68,000 Interchangeable lens
Retina IB  Double Viewer 019-2 1958 Klapp Viewfinder 20,000 Europe only
Retina IIIS  027 1958 Monnoblock rangefinder 45,000 Interchangeable lens
Retina IIS  024 1959 Monnoblock rangefinder 19,000 Europe only
Retina Automatic I  038 1960 Monoblock rangefinder 61,000 Europe only
Retina Automatic II  032 1960 Monnoblock rangefinder 48,000 Europe only
Retina Automatic III  039 1961 Monnoblock rangefinder 77,000
Retina I BS  040 1962 Monoblock viewfinder 13,000
Retina IF  046 1963 Monoblock viewfinder 37,000
Retina IIF  047 1963 Monnoblock rangefinder 30,000
Retina S1 060 1966 Monoblock viewfinder 140,000
Retina S2 061 1966 Monoblock viewfinder 100,000

Early retina cameras evolution:

Kodak Retina style changes diagram download

Retina camera images and information

117

Retina 117

Retina [117]

Introduced in 1934. Sold in the US at $57.50. Shutter release on the body, optical finder proud of the top. Film rewind lever mounted within the film winder knob. Top and bottom black. Speeds:  T, B, 1-300.  Common lens: Schnider-Kreuznach, 3.5/50. Shoe: None.

118

Retina [118]

The film rewind lock moved to the back of the top cover. Speeds:  T, B, 1-300. Common lens:  Schnider-Kreuznach, 3.5/50. Shoe:  None.

119

Retina I 119

Retina I [119]

Frame counter moved to wind knob side. Wind and rewind buttons smaller, rewind made taller. Proud optical viewfinder. All black body. Europe only.  Speeds:  T, B, 1-300. Common lens: Ektar / Xenar,  3.5/50. Shoe:  None.

126

Retina I [126]

Similar to earlier models, added cold shoe on some production series. Optional polished aluminium or chrome coating on top and bottom. European models avilable with Ysar and Angenieux lenses.  Speeds:  T, B, 1-500. Common lens: Ektar,  3.5/50. Shoe: On some production series.

122

Retina II 122

Retina II [122]

First Retina rangefinder / viewfinder. Short winding lever, close to the body, extending out. Pull up shutter release. Europe model, fairly rare.  Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Ektar / Xenon, 3.5/50, 2.0/50.  Shoe: None.

141

Retina I 141

Retina I [141]

Similar to #126, with or without an accessory shoe. Shutter knob on top instead of the lens barrel. Bright top and bottom, proud viewer. Frame counter larger than earlier models. Speeds: T, B, 1-500. Common lens: Ektar / Tessar, 3.5/50. Shoe: Cold.

142

Retina II 142

Retina II [142]

Similar to #122, but for the US market. The winding knob replaced the lever in #122. Speeds:  B, 1-300. Common lens: Ektar / Xenon,  3.5, 2.8 /50. Shoe:  None.

143

Kodak-Retina I [143]

Retina I [143]

Similar to #141, Europe distribution. All black.  Speeds:  B, 1-300.  Speeds:  B, 1-300. Common lens: Xenar,  3.5/50. Shoe: None.

148

Retina I 148

Retina I [148]

Bright finished top and bottom. Rewind release moved out from frame counter. Taller top housing. Two pins mounted on the frame counter for better grip. Double exposure elimination, with ‘T’ eliminated as well.  Speeds:  B, 1-300. Common lens: Xenar / Ektar,  3.5/50. Shoe: Cold.

149

Retina I [149]

Same as the #148, just minor trim changes. Speeds: T, B, 1-300. Common lens: Xenar / Ektar,  3.5/50. Shoe: Cold.

167

Kodak-Retina I [167]

Retina I [167]

Post-war Retina, mixed with Retinette parts. Came in several configurations under the same model name. Top and bottom bright metal finish.  Speeds:  B, 25-125. Common lens: Kodak,  3.5 – 4.5 /45. Shoe:  None.

010

Retina I 010

Retina I [010]

First post-war Retina. Offered also with Zenar and Rodenstock lenses. Made of prewar parts complemented with newly made parts, so models may be inconsistent. Some models offered with a cold shoe while others with two threaded holes to accept same.  Speeds:  B, 1-500. Common lens: Ektar / Xenar,  3.5/50. Shoe: Cold.

011

Retina II 011

Retina II [011]

Similar to the #150, for the US market. No strap eyelets. Model numbers preceded with EK. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenon / Heligon,  2.0/50. Shoe: Cold.

150

Retina IIa [150]

First true rangefinder. Retractable rewind button. Cold shoe standard. Strap eyelets. Europe distribution model. Speeds:  B, 1-300. Common lens: Xenon / Ektar,  2.0/50, 2.8/50. Shoe: Cold.

013

Retina I 013

Retina I [013]

The first model with the viewer embedded in the body. Bright chrome top and bottom. Cold shoe standard. No synch on early units, X on rest. Wind and rewind shorter. European model.  Speeds:  B, 1-500.  Common lens: Xenar / Ektar, 3.5/50, 2.8/50. Shoe: Cold.

014

Retina II 014

Retina II [014]

Similar to #011. Minor design changes.Speeds:  B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenon / Heligon, 2.0/50. Shoe: Cold.

015

Retina Ia 015

Retina Ia [015]

First Retina with lever winding. Shutter cocks with film winding. Film rewind release by the shutter trigger. Frame counter at the bottom. Strap eyelets added. European model.
A #15 variation has the frame counter within the rewind knob. Speeds:  B, 1-500. Common lens: Ektar / Xenar / Heligon, 3.5/50. Shoe: Cold.

016

Retina IIa 016

Retina IIa [016]

Lever winding. Frame counter within the rewind button. Rewind release button by shutter trigger. Strap eyelets. Some models X synch only. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenon / Heligon, 2.0/50. Shoe: Cold.

018

Retina Ib [018]

Winding lever at the bottom. Rounded sides as opposed to earlier bevelled corners. Strap mounts on the top housing. Bellow covered by two metal shields. Larger viewer window, embedded in the top cover. Self-timer marked V per German convention added to X/M. Filter diameter changed to 27mm from 32mm.  Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenar,  2.8/50. Shoe: Cold.

020

Kodak-Retina IIc [020]

Retina IIc [020]

Rounded body sides instead of bevelled before. Bellows covered with two folding shields. Strap lugs mounted on the top cover. Timer marked V on the synch lever. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Heligon / Xenon, 2.8/50. Shoe: Cold.

021-I

Retina IIIc 021-1

Retina IIIc [021-I]

Uncoupled Selenium meter with hinged cover. Else similar to the #020. Interchangeable front lens element with matching add-on viewer for 80mm lens. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenon / Heligon,  2.0/50. Shoe: Cold.

021-II

Retina IIIc [021-II]

Same as the Retina 021/1, minor changes in the meter. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Heligon, 2.0/50. Shoe: Cold.

019-1

 

Retina IB [019-1] Single Viewer

Refined body style. Selenium meter, uncoupled. Large viewer window. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenar, 2.8/50. Shoe: Cold.

029

Kodak-Retina IIC [029] Big C

Retina IIC [029] Big C / Big window

Same as the #020, large viewer window. European model. Speeds:  B, 1-500. Common lens: Heligon /  Xenon,  2.8/50. Shoe: Cold.

028

Retina III Big C 028

Retina IIIC [028] Big C

Similar to #021, uncovered meter lens and large viewer window. Interchangeable front lens element. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Heligon / Xenon, 2.0/50. Shoe: Cold.

019-2

Retina IB [019-2] Double Viewer

Same as the 019 / 1, but with two viewer windows. Looks like a rangefinder, yet it is a viewfinder.  Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenar, 2.8/50. Shoe: Cold.

027

Kodak-Retina IIIS

Retina IIIS [027]

Monoblock body. Full lens interchangeable. Uncovered Selenium meter lens. Auto parallax correction. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Interchangeable.Shoe: cold.

024

Retina IIS 024

Retina IIS [024]

Similar to the #207, but with a fixed lens.Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenar,  2.8/45.Shoe: Cold.

038

Retina Automatic I [038]

First monoblock Retina. Shutter lever at front. Coupled Selenium meter. Camera select shutter / aperture combination. With low light condition viewfinder flags ‘stop’ and camera seizes. Speeds:  30-300.  Common lens: Reomar, 20/45, 2.8/45. Shoe: Cold.

032

Retina Automatic II [032]

Coupled Selenium meter. Three-zone focusing marked with dots. With low light shutter locks and ‘stop’ message in the viewer. Shutter release at the front by the lens mount. Speeds: B, 30-200. Common lens: Xenar, 2.8/45. Shoe: Cold.

039

Retina Automatic III 039

Retina Automatic III [039]

Similar to the #032 but with a coupled rangefinder. Common lens: Xenar, 2.8/45. Shoe: Cold.

040

Retina I BS [040]

Monoblock Retina, similar to 038. Coupled Selenium meter. Shutter lever at front. Camera select shutter / aperture combination with added manual override via a needle in the finder. Accessory shoe recessed into the top cover. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenar, 2.8/45. Shoe: Cold.

046

Retina IF [046]

Similar to the # 38. Rewind knob pops up with pressing of the rewind release. Frame counter at the camera bottom. Aperture ring shows value in the finder window. Built-in flashbulb socket covered with a pop-up reflector. A V625U battery used for the flash. Speeds:  B, 15-500. Common lens: Xenar,  2.8/45. Shoe: Cold.  Flash bulb socket. PX625 battery for the flash only.

047

Retina IIF [047]

Retina IIF [047]

Light exposure shows in the viewer. Integral flashbulb socket covered with pop up reflector. Accessory show recessed in the top cover. Frame counter at the bottom. Rewind knob recessed in body pops up when rewind release activated. Requires V625U battery for the flash. Speeds: B, 1-500. Common lens: Xenar, 2.8/45. Shoe: Cold. Flash bulb socket. PX625 battery for the flash only.

060

Kodak-Retina S1

Retina S1 [060]

Retina made simple. A modern to that era Instamatic / Retina blend. Boxy shape, mostly plastic, taking 126 drop-in cartridges. Accepts flashcubes that turn at each shot. No strap eyelets. Added symbols to distance ring for a simple distance estimate.  Speeds: B, 30-250. Common lens: Reomar, 2.8/45. Shoe: Cold.

061

Kodak-Retina S2

Retina S2 [061]

Same as the Retina S1 # 061, with added Selenium meter coupled with the aperture dial. Speeds:  B, 30-250. Common lens: Reomar,  2.8/45. Shoe: Cold.

 

 

More

Everything Kodak I 

Everything Kodak II

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