“You Press the button, We do the rest”- that was the statement that set up Kodak as a household and brought photography to the masses. Fast forward 130 years and Kodak is one of the worlds most easily recognized photographic brands in the world.
The camera were looking at today is a Kodak Retina IIc, more specifically a type 020. The serial number puts the production year of this camera between 1954-1958. The lens was produced after February 1957 as far as I can tell from the serial numbers, which leads me to believe it is the original lens that came with the camera. The entire retina line has such a rich history. The earliest retina cameras were in production before World War 2. When the war broke out, Kodak lost contact with their division in Germany. In the post-war period, they were manufactured under the allied occupation and sold to U.S. Armed forces under the US Military Post-Exchange System.
The camera came with the “020” 50mm f2.8 Schneider-Kreuznach lens. The angle of view that you get from a 50mm lens is actually quite nice; recently I’ve been working with a lot of wider angle lenses on cameras such as the Olympus XA and Nikonos IV-A which both have a 35mm lens. That difference between the wide angle view of a 35mm lens and the Structure of a 50mm lens can be a refreshing change if you’re looking to break up the monotony of shooting a single focal length!
Working with a tighter focal length means you can step back from the action a little without having to compromise on your involvement in the scene. This makes for an excellent portrait camera or even a good contender as a documentary-style camera due to it’s quick focusing rangefinder.
The camera suffers from slight ergonomic issues that take some time to get used to. I found it very similar to the Fujica 35-EE. Both cameras feature a film advance lever, located on the bottom of the camera as well as having a few other quirks when it comes to setting your exposure. The Retina has a clever system, which allows you to set the exposure according to your conditions. Should you need to alter the shutter-speed or aperture for an image, the rings are locked into each other and thus will turn as one, keeping your exposure the same.
There are a few more accessories for this camera, and I’m looking forward to tracking them down to really get a feel for what it can do. For now though I’ll just have to stick with my nifty fifty and just enjoy this pocket sized machine in its original setup!