Kodak Retina I (117)

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Kodak Retina I (117)

Retina I 117 current value

The first of the Retina line, a lovable and popular Kodak product. American as it comes but designed and made in Germany. A brainchild of Dr (jur) August Nagel, a trailblazer to whom we owe the 35mm film cartridge.

Other klapp cameras of the time were larger than the petite Retina I. The pocket camera definition of that era was more of a luggable instrument, with other real pocket-size cameras available but with limited features.  This camera, offering 36 exposures to meet the advances made in optics and enlargers, became a must to any aspiring photographer. The first Retina I, the 117, was introduced in 1934. Followed by the same model name but different identifiers came the 118, 119, 126, etc. Due to the Great War, there was a break in production, with resumed supply in 1946. See more about the Retina lineup.

I am not sure why the first model was named 117. Perhaps this was an internal variation number, but I wonder why the model number 010 came later on, in 1946. Kodak is known for its confusing naming convention, but I suspect they are not to blame here. The Retina I was made for different markets, so different models are found in different countries.

The camera is a pleasure to hold and operate, just shy of its 90th birthday. 50mm / 3.5 lens is on par with any later age camera. Speeds of T, B, 1 to 500 were more than enough to deal with film sensitivity offered at that age. The body is small but perfectly lends itself to large hands. Distance is by estimate, with a pin mounted on the distance dial for easy purchase.

On top, there are four dials. On the left, a rewind button and a frame counter. On the right is a small dial that turns with film winding, perhaps to convince the user that the film moves indeed. Next to it is the winder button, marked with an arrow for the correct direction. Within it, there is a dial marked ‘R’ and ‘A’, where the ‘A’ setting is for winding, and the ‘R’ releases the clutch and allows for rewind. This style did not last long and was removed in later models. See the retina page for style diagrams.

A mounted, fixed viewer sits in the middle, easy for right or left shooters. To close the body, it takes pressing the two slide-mounted mushroom points at both sides and helping it close by pushing in the cover.

For a collector, Retinas are a nice to have cameras. Some are costlier than others, but I would guess that all models will keep their price and appreciate with time.


List number 29054
Brand Kodak
Format 35mm
Model Retina [117]
Introduced 1934
AKA Viewfinder
Qty made 60,000
Country USA (Germany)
Type Klapp
Body material Metal
Mode Manual
Weight 440 gr,  Body with lens
Class average weight 750 gr
ASA range N/A
Kit lens 3.5/50
Lens make Schnider-Kreuznach
Filter size 21mm
Lens mount Fixed lens
Mount size N/A
shutter COMPUR
Light meter None
Winder Knob
Lock No
Speeds T, B, 1-300
DOF preview No
Exposure lock No
Exposure compensation No
Shoe No
External sync No
Sync speed NA
Timer No
Battery N/A
Integral flash None


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