Kodak Retina Ib (1954)

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by Ian Rance, May 25, 2011.

  1. In the little photographic shop, down by the river at Bridport, I picked up a Kodak Retina Ib, sold as 'shutter jammed' for £12. It is in clean condition, and the distance scale in meters and the transfer in the film chamber tells me that it was purchaced in Germany.
    I do have a IIIc which despite its age, performs as well as (or better than) my more modern cameras. Lovely lens...
    Anyway, the Ib has a different lens formula (4-element) but the same precise feel and controlls. The camera is being repaired now - ready for Summer outings.
    What I am wondering is whether it is the same to use and will give similar results to my IIIc - or is it subtly different? I do really need some sort of rangefinder (I don't have one at present) or is it really designed for estimation of distance?
    Your thoughts on the Ib are appreciated.
     
  2. Last year I got a Ib going again for a friend after it had sat around for some years. Actually after an hour or two of exercise it sorted itself, for once it was an easy fix and I can't claim much credit for it.
    But I do seem to recall that Kodak's little way of boosting their film sales meant that this model had an unusual interlock between the shutter and the film counter. Unless my memory is incorrect after, for instance, 36 frames, the shutter would no longer trip as Kodak decided it was time for you to buy some more film from them!
    I only mention this, because it makes me wonder if the reason for the jammed shutter might have been as simple as the need to reset the counter. I know there was a work around for it—but without an example in front of me to refer to, I can't be more specific. Perhaps someone else can provide some better information?
     
  3. Thanks Brett. What are the results like from your camera?
    My Ib was jammed so that the shutter was always a little open and is stuck with grease I think.
     
  4. Most Retinas are "jammed" because of the subtractive counter which locks up at the last exposure. It's a simple matter to unlock the counter for a fresh roll of film. My experience with Retinas are: the IIc has the best lens followed by the IIIc and then the IB. All of them are equal at f5.6 and f.8.
     
  5. Hi Ian, yes it certainly sounds like the peculiarity I mentioned is not the problem in your case! But it may be something to be aware of anyway, because IIRC the camera will stop advancing or firing, whether you still have a couple of shots left on the roll or not, unless you reset it...
    I wish I could offer some comment about results from the Ib I mentioned, however I do not own it and it was attended to as a favour to a friend (it used to belong to his grandfather). Not having handled a Retina previously, I was very taken with it, and thought it a neat design, and if the results from my Rolleicords are anything to go by, I would expect the Xenar lens to be a really good performer. Some models were also available with a Xenon lens which is said to be be excellent, but I can't recall if the Ib was offered with this or not. I would quite like a Retina myself at some stage, even though I do not realistically need more 35mm cameras. But I can see a place for one, as the design seems to offer more in the way of rigidity for the lens standard than many other folding cameras, and they are a compact, pocketable camera with a quality lens. Looking forward to seeing some of your own images soon Ian.
     
  6. Assuming it is in good condition, your Ib with its Xenar lens will deliver results which are a little more contrasty than a 1950s 6-element Xenon but you will need to stop down 3 to 4 stops to get best edge sharpness - typical of a Tessar-type lens. Once your camera is fixed, pick it up and fire off the shutter a few times every few weeks to keep it going, or it may gum up again.
     
  7. Tuck a Kodak Service Rangefinder in the accessory shoe if you get frustrated estimating distances. Or stop down to f/8 to f/11 to have enough depth-of-field to compensate for your errors.
    However, a Tessar formula lens can have a very nice "look" when shot at wide apertures. Nice fade-off of sharpness towards the corners.
     
  8. Scale focusing cameras are easy to use outdoors. Ones marked in meters are east enough to use. Just keep in mind a few of the basic distances (all of these approximate), like 1.5 meters is 5 feet, 2 meters is 7 feet, 3 meters is approx. 10 feet, 7 meters is 20 feet, use zone focusing with the depth of field markings on the lens barrell and keep it stopped down around f8 or so and you should be fine.
    If you use it enough, you'll get to where you can figure distances like 5, 7 and 10 feet and will be able to use wider apertures at those distances.
     
  9. I was out shooting with a Ib today (and yesterday too!). It's a nice camera to operate. Always set the shutter speed first and only then the aperture setting. I've always been a big fan of Xenar lenses and the one in 1b is an excellent performer. You don't shoot a scale focus camera with large apertures very often so I wouldn't care too much if someone says that some other lens is marginally better fully open.
     
  10. Ian Rance May 25, 2011; 05:29 a.m. said:
    " I do really need some sort of rangefinder (I don't have one at present) or is it really designed for estimation of distance?"
    *********
    With a 50mm lens and today's 100 and up speed film you are going to be shooting mostly at F:8 to F:16 outside. At those F:stops if you pace off the shorter shots and guess the longer ones depth of field should get you by. Certo6 on eBay has sold me some very accurate accessory shoe 50+ year old rangefinders for my old medium format folders. The rangefinder doesn't care if you are shooting with a Minox or 8x10 field camera.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^
    "What I am wondering is whether it is the same to use and will give similar results to my IIIc - or is it subtly different?.....I do have a IIIc which despite its age, performs as well as (or better than) my more modern cameras. Lovely lens...Anyway, the Ib has a different lens formula (4-element) but the same precise feel and controls. The camera is being repaired now - ready for Summer outings"
    *******
    The Xenon on my IIIc was sharper than Velvia 50. I had to use Techpan to find its limits. My Signet Signet 35 beat out my Retina Xenar by the smallest of margins as Kodak advertising of the time said it would. However the Signet also beat the well thought of Yashica T4 Super D with a CZ Tessar, side by side. Although I've only done Signet to Xenar and Signet to T4 Tessar tests and never a Xenar to T4 Tessar, I think it would be a draw. All three seem to be around the limits of my 2009 dated Kodachrome 64. My estimate would be that all current color films except Velvia 50 would be the limiting sharpness factor rather than a good Retina Xenar in the F:8 range.
    I use the term "my" because even though upper level lenses sold by Kodak in the post WWII through the late 50s era had excellent quality control there were still some sample to sample variations. Still between Mr. Burke and myself we had four T4s, five Signets and six Retinas (before Mr. Burke gifted a Retina to a fellow Photonetter) so we had a good cross section/broad sample. The largest sample to sample difference was in the T4s. Since they are auto focus it might not have been the lens even though we tried to eliminate the focus variable by several focus, re-focus exercises.
     
  11. Thank you for all the input. When I get it back from repair I will be sure to take some photos and share them with you. It sounds like it has a nice lens and I will get practiceing my guessing of distance.
     

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