The vagaries of old cameras


A Kodak Retina IIc was donated to my collection last year. My longtime friend Alice’s dad was a serious amateur photographer who loved gear. But he hasn’t shot film in a long time, and was glad to hand over his entire collection to someone who would use and appreciate it; i.e., me.

I’ve shot a test roll through this IIc, but I’m not able to write a review of this camera just yet. I don’t know why, but only the first shot on the roll was exposed. Was the shutter malfunctioning? Did I do something wrong? It’s too bad, too, as I ordered prints with this roll. I almost never do that. In this case I wasted my money.

After the film came back from the processor I opened the camera and fired the shutter a bunch of times at various speeds. The shutter opened each time. So I have no idea why I got the results I did. I dropped in another roll of film and am trying again.


18 responses to “The vagaries of old cameras”

  1. Ron Avatar

    Not sure what happened in your situation. I’ve played around and bought several Retinas over the years and really, really want to like them, just because it’s a quality camera that says “Kodak” on it. My luck is spotty. The older knob-wind film advance folders (requiring manual cocking of the shutter) generally seem to work pretty well. The newer IIa and up lever-wind cameras seem pretty fragile after 60 years. Either the film advance doesn’t work or the advance won’t cock the shutter, in many examples. Much better luck with contemporaneous Zeiss Ikon products. Even their selenium cell light meters are pretty good, after all this time.

    I’m taking a “new: IIa on a trip in a couple weeks up the Pacific Coast Highway in a few weeks, but bringing the Rollei 35 as back-up.

    I wish I could find a good camera repair guy locally to do a thorough CLA with one or two of these I have, because they are really cool, when they work. Just like my uncle used to say about his Fiat 124.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I thought for sure the shutter had jammed. These things happen to cameras that have not gotten use in decades. Now I wonder if the camera wound on properly past the first frame. Shrugs. Trying again with fresh film.

      I hear good things about the fellow in New Zealand who fixes Retinas.

  2. -N- Avatar

    I have a Reitna that I got from Chris at Retina Rescue. It’s a great camera. Chris can repair your camera if you need it, but if you have an itch to learn about them and possibly diagnose your problem, or learn more, check his site out – lots of info. Let us know what your results are with roll #2!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      He does have a very useful site! Thanks, hoping the second roll works out.

  3. SilverFox Avatar

    Maybe the film didn’t wind on properly?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s a good theory. Except that I shot 24 exposures and if the film didn’t wind right I would think the one exposed photo would have been exposed all 24 times. That one photo turned out okay, as you see above. So I don’t know!

      1. SilverFox Avatar

        but doesn’t the winding set the shutter? so if it didn’t wind the shutter wouldn’t be set to fire? Just thinking that maybe the film slipped off the sprockets or something like that.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          If the shutter is not set to fire I think the shutter button would not press down! So heck I still don’t know.

          1. SilverFox Avatar

            hmmm yes, I agree you would probably have noticed if that were the case. I’ve not use a retina so not sure exactly how they operate. I have a copy of Restoring Classic & Collectible Cameras by Thomas Tomosy and I think he covers retinas; I’ll check to see if he mentions anything about shutters.

  4. jon Avatar

    Hi Jim. It’s not you. I have several Retinas and they are tricky to shoot. Thrifty with film. They seem to to have at least three interlocks to prevent one from taking a picture.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This is my third and the first with any issues so maybe I’ve been lucky!

  5. Dave Avatar

    Ouch! Hope you figure it out!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! Here’s hoping.

  6. The Writing Waifu Avatar

    Well, I like the one that turned out!
    Wish I had more profound insight. XD

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! We will see what happens with roll #2.

  7. Frank Kalivoda Avatar
    Frank Kalivoda

    That’s a puzzle! I once “shot” a roll with the film not properly engaged in the take-up reel but this couldn’t be the case here. Always appreciate your notes!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Frank, who knows. I’m about 10 shots away from finishing my second roll in this camera and just like last time everything sounds like it is working properly. We will see what happens!

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