Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Kodak Retinette IA

17

I had so much fun taking photos with my Kodak Retina Ia that I figured this Retinette IA would be a hoot too. Boy, was I wrong.

Kodak Retinette 1A

I’m sure this Retinette was a very nice camera in its day. It cost $45, which was way more expensive than an average Brownie but probably quite a bargain for its fine German lens and brick-outhouse build quality. Retinette IAs come with three or four different shutters and two or three different lenses, but mine’s got a Pronto shutter and a 45mm Schneider-Kreuznach Reomar lens at f/2.8. That, and the fact that it has a cold (rather than a hot) accessory shoe, says it was made in 1962 or 1963.

Kodak Retinette 1A

I have written before about the perils of buying old cameras on eBay, and I learned as soon as I put my eye to the viewfinder that I fell into one of them with this camera. One of the pieces of glass inside the viewfinder had worked its way loose – maybe it happened in shipping, or maybe the seller just neglected to mention it in the listing. Whatever, the glass’s funky angle blurred the view – instant myopia! – making framing shots difficult.

I have written before about the perils of using a camera without reading the manual first. I took a bunch of shots before I realized that the camera’s focus scale is in meters, not feet. At least those shots looked exactly like they did through the viewfinder.

I have not written (but believe me, I have stories to tell) about the perils of old-camera mechanical problems related to age and disuse. I was able to shoot only 11 photos before the film jammed in the camera. I was able to rewind the film, and so I did, and so I called this experiment a failure.

The photos came back from the processor yesterday. Of the 11 I took, only five came out. Just one turned out to be worth sharing, but only after some digital processing to try to remedy underexposure. The processing gave it a bit of a grainy patina. You might guess I took this shot the day after Halloween. (If you’re really interested, click the photo below to see it, and the rest of the photos that turned out, in Flickr.)

Pumpkin trash

I chose to shoot with my Retinette IA this time because blogger Kristarella had so much good luck shooting with hers. Maybe she used up all the Retinette karma. Maybe I just had a bad few days with this camera. Either way, I’m glad I read her blog first or I would probably have succumbed to the same problem with the camera’s self-timer that she did. Anyway, this one’s back up on the shelf for now, awaiting the day I am up to fixing the viewfinder and winder. I should probably download a manual that day, too.

Feeling like I had fallen off my bicycle, however, I immediately got one of my old rangefinders off the shelf, a Minolta Hi-Matic 7, and loaded her with some Fujicolor 200. I had much better luck with her, and I’ll share those photos soon.

SeeCameras

17 thoughts on “Kodak Retinette IA

  1. kristarella

    Hey there!

    I’m sure I didn’t use up all the karma ;) Maybe all first rolls through these things are destined to be bad? Apart from breaking the timer and having to take the front of the camera apart, the first roll I loaded got completely tangled, jammed up and I had to rip it out! I didn’t realise there were little grooves in the spool that helped it feed on the first wind. It was a total mess as I rummaged under the bed sheets in a dark room to try to save that roll of film.

    Better luck with your second roll!

  2. Jim Post author

    Kristarella, thanks for weighing in! Maybe that’s how these old Retinettes work — you sacrifice the first roll to get good shots on the second!

  3. Lone Primate

    It’s intriguing stuff… I haven’t shot film since I had an SLR for a couple of years about 20 years ago. Even then, I could probably count on both hands the number of rolls I shot. I experimented with B&W and found it unbelievably expensive (virtually no one was developing the stuff on-site and it had to be sent away). I do realize there’s a charm to film photography, and I have a close friend who worked in an honest-to-God photo shop (and not Photoshop) for over 20 years and knew development-techniques-from-the-4th-dimension I have to sigh will be lost soon. Still, I wouldn’t go back, myself. :)

    What do you find rewarding about film photography? You may have covered this in your blog, but maybe you haven’t… :)

  4. Sang Kee

    I’m from Hong Kong and I’ve an 1A too which was bought more than 20 years ago used, albeit the shutter is gone now and it sits idle on the shelf (hope someday would get it fixed, maybe).

    Believe it or not, of all my old cameras I like the Retinette the best:
    - it’s basic and simple to operate – film insertion, film advancing…etc.
    - I have no difficulty in guessing the distance because I shot mostly in the open OR under good sunlight. As a result I used mostly F11 + 1/125 sec which gives a long focal depth compensating for possible out-of-focus shoots. An skill (?) which I acquired by using a Welta 120 folder when I was a kid

    The best part is:
    The Reomar lens, though simple in design, gives most rewarding pics which are sharp, contrasty, rich and faithful redemption of colour – much better than Leica Elmar or the Zeiss Tessar , as far as my meagre experience can tell.

    - Afterward I forever stick to Schneider-Kreuznach lenses which, to me, excel those corresponding ones by Carl Zeiss. I think they are on a par with the Voigtlander lenses which are supposed to be paramount.

    - Therefore a few months back when I bought my first Rolleiflex Automat 3.5 I purposely chose one with a Xenar lens over the Zeiss Tessar.

    Of course it’s only my half-cent as I am no photographer nor an enthusiast – I only like old cameras and have been curious to see how they work.
    Cheers !

    1. Jim Post author

      Thanks for writing! I understand about enjoying using the old cameras and being curious about how they work. If your Retinette is no longer working, perhaps you can buy a working one on eBay and get shooting!

  5. Washington

    I havve had a retinette for 28 yeas only recently got it out the box and remebered how much fun it was to use thinking of tinkering with it again.

  6. xanthuskidd

    Hey! Nice blog here! I love the Kodak Retina/Retinette cameras; I have the 1a model of each. They really are beautiful pieces of machinery. I shot through a couple rolls with each camera a few years ago. I guess I’ll have to dig those shots out or shoot a few more.

        1. Jim Post author

          Please do. I have an X-700 – two of them, actually – both now with the dreaded locked winder problem. But one of them worked long enough for me to shoot with it and write about it here; if you search for it using the search box in the right column you’ll find it. The AE-1 is on my to-buy list.

  7. Phil Gray

    Hi. Hope you don’t mind but came across your site whilst looking for information about the Retinette 1A. I have my late father’s in my possession and it comes complete with box, leather case and lens hood. It has the Kreuznach Reomer lens and although it’s appearance is immaculate, it doesn’t work at all which is a real shame. I’m uk based so you won’t have local info, I know but are these repairable? I’m not bothered about the camera’s monetary value, I’d just love to get it working. My name, by the way, is Phil Gray. My Father’s? James Gray!

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      Of course it depends on how broken your Retinette is, but these are generally repairable cameras. I’ve seen step-by-step instructions on the Web for taking apart other vintage cameras, and perhaps if you keep searching you might find such instructions for your Retinette. I’m sure that finding someone who is skilled and qualified to repair it for you will be challenging. If you find someone, it will probably involve shipping your camera to some far-flung location.

      There are plenty of James/Jim Grays/Greys out there! The curse of having a common name.

  8. Peter Davies

    I grew up in the UK the 60′s and my Dad used a Retinette 1B. The one time he lent it to me was in the summer of 1976. I was a student and came to the USA for my summer vacation so all my photos of that experience were taken with the Kodak. Understanding my interest in photograpy, he has now passed it on to me and it still works very nicely, even though I don’t use it much these days. I rather like the way that the contrast and colors come out. Seems like it captures something (a mood?) that reminds me of my younger days.

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