Buy Retina IIa?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by wogears, Mar 21, 2019.

  1. A local stuff shop has one of these at an excellent price (USD 20). Everything seems to work except the rangefinder, which moves erratically. This might be an easy repair, or it might not. Chris Sherlock has a video on IIa rangefinders, which indicates that they are not difficult to access and clean. His particular example camera had a sheared rivet in the arm that connects the lens, so it was a loss for anyone without parts access, but it looks as though most RF problems are due to gummy lubricants or similar causes.

    As most of you undoubtedly know, I'm actually asking for people to say "buy it", but I'd appreciate any fact-based encouragement or discouragement.
    stuart_pratt likes this.
  2. If it's otherwise in good condition, including clean glass, I'd definitely say "Buy it" at that price. One I bought a couple of years ago was similarly sticky but improved greatly with use. The fact that the rangefinder is still moving indicates the connections are intact, and Chris's video is helpful if you want to clean and lubricate them yourself.
  3. Haha. I'll bet you were going to buy it whatever anyone said!
  4. IMHO rangefinders are the least important part of a camera. They didn't appear on cameras until the mid 1930's, often you need to set the focus on a (calculated) hyperlocal distance instead of an actual object, you should be able to estimate distances with practice, depth of field will be your friend.
  5. Hard to go wrong at that price. Retinas are great little cameras with superb lenses. A little known fact is the IIIc Xenon has a radioactive front element, but AFAIK, none of the others do.
  6. If I get one of the radioactive ones, do I get cool superpowers?
  7. conrad_hoffman said:

    Nah, you get a date with Kin Jong-Un...
    mjferron likes this.
  8. I have the camera and have fixed the RF. Now the film advance is messed up and I SWEAR I didn't touch it. :)
  9. I don't know the IIa operation, but if it's like the IIIc, the film advance is tied to the counter and little slide button. Is there anything like that on the IIa? I was sure mine was messed up, but it was just user error.
  10. tgh


    The frame counter on Retina IIa models counts down. When it reaches 0, it locks the film advance. Just turn the counter dial to something other than 0 or 1. Or pressing and holding the reset button (the peg like button on top, beside the film advance) should release it. This button also allows you to advance the film to the first frame when loading film without having to trip the shutter.

    I have two Retina IIa's. I also have a love/hate attitude towards folders. This model was made between 1951 and 1954. Judging by how many seem to come up for sale, and most are still in working order, they must have sold in large numbers and have been well designed and well made.

    The biggest issue I have with mine is they seem to both make lower contrast negatives than similar vintage cameras, such as a Voigtlander Vito II. I'm not sure if that's a result of 65+ years of age on the lenses, acquiring a hint of haze, or something in the optical design. I've always suspected an F2 maximum aperture was at or beyond what a four element lens could really handle.
  11. I think I need to reset the start position of the film advance shaft--it got f---ed up somehow. Found a piece of one of Chris's videos that shows how this is done. Believe I'll have to remove the cocking rack to do this.
  12. Do the penlight test- shutter open, shine through and look for any haze. IMO, those lenses lack nothing in contrast, at least not for the b&w I used to do. My dad shot Kodachrome for decades with his IIIc and the slides were always brilliant. A slight focusing error or camera motion can also look like loss of contrast. Don't judge it at anything less than 1/250 unless on a tripod.

    I do know the cocking racks can sometimes get messed up. Not sure if replacements are still available.
  13. The cocking rack is VERY robust, a fact confirmed by Chris Sherlock.
  14. I have a IIa , the film counter mechanism has a lever with a spring on the end, if this spring bit gets broken it jams the winding mechanism because it cannot be reset, there is a small spring loaded pawl in the film advance lever which stops the film being wound on (all part of the mechanism that stops you winding on when counter reaches zero} my counter spring broke and replacements are available but expensive, I think it was one of Chris Sherlocks tips, to tie back this feed pawl in the wind lever with something like dental floss, it means you dont have a film counter but makes the camera usable again, either advance the counter manually, or just keep a check on how many exposures you have made so you know when you are approaching end of film and wind on gently so as to not strip the teeth on the cocking rack.I did this with mine and it has worked perfectly ever since. Just keep an eye on how many frames you have shot.
  15. I've had a couple of Retinas but I became disillusioned with the type when one of them broke half way through a film. They are pretty things but the mechanism is delicate and breakable.
  16. Retinas are lovely cameras when working properly. Their reputation on camera forums for dodgy winders and weak springs on film counter keeps prices affordable.

    Years ago, I had a IIIc, which gave me a couple of years of good service before selling it when acquiring my Leica gear. At the end of last summer, I put the only bid on a knob winder Retina II from the last year of production. It was produced during the final run in 1950 and must have seen very little use. It has since been gone through by Chris Sherlock. Even before the CLA I couldn't complain about the image quality on film. The Rodenstock Heligon is a real nice lens.

    While the II was being CLA'd - I purchased an early production Reitna IIa. Fingers crossed, the IIa that seems to have been serviced by someone within the last decade, judging by the clear viewfinder and the lack of any sluggishness on the RF patch. It ain't too shabby for a 68 year old camera. It sports the same 50mm Heligon - which like the Retina II is set in an old-school Compur Rapid. The Synchro Compur first appeared in mid 1951.

    Fair warning, a Retina II does not cock the shutter when the film is advanced. So, maybe it might be more reliable over the long run. Personally, I prefer the lever wind and self-cocking shutter as it appeared on the IIa. I was never too enamored with bottom winder of the later Retinas.
  17. I got the IIa sorted and it's working correctly. Lens has some haze, but I can live with it. I also have a IIc in mint condition.

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