Kodak Retina Ia (type 015)

Kodak bought Nagel Kamerawerk in 1932 as they wanted the design and manufacturing facilities to produce top quality amateur cameras. The main camera Dr Nagel designed for Kodak was the Retina introduced in 1934, together with the now standard 35mm cassette. Several models were produced before Kodak introduced the Retina I in 1936. The camera I have before me is the Retina Ia (type 015) introduced in 1951. This is broadly similar to my earlier Retina from 1936 and my folding Retinette of 1951. See photographs.

lens: Schneider Retina-Xenar
focal length: 50mm
apertures: 3.5 to 16
focus range: 
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Synchro-Compur
speeds: to 1/500
flash: PC socket, synch for X and F
film size: 35mm

The top plate has a film advance lever on the right (this was introduced on this model, earlier models had an advance knob) which incorporates a frame counter which counts down to zero. This moves through about 180 degrees to advance the film one frame. The lever is not on a ratchet and so cannot advance the film with a number of small strokes (c.f. Wirgin Edixa 1).

To the left of the film advance lever and to the front of the top plate is the shutter release button. This is a small chrome plated button and is threaded for a standard cable release. Behind the shutter release button is another button whose use took me a while to establish. This button allows you to advance the film without tripping the shutter – useful if you are re-loading a partially used cassette of film. This is the only camera I have ever seen this on. Left of these is the model name engraved in Italic script.
Centrally, there is the viewfinder in a slightly raised hump. Left of this is the accessory shoe – no flash contacts so a cold shoe – which has the camera’s serial number stamped in it – 503555.
On the far left of the top plate is the film rewind knob. This pulls out around one centimetre for rewinding and two centimetres to release the film cassette. This knob has a film selector on it, purely as a reminder as there is no light meter. The film options are all Kodak films, none of which are available now. They are: Pan X, Plus X, Super X, Kodachrome Daylight, Kodachrome Artificial light and Infrared.
The bottom plate has a tripod boss on the right-hand end and a recessed button to free the mechanism for rewinding the film.  There is also a small button to release the lens door. The back of the camera is mostly the hinged back which allows access to the insides to allow the film to be loaded. This is embossed in the leatherette with the legend “Kodak Retina Camera”. Above the back is the viewfinder eyepiece which is as small as was usual at this time – it measures 3mm by 5mm.
The lens and shutter are in front, behind a hinged door. This is released by the small button on the base. The door does not snap open as my Zeiss Ikon folders do and needs to be opened fully by hand. The shutter and lens are fitted to a chrome plate which is, in turn, fitted to the bellows. The shutter is a Synchro-Compur. This offers speeds to 1/500 seconds. The shutter is released by the button on the top plate which is linked to the lever on the shutter housing. The shutter is cocked by the film advance lever through a hinged linkage to a gear on the side of the shutter housing. Both shutter release and shutter cocking have to cope with the shutter being folded away and also with the whole shutter housing moving when focusing. The lens is a Schneider Retina-Xenar with a focal length of 50mm and a maximum aperture of f/3.5.
Both the folding mechanism and the shutter itself are faulty on my camera – I suspect the folding mechanism was damaged by a previous owner attempting to repair the shutter; the lens is only hand-tight in its fitting which is indicative that it has been removed recently. If I am not careful, the whole folding mechanism will dis-articulate when closing the camera. The shutter fault is that it will open on its own (and stay open) as the advance lever finishes its travel.
Retina right, Retinette left
Retina Ia left, Retina I right

 In use.

I was unaware of any problems with this camera when I started the test film – they became apparent in use. Of the 24 exposures available on the test cassette, 14 had images on them. This indicates that the shutter was working to begin with. However, a further fault is now apparent – there is a humongous light leak in the bellows  which nearly completely obliterates the images. This camera is unusable.

Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

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