Kodak Retinette 1B (type 037)

I spent years resisting adding Kodaks to my collection for the simple reason that Kodak produced far too many cameras. Well, I bought one (Retina 1a (type 015)) and now I have four. This latest Kodak is a derivation of that Retina 1a and my Retinette (type 017) but is now a rigid camera rather than a folder.

  • lens: Rodenstock Reomar
  • focal length: 45 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 3.5 feet to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Pronto LK
  • speeds: 1/15 to 1/500 + B
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35mm

So, this Retinette 1B, or Type 037, is a nicely made viewfinder camera made in Germany by Kodak AG, the company that Kodak bought from Dr Nagel in 1931. The camera was made between 1960 and 1963. It has a couple of features that I have never seen on a camera before – more later. In 1963, Wallace Heaton (a photographic retailer in London) had these for sale for £31-10-8.

The camera measures 125 by 90 by 85 mm and weighs 530g. The top plate is made from bright plated brass. On the far right is the frame counter. This is a German camera and the counter counts down. It is reset manually by a toothed wheel below the counter. Every fifth number is displayed in white, the resting white dots. To the left of the frame counter and at the front of the top plate is the shutter release button. This is also plated metal and is threaded for a standard cable release.

_1010659The middle of the top plate has the camera name in Italic script – Retinette IB. Left of this is the accessory shoe. – a cold shoe. On the far left is the rewind knob. This pulls up to enable the insertion or removal of film cassettes. This rewind knob doubles as a film type reminder. The options are: colour daylight, colour artificial light and monochrome. This is just a memo and has no effect on the operation of the camera.

On the back of the top plate is the viewfinder eyepiece which is nearly central. The eyepiece is contained in an 8 mm circle and measures 8 by 6 mm. Small by modern standards but significantly larger than was usual in the early 1950s. Inside the viewfinder is the image screen. This has bright lines to indicate the image area with parallax indicators for close-ups. At the bottom of the bright lines is the light meter readout. This works by adjusting the shutter speed and aperture to centre the needle.

The front of the top plate has three windows. On the left (looking at the front of the camera) is the light meter sensor window. This is a selenium sensor and so does not need a battery. The selenium sensor is covered with the usual knobbly glass lens. Looking through this at the sensor, you can read the legend “GOSSEN” indicating that the light meter assembly was made by the renown German meter maker, Gossen (who are still in business in 2020).

The middle window of the three is the viewfinder window which is almost (but not quite) central  over the lens. The right hand window is opaque except for a transparent line around the edge – this provides the illumination for the bright lines in the viewfinder.

At the front of the camera, below the top plate, is the shutter/lens assembly. This is mounted on a curved fascia. The shutter is a Pronto LK (and not a Prontor LK as the Interweb will have it) made by Gautier in Calmbach, Germany. the ‘LK’ indicates that the shutter is coupled to a light meter. The LK is short for the German Lichtgekoppelt which means light coupled.

The shutter offers speeds from 1/15 to 1/500 seconds plus B. These are set using the outermost milled ring on the assembly. Apertures are from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22 which is a good range. The iris diaphragm gives a pentagonal aperture. The aperture is adjusted using a black plastic tab on the left side of the shutter barrel. There actual aperture scale is quite a way around on the right side of the shutter barrel, inconveniently for ease of use.

_1010662Also on the shutter assembly is the film speed setting for the light meter. There are two scales for this. The first, on the right of the shutter barrel, offers film speeds from 10 to 800 ASA (broadly the same as ISO speeds). The second scale is very unusual. It has the British Standard scale – marked BS – which is the first time I have ever seen this on a light meter. The principle of the BS film speed is the same as for ASA (partial gradients of the log exposure/intensity curve) but the numbers are expressed on a logarithm scale. So the values here are 22 BS to 40 BS. An increase of 3 doubles the speed. So, 200 ASA is 34 BS and 400 ASA is 37 BS. This is very similar to the German DIN speeds with 10 added (24 DIN = 34 BS). To adjust these settings, you need to pass a small metal tab beside the 500 shutter speed and turn the speed setting ring.

The lens is a Rodenstock Reomar with a focal length of 45 mm and a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8. All the Retinette cameras seem to have been fitted with Reomar lenses but most of them were made by Schneider-Kreuznach rather than Rodenstock.  Obviously, by 1960, the lens is coated and almost certainly on all surfaces. The Reomar lens is a triplet.

Focusing is the second thing I have never seen before. The lens appears to front cell focusing (only the front piece of glass moves to focus the lens, the other two pieces staying still). The strange thing is that the focus helical does not move smoothly. There are indents at just over six feet, ten feet and about thirty feet. These are coupled with distances in black (the other distances are in red). So, when you focus to the first indent at six feet, there are two black pointers pointing at 5.3 and 8 feet – this is the depth of field at this distance and ƒ/4 (I got the aperture value from the instruction manual). Moving the focus to the second indent at ten feet, the two pointers point to eight and fifteen feet. Moving to the last indent, thirtyish feet, the pointers point to fifteen feet and infinity – this is the hyperfocal distance at ƒ/4.

_1010664The base of the camera has three items. On the far left is a tripod socket. This is a 1/4 inch Whitworth (possible UNC) thread. Having this at the far end of the camera is not ideal for stability. At the far right is, surprisingly, the film advance lever. At this time (1960ish) there was a bit of a fashion for film advance levers on the base. Initially, this is rather awkward to use but quickly becomes easier with practise. This film advance lever is black plastic as is the tripod socket. Nestling in the crook of the lever is a chrome button. this is the film rewind button. Pressing this in frees the internal mechanism which in turn allows the sprocket shaft to rotate backwards. Once  this button is pressed in there is no need to hold it in, unlike the majority of other cameras.

Right by the tripod socket is a small chrome button. Pressing this releases the catch for the back. Inside is pretty much standard for a 35mm viewfinder camera. Inside the door is a red sticker stating that the camera was serviced by Kodak in 1964. As this is a German camera, not Japanese, there are no foam light seals to wear out. Light tightness is achieved by overlapping flanges on the door and body.


Kodak Brownie Cresta

Kodak made a prolific range of cameras over many years. In fact, their ranges of cameras had sub-ranges. This camera is a Brownie which is a range of amateur cameras first made in 1900. Brownie cameras were aimed at snap shot photographers and were extremely simple to use. My first cameras was a Brownie Vecta and produced quite good pictures. This Brownie – the Brownie Cresta – was made from 1955 to 1958 (according to Camerapedia).


The basic shape of this camera is curved. Having the film curved corrects a lot of lens distortion and improves image quality at little cost.

There is little in the way of controls on this camera although there are some. On the top is the film advance knob. This is an ivory coloured plastic knob. This will continue to wind the film from one end to the other – the user has to look in the red window at the frame numbers to control the film movement.


Also on the top is the shutter release button. This also is ivory coloured plastic. There is no double exposure control here – you can take as many exposures as you like on one frame.

At the front of the Cora, at the top, is the viewfinder window. This gives a rather small, square image of the view. Below this is the lens which is labelled as a ‘Kodak’ lens. This is a single element meniscus lens which has a depth of field of around seven feet to infinity. Behind the lens is a slide with three elements. The central element is merely a hole which has no effect on anything – this is the normal way to use this camera. Pulling this slide to the right (as when looking at the lens) moves an additional lens element into place behind the main lens. This gives a focal range from four feet to seven feet and is intended for portraits – it is labelled ‘close-up’.

Pulling the slide to the left (again, as when looking at the lens) moves a pale yellow filter into place behind the lens. This would have been ideal for beach photography (which surely would have been one of the main uses of this camera) as the use of this filter would have helped the surf to standout from the sea, clouds to stand out from the sky. It also would have slightly reduced the amount of light reaching the lens and so reducing the risk of over-exposure with the bright light frequently encountered on summer beaches.


Above the lens, in the corner of the fascia, is a PC connector for flash. Given the age of the camera and its intended market, this will be synchronised for flash bulbs. The synch mechanism is simple and crude. Electrical contact to fire the flash is made as soon as the shutter starts to move. The shutter needs to move 3 to 4 mm before the film is actually exposed. This delay gives the flash bulb a chance to reach maximum intensity before the shutter opens and then the bulb would continue to burn while the shutter was open.

This simply would not work with electronic flash where the flash duration is so brief it would be likely to be over before the shutter opened.


On the base of the camera are two items. First, a standard 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket. Centrally, there is the catch to open the camera. Turning this atto-clockwise allows the top of the camera to be pulled up, removing the spool holders and film gate with it. The film gate is 7/8 inches square (my apologies to my metric riders but this camera was made using English Imperial units). The film gate is about 1 1/2  inches away from the film so the edges of the image will not be a sharp line. I doubt anyone was bothered about this.


The film used here is 120 film (still readily available). The spools are held in place with  simple strip of spring steel.

Immediately behind the film is the red window. this is used by then user too see the frame numbers printed on the paper backing of the film. This red window is in the centre of the back – 120 film has three series of numbers printed on it for the three image formats used by 120 film cameras. Right at the top of the back is the viewfinder eyepiece which is 7/16 inches square.


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.

Kodak Retinette (type 017)

Visually, this is very like an early Retina – see my description of my Retina I type 119 – I gather the Retinette line was introduced for the folding 35 mm cameras with no rangefinder.

Before I go on to describe this camera I want to repeat the standard advice regarding using the V or self-timer setting on old cameras. The advice is not to touch this setting as the mechanism is likely to break rendering the camera useless. The man who sold me this camera was honest enough to tell me the shutter was jammed. I bought the camera on the basis that I have never had a serious problem with a Prontor shutter and did not doubt that this one would prove to be alright.

The problem was indeed that someone had tried the self-timer and the shutter had jammed. It took me nearly ten minutes of jiggling the various levers on the shutter to free the mechanism. The shutter is still not as free as it should be but an hour or so of repeatedly dry-firing the shutter will usually free the mechanism admirably.

Retinette type 017
  • lens: Reomar
  • focal length: 50 mm
  • apertures: f/4.5 to f/16
  • focus range: 3 ft to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Prontor-SV
  • speeds: 1 sec to 1/300 seconds
  • flash: PCsocket
  • film size: 35 mm
This camera is a folder. The model name is a Retinette and it was made by Kodak’s German factory. There were later models I, Ia, II etc. As well as model numbers, Kodak also produced types. This is a type 017 and was made between 1952 and 1954. The lens serial number tells me it was made in 1952. According to Dave Jentz of the Historical Society for Retina Cameras the lens was engraved with a serial number on 3 November 1952. It would have been three to six months before the new lens was fitted to a camera body by Kodak. The body also has a serial number – 928380 – but I have been unable to find any information relating to serial numbers to dates.
There is a button on the sole plate to release the front door. This does not spring open as some folders do, but the instruction book specifically says you need to pull the door open so this must be how it is intended to work. The action here is smooth enough so I am not going to lubricate the many joints in the struts – usually this is necessary on old folders but not here.
In common with the Retina series, there is a metal plate between the bellows and the shutter housing. This is purely decorative – it is missing on the Voigtlander equivalent (Vito and Vito II) – but is very effective visually. To close the camera, there is a small stud both top and bottom of this decorative plate that must be depressed to unlock the folding mechanism.
The shutter is a Prontor SV shutter – the letters SV tells us the shutter is synchronised for flash (“S”) and has a self timer (“V” = Vorlaufwerk). In common with other early fifties shutters, there is a cocking lever and a release lever. The release lever is connected via a spring steel strap to a release button on the camera’s top plate – and via this to a double exposure prevention mechanism. The fast shutter speeds work well – the test film will show me how well – but the slower speeds (1/10, 1/5, 1/2 & 1 seconds) are very slow – the one second setting is about 1 1/2 seconds. that is about 1/2 a stop out which is within the exposure latitude of film. This means the shutter should be usable at all marked speeds – I am not someone who gets hung up about precision, I am more concerned about usability.
The shutter has three Happy Snapper settings. There is a red dot on the aperture scale at just smaller than f/5.6 (I would guess f/6) and f/11 is also in red. These are used in conjunction with two small circles on the focus scale. In the manual, Kodak has these for use with different films.
For Kodachrome film (colour slide film, no longer in production) you should set the shutter speed to 1/50 (marked in red), the aperture to the red dot and the focus to the small circle on the focus scale near to the ten foot mark. This gives you a focus range of seven feet to fifteen feet – intended for portraits. For landscapes you should use the second small dot near the twenty five foot mark. This last is the hyperfocal distance for this lens at f/6 – everything from thirteen feet to infinity will be in focus.  These settings assume bright sunshine.
For Kodak Plus X (monochrome film, no longer in production) you should set the shutter speed to 1/50 (marked in red), aperture to f/11 (marked in red) and the focus to one of the small circles. The first small circle (near to ten feet) gives a focus range of six to twenty five feet and the second small circle (near to twenty five feet) gives a focus range of ten feet to infinity. This last is not quite the hyperfocal distance – to get this you need to set the focus to fifteen feet giving a range from seven feet to infinity.
The shutter comes with two flash synchronising settings – M and X.  For F class flash bulbs and electronic flash, you use the X position and can use shutter speeds up to 1/100 seconds.  For M class flash bulbs the process is more complicated.  For these bulbs there needs to be a slight delay between firing the flash and opening the shutter.  This is to give the flash bulb a chance to burn to its maximum brightness before the shutter opens. For these M class bulbs, you set the synchronising lever to M and then set the delay timer (there is a second yellow M by the delay timer lever to remind you to do this).  The delay system does not come into effect other than to give a fraction of a second delay as just mentioned.  In order to actually use the delay timer for taking a picture, it is necessary to set the flash synch to X first.
The top of the camera is as we might expect of a 35 mm camera.  On the right is the film advance knob (we are still a few years away from having a film advance lever) and on the other end is a film rewind knob. This is activated by a small lever beneath the film advance knob marked R and A. The centre of the top plate has the small viewfinder. It was usual at this time (late 50s) to have very small viewfinders and this one is impossible to use while wearing glasses. On the left of the viewfinder is the accessory shoe – at this time it was as likely to house a rangefinder as a flash so I am still not calling it a flash shoe. On the right of the viewfinder is the frame counter – this one counts down so shows the frames left to use. it is easily set to the film length by rotating it using the two small studs on the disc. Between the frame counter and the film advance is the body shutter release. You can only depress this once the film has been advanced. As the interlock is freed by the film physically moving over the sprocket wheel, there has to be a film in the camera before the shutter will fire (you can ‘cheat’ and fire the shutter at the shutter housing, if you want to).
The base of the camera is plain apart from the tripod boss – the standard 1/4 Whitworth thread.
My test film is still waiting to be developed – later this week, I hope – and I will post the test pictures when they are ready.


Six-20 Brownie D


Kodak SIX-20 brownie D

This must be the simplest camera that I have.  It is a box camera from Kodak made between 1953 and 1957 in London.  It was also made in the USA.  It comes with two controls besides the shutter release.  First control is a choice between “I” (instantaneous) and “B” (bulb).  I would guess that Instantaneous is about 1/30 seconds – bulb is for as long as you hold the shutter release in.  The second control is a close up lens which allows focussing between three feet and six feet.

Side view showing both control options

The camera has two viewfinders, both ‘brilliant’ finders, one on the top for portraits and one on the side for landscapes.  Given that the close-up lens allows focussing up to six feet, it is fair to assume that normal focussing range is six feet to infinity.

This camera takes 620 film which is no longer available.  However, it is the same as 120 film but on a different spool – so if I wanted to use this camera, I could re-spool some 120 film onto one of my 620 spools.  I shall not be bothering.

To load the film, the back is opened, the winder knob pulled out, and the insides of the camera come away in one piece.   The film is wound onto the inset and the inset replaced into the camera and the back closed.  Now the film needs to be wound on until the number “1” appears in the red window.  Negative size is 6 x 9 cm so this camera will take eight photographs on one roll of film.

I can date this camera to within five years by the plastic winder knob and plastic shutter release.  These were introduced on the Six-20 Brownie D in 1953 and production ceased in 1957.  Kodak also offer flash contacts on the Six-20 Brownie D but these are not present on my specimen.  I can refine the date a bit by the fact that the catch for the back was also changed – from a more-or-less rectangular shape to a triangular shape.  My specimen still has the rectangular catch so will date from nearer to 1953 than to 1957.

As tiis is such a simple camera, there is not really any thing I can add other than to say that the camera still works well – the shutter mechanism (which is very simple) is as free as the day it was made.  For sixty years old that is more than I can say for myself.

Kodak Brownie Vecta

Kodak Brownie Vecta
Kodak Brownie Vecta
Kodak had a long series of Brownie cameras.  These were the cheap and cheerful range and varied greatly over time.
This article is about the Brownie Vecta which was made in the UK and presumably only available here.  I was given one of these for a birthday present when I was was eleven or twelve years old when it was a strikingly modern looking camera.  It was designed for Kodak by the British industrial designer Kenneth Grange and its ‘natural’ format is portrait as that is what Kenneth Grange assumed it would mostly be used for. The price in 1965 was £1-9-1 in old British money or £1.46 in modern British money which equates to £47 in 2020 prices.
The Vecta was only in production for three years (from 1963 to 1966).  It is basically a grey plastic cuboid with a central lens and a viewfinder in one corner.  The shutter release is a white bar underneath the lens.  It takes 127 film which is hard to find nowadays but is still available (see Ag-photographic for supplies).
The lens is a simple meniscus lens with no focussing.  I have not been able to find out what the focal length of this lens is but it is significantly wide-angle for 127 film. It works by having a very small aperture – f14 – which gives a large depth of field. The big downside of this is that the camera has to have a slow shutter speed to compensate.  Kodak colour film produced at the time that this cameras was current had a speed of ASA 64 so we probably looking at a shutter speed of around 1/30 second.  My test film for this camera shows reasonable image quality at a print size of 4″ by 6″ (100mm by 150 mm) which is as large as they would have been printed in 1963.  In fact, the surviving pictures that I have from August 1968 were printed at 21/2 by 4 inches at which resolution the quality is fine.
Kodak also produced a ‘supplementary’ lens that fitted over the fixed lens that allowed close-ups to be taken.  I had one of these which had to be used with the printed instructions to get acceptable focussing distances.  This did not work too well as distances became critical and the viewfinder produced parallax errors so I never had a real idea of what I was actually photographing.  I gave up on using the close-up lens fairly quickly.

This camera was easy for a child to use – I certainly do not remember any problems in using it at age eleven or twelve.  There are indentations in the cube to facilitate holding the camera steady – and with a shutter speed of 1/30(ish) a steady hand is essential. I really enjoyed this camera as a child and still found it nice to use. The position of the shutter release and the fact that it is a bar rather than a button takes a bit of getting used to but nothing untoward. It was probably easier for me at age eleven as I had not then become used to using more sophisticated cameras and a bottom shutter release was all that I knew.

Test pictures from this camera:

Kodak Brownie Vecta
Baggholm Road, Lincoln
Kodak Brownie Vecta
Busker, High Street, Lincoln
 At this size they look OK but when enlarged (to beyond the size that was anticipated by the designers) the defects show up.  When putting the first roll of film through a “new” old camera, it is usual for the film to attract dirt from the recesses of the camera.  This shows up as black specs on the final print.  These pictures have instead white specs and very pronounced grain which suggests a film or processing fault.  I cannot tell which, but I am sure it is not the camera.
Kodak Brownie Vecta
Busker, High Street, Lincoln – enlarged to show marks
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