Kodak Retina IIc vs. IIIc (little c)

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by summitar, Apr 21, 2004.

  1. If you one of each in good working condition, which one would you
    choose for a photo session. The primary differences are (1) the IIIc
    has an uncoupled seleniuml light meter and a f2.0 Xenon lens, (2) the
    IIc has no light meter and a f2.8 Xenon lens which is reputed to
    provide greater contrast than the f2.0. The IIc is just slightly
    more compact due to not having the light meter. Does anyone have
    first hand experience on the difference in quality between the lenses?
  2. The lenses on both have exactly the same optical formulae. So they perform identically. The only difference is the front element on the IIc has been cut down to f/2.8. The rear elements are identical.
    The IIc is my favorite because I like its sleeker styling. I use a hand-meter I trust (a Weston Master), so the lack of internal meter doesn't matter to me.
  3. Mark,

    Are you saying that the f2.8 lens on the IIc was deliberately dumbed down so as to not compete with the IIIc. Then how come such authorities as Ivor Matanle claim that the the f2.8 lens is a better performer than the f2.0? I am not disputing you -- just gathering information.
  4. It's not the front element which was cut down. Both cameras have front element of identical size. The shutter is same size, too. Only difference is the maximum opening of the aperture. You can see quite clearly that on the IIc the aperture does not open to the full diameter of the shutter opening.

    Unfortunately I have not found out yet how to open the IIc aperture to f/2.0.

    Of course any f/2.0 lens will perform somewhat better when stopped down (or limited) to f/2.8 unless it is an optically perfect design.
  5. Owning and having used both cameras ... I can't see the difference at "normal" aperture settings, say f/5.6 or smaller. If I had to make a choice, it'd be the IIIc, for the convenience of the built-in meter and the "insurance" of the extra stop on the lens, just in case. This obviously assumes that the meter is accurate and both lenses are in similar condition.

    I should point out that, in my experience, both of these lenses benefit from the use of a lens hood. I'd recommend getting hold of an original square Retina hood that fits in the bayonet mount that surrounds the lens. Some push-on or screw-in round hoods can partially obsure the r/f and/or v/f.

    As with any r/f camera, to take advantage of the widest apertures, the r/f itself does need to be critically accurate, especially at close quarters.
  6. Some people have said that the f/2.0 lens has less contrast than the f/2.8 lens.
    However, you'll probably be shooting at a smaller aperture, and that means the photos should be nearly identical.
    Here are two photos. One taken with the IIC and the other with a IIIC.
    Take a look, make your guess as to which camera took which photo:
    Rain -- IIIC
    Ferry -- IIC
    Actually, this wasn't a great comparison, because different film, different circumstances, etc.
    My point is that either camera is going to give you very nice photos.
  7. My experience with Retina Xenons (f2.0 models) is extremely favorable. At the level these lenses typically perform, sample-to-sample variation will probably account for more difference than any general difference between f2.8 and f2.0 versions, particularly if they have the same formulae as noted above. IMO the Xenon is the whole reason to use 1950's folding Retinas.

    Concerning the meter, the one on my IIIc is generally within 1 1/2 stops of a hand-held - good enough to use at a pinch for B&W, but I wouldn't trust it for color transparencies. These are fifty year old selenium cells after all, and the angle of acceptance is also a trifle "vague."
  8. I don't know the life expectancy of old selenium (or cad sulfide) meters. In a short time you might find yourself carrying an otherwise excellent camera with a dead meter. I'd go for the IIc and buy a separate meter if you need one.
  9. The 2.8 lens on the 1B (big 'B') is certainly impressive. I just got one from a chap in Ireland and shot a roll to try it out. Here's a pretty massive enlargement from it. The whole image is the sign next to the two women at the right side of the picture, the insert at the bottom shows the whole field of view. FP4 in Econotol at 25C.
  10. According to my copy of Croy's "Retina Way" the front element of the Xenon f2.0 is slightly larger than the Xenon f2.8 but the design is otherwise similar. I recently sold a Xenon f2.8 front lens on EBay which was marked f2.8 but I took no measurements. The book also says the front lens is accurately matched to the corresponding rear unit although in another recent forum I think everyone concluded this was unlikely. If the designs are similar as Croy's illustrations and text would lead you to believe I don't see why the contrast would be any different.
  11. Kerry, having had both, if I had to use one to take pictures with and had a glove box or sherpa to carry it, IIIc. If I had to carry the camera amu distance from the car myself, IIc.

    FWIW, in my out-and-about shooting with 35 mm gear, I aim to shoot between f/5.6 and f/11 unless other considerations -- typically coping with darkness, too fast film, desire for different DOF -- are important. In that range of apertures most of my 35 mm lenses are pretty good, and at normal distances they give about the DOF I want. Telephone poles sprouting from heads can be a risk ...

    They're both very capable cameras. Its hard to make a bad mistake when choosing between them.


  12. The 50mm F2 Xenon came out in the Retina II type 122; in 1936; for the Olympics. <BR><BR>The 50mm F2.8 Xenar came out in the Retina I type 013; in 1949<BR><BR>The F2.8 Xenar is a faster version of the F3.5 Xenar; the original lens for the Retina type 117; in 1934. <BR><BR>The pre WW2 50mm F3.5 Ektars were made as Xenars by Schneider; and the rings were engraved "Ektar". <BR><BR>The Xenon and Xenar lenses are of different optical design. The Xenar/Tessar/Ektar 50mm F3.5 are all 4 element "Tessar" type lenses. The is more complex; and has more elements.
  13. Kerry,

    > Are you saying that the f2.8 lens on the IIc was deliberately
    > dumbed down so as to not compete with the IIIc. Then how come
    > such authorities as Ivor Matanle claim that the the f2.8 lens
    > is a better performer than the f2.0?

    Yes. The Xenon (not Xenar) f/2.8 has the exact same optical design
    as the f/2.0 Xenon. As proof, you can swap front elements between
    the IIc and IIIc and you'll have no visible change in photos.
    I have overhauled a number of Retinas, and am very familiar with
    these lenses. In fact, the f/2 Xenon in the original Retina Reflex
    is also identical, making it a handy source of replacement front

    Ivor Matanle is wrong if he claims that the f/2 is any different
    from the f/2.8. However, I suspect the f/2 has less flare at a
    given aperture because less light is hitting the sides. Thus,
    the f/2 might have slightly higher contrast.

    Kodak cut down the front elements, so you'll see a minor change
    in diameter as another poster noted. But the rear groups are

    I built an auto-collimator, which you can see here:


    With this device, I can see subtle changes in accuracy of focus,
    as well as gauge lens-quality. There are sample-to-sample variations
    in lenses, so if you swap front elements, there will be a slight
    change in focus. This is probably not noticable under most photo
    situations, but it's obvious in the collimator, and means that
    for best results, the camera should be re-calibrated for the new
    lens. This is a long way of saying: Keep those serial numbers
    matched between shutter and front element.

    I guess that's enough rambling for today...

  14. The ancient type 122 Retina II of 1936 also had a 5cn F2.8 Ektar; with was made by Schneider; and rebadged as a "Ektar".<BR><BR>The Kodak information I have seen says the 50mm F2 Xenon lens assemblies are a matched set. Thus a rebuild is abit of a craps table event; your might do great; or you might get a missmatched set. Some rebuilds flotaing around are great; others have problems. <BR><BR>The Rolleiflex and Rolleicords are also built with matched focal lengths between the taking a viewing lens. In this case; the matching is so the viewfinder and film focus track together. Here a missmatched set means the infinity focus can be spot on; and the TLR will missfocus at closer distances. <BR><BR>In some lens designs; the element subassmebly spacing is very critical; and a missmatched set results in lower performance. This is akin to some devices that are never the same after they leave the factory; and missmatched parts aare installed to fix the item.
  15. The sharpest Retina I've owned was a IIc with the Rodenstock Heligon 2,8/50. I also had a IIIc with the 2/50 Heligon, but the 2,8 version was sharper.

    I can't see any difference between the 2,8 and 2 Xenon though. They are both very good lenses, but not in the same class as the 2,8 Heligon mentioned above.

    I feel that the 2,8 Xenar is somewhat sharper than the 3,5 version. At least it is on my Retina Ib compared to other Retinas with 3,5 Xenar.

    The Xenon should be sharper at the larger apertures than the Xenar, but otherwise they are both excellent at the mid apertures.

    At the moment I have a Retina Ib and a IIc with Xenon. The Ib is my favorite because the finder is little easier for me to use with eyeglasses, but then the IIc has a rangefinder and better to use at close distances.
  16. I use a IIa, IIc, IIIc on occasion. I do think the lens on the IIc has a bit more contrast than the Xenon on the IIIc, my opinion only. I sometimes think the Ektar on my Signet 35 beats them, but hard to tell. I like using them all. The IIa is the easiest to carry around and slip in a coat pocket. They all seem to give good results. Here is a photo with a IIIc, Agfa 100 in Rodianl 1:50
  17. I just bought out an entire camera inventory from of all places, a used bicycle store!!! Going through the box I have found a mint, unscratched Retina Reflex III, serial number EK817189, everything works, including the light meter. How old is this unit?

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