The Kodak Retina Reflex (later denoted as Type 025 to differentiate it from its successors) was the beginning of the end. It was the first SLR camera made by Kodak at their German based Kodak AG, and simultaneously one of the last models of camera to be produced by that firm. Started by Dr. August Nagel in Stuttgart, Kodak would consolidate the film but retain its leadership under the name Kodak AG. With the intention of producing a line of precision miniature cameras, Kodak AG would launch the long lived line of folding 35mm Retina cameras in 1934 along with the 135 film cartridge. While the Retina series of folding cameras are widely regarded and comparably successful, by 1957 the series was starting to falter. Competition from Japanese camera firms such as Asahi with their Pentax and Germany’s own Zeiss Ikon with their Contaflex had proven that the concept of a 35mm SLR was profitable and Kodak needed an entry into this market segment. Thus, the Retina Reflex can only be seen as a reactionary impulse to a losing battle. In a decade, the last Retina Reflex would come out of Kodak AG and the German camera industry would be supplanted by Japanese SLRs. That said, is the Retina Reflex a bad camera? Production of the original Retina Reflex began in 1957 and ended in 1959, the short production time was due to the introduction of the Retina Reflex S as its successor. Those familiar with the Retina IIIC will be at home with the Retina Reflex, as it is largely an adaptation of that camera to an SLR and the two share many components. That said, this is perhaps an asset rather than a detriment as later iterations of the Retina Reflex added additional features through questionable design choices, and in the process lost some of the ease of use and simplicity of the original Retina folders. The Retina Reflex is a leaf-shutter SLR using a Synchro Compur shutter and the same convertible 50mm f/2 Schneider Xenon or Rodenstock Heligon C lenses as the Retina IIIc and IIIC. These lenses are not truly interchangeable as with their successors, but instead use a fixed rear element and interchangeable front elements which allow for the effect of an 80mm f/4, 35mm f/4 and 35mm f/5.6 in addition to the standard 50mm. Much like the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex, the Retina Reflex is a leaf shutter SLR with a reputation for unreliability and complexity. Leaf shutters have the advantage of flash sync at all speeds, but the design of an SLR led to a high level of complexity and influenced the choice of convertible lenses in this initial model. An SLR necessitates the ability to see through the taking lens when the film is not being exposed. History would vindicate that the focal plane shutter is far superior for this application, as it doesn’t need to move until the moment of exposure, but in 1959 this was not yet determined. The leaf shutter SLR is a complex beast, it requires many actions to take place at the moment of exposure. When the camera is cocked, the shutter blades are open and the aperture is wide open. The reflex mirror is down, and a capping shutter covers the film plane. When the shutter release is pressed many actions take place in under 1/30th of a second. First the shutter blades close. Then the reflex mirror flips up out of the path of the film plane, followed by the capping shutter at the film plane. While the capping shutter and reflex mirror are moving, the aperture is stopped down from wide open to its desired position. Then the shutter blades open again for the desired duration and close again. The camera is now unwound and stroking the film advance winds the film, replaces the capping shutter and reflex mirror, opens the aperture and opens the shutter blades, preparing the camera for the next exposure. As such, there is no instant return mirror on this camera and the viewfinder is blocked out until the film is wound. The viewfinder on this camera is an ordinary ground glass screen with a horizontal split image rangefinder in the center. As compared to the Retina IIIC series, the viewfinder is larger and allows direct composition, but is not quite as bright as later SLRs with fresnel screens. The controls on the top and bottom of the camera are almost identical to that of the IIIc or IIIC. On the bottom is the right hand single stroke film advance lever, film rewind button, tripod socket, and concealed door release. Much like the folders, the door release needs to be rotated 45 degrees to expose the door release button, preventing accidentally opening the back. Starting on the left, the top plate of the camera features the rewind knob with film reminder indicator, cold shoe atop the pentaprism housing, subtractive exposure counter, shutter release button and light meter dial. Like all Retinas the exposure counter is subtractive, and so it counts down the number of exposures left. It also locks the film advance when you get to the last exposure, so if you have a Retina that doesn’t work, check if the exposure counter is at “1” and try advancing the dial by pressing down on the central lock button and moving the dial using the advance button on the back of the housing. Later Retina Reflexes moved the exposure counter to the bottom of the camera in what is widely regarded as a bad move. The light meter is the same single range selenium meter made by Gossen as used in the IIIC. Unlike later Retina Reflexes, the meter is entirely uncoupled to the aperture and the Type 025 lacks the fragile meter coupling string of the later cameras in this line. There is no match needle or settings visible in the viewfinder, and the meter reads out only in EV. Thus, the meter reading must be made and the EV setting transferred to the shutter for proper exposure. The shutter assembly is where the Retina Reflex deviates most from its folding predecessors. As opposed to a large outer dial for shutter speed and small bottom lever for aperture, the Retina Reflex has two large concentric dials about the shutter housing which control shutter speed and aperture. As opposed to the folders, the aperture and shutter speed combinations can both be read off the top of the shutter housing. Using the EV system, the shutter speeds and aperture scales are linked unless the aperture scale is pulled back slightly, which decouples it. Normal operating procedure would be to find the appropriate EV value off the light meter, transfer it to the EV scale on the right side of the shutter housing and then rotate the shutter speed ring which will transfer through the range of aperture and shutter speed combinations appropriate for the lighting level. While this is complex to describe, it’s actually quite easy in practice with a working meter. Even if the meter is defective, the uncoupled nature means that the camera is still entirely usable without it, just choose the shutter speed first and then pull back on the aperture dial and set the aperture. The shutter assembly and lenses are unit focusing, and move position based on the helical on the body at the rearmost of the shutter housing. Range markings are also visible atop the shutter housing as is a depth of field scale for the 50mm lens. The Synchro Compur offers a range of speeds from 1 second to 1/500. It is flash synced for both electronic and bulb flash through a PC socket on the body, with sync type chosen with a switch on the left of the shutter housing. The sync switch also has a self timer function and there is a button at the 5 o’clock position that must be depressed to change between M-sync, X-sync and the self timer. The convertible lenses are of a bayonet mount design. There is a lever near the lens with a red dot which when pushed in allows the front element to be rotated 120 degrees and detached. It can then be replaced with any of the 80mm or 35mm elements, which are quite massive indeed.