The Kodak Retina II was the biggest surprise in the pack of five I received from my cousin. When I rediscovered our Kodak Retina Reflex S I went into the history of the Retinas, and the compact rangefinder cameras fascinated me. And after I watched this episode of Ted Forbes’ “The art of photography” podcast, I started searching for one…
You can imagine my happiness when I finally not only found one, but got one with family history. This camera seems to be grandpa’s 35mm camera, and I vaguely remember it from my childhood. (but maybe there was also a later model and my mind tricks me). Although the aperture setting is a bit stiff, the camera is fully functional. Not sure about the shutter speeds, but the next rolls will show were we are here….
About the camera:
The Kodak Retina II comes in four variations: two pre war models with separate rangefinder and viewfinder windoes, and the more convenient post war models with “modern” combined solutions. Connoisseurs of course know the differences between the four models, I as you can imagine, did not. But thanks to camerapedia and Chris Sherlock’s Retina Rescue page, I could mine identify as the latest model, the 014, which comes with coated lenses and a PC sync connector for a flash. They had either Rodenstock or Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f 2.0 lenses, mine has a Schneider-Kreuznach lens. The series II had a unusal long production span from 1936 – 1939 (!) to 1946 – 1950, while the 014 was only produced between 1949 and 50 before it was replaced by the Retina IIa and the other Retinas. As you might know, although the Retina was not the first camera that used 35mm (cinematic) film, this was the Leica, but the first camera using the 135 film cartridge, which became the standard we still use. Unlike other Kodak cameras it was not produced in the USA, but in Stuttgart. This “schwäbisch engineering” can be noticed in small details: If you would try to close the lens in any other position than infinity ∞ , you might damage the focus, so the closing buttons are blocked. However, sometimes the, as we call it “schwäbsiche Tüftlergeist” goes a bit too far, which led to the infamous quirks of the later models like my Retina Reflex, or the over-engineerd Mercedes W140.
The camera is fully manual, has an accessory shoe, a tripod mount, a pc sync connect for flashes, and a double exposure lock. And all this in a, if folded, small package.
Open the front with the small button under the lens, then the back by pulling the small lever on the side. Pull out the rewind knob. Gaze at the craftmanship used for every part, then put in the right film (at least ones use a Kodak film). To wind up the film enough that the sprocket holes move the cog wheels of the frame counter and unlock the double exposure lock, you might have to cock the shutter (still on the lens barrel) and release once. Close the camera, and set the film indicator to the right speed. You might not need it, but a long time ago, a skilled worker put some work into this function, so please use it. Set the film counter to 36 with the small wheel on the back of the top plate. Make sure the film rewind lever next to it is set to “A”. Take a lightmeter, use the sunny f 16 rule or the paper aperture calculator, and set Aperture f 2.0 to 16 and speed from “B” to 1/500. To focus, look trough the (honestly a bit tiny, especially when you wear glasses) finder, align the split images and shot. As nothing happens now, you will remember from now on to cock the shutter first, then you try again. Be deeply impressed by the silence of the shutter. Forward the film with the advance wheel. Put the focus back to infinity, press the two small black buttons on the folding mechanism and close the camera. When the film is full, but the slider on the back to “R” and rewind the film.
For long time exposure, cock the shutter, set the shutter speed to “B” and keep it pressed using a cable release, you can screw into the small hole next to the release button. I never tried to create double exposures with the camera, but I believe you could trick it into by manually release the shutter on the front of the lens. In low light use a tripod and cable release, or attach a flash using a standard PC sync cable.
The Kodak Retina II 014 is a beautiful and solid camera. It will be carefully cleaned, and I will ask a pro to help with the slightly stiff aperture. Also the small viewfinder makes it a bit hard for me to get the right composition, but that’s my fault, not the camera’s.
|Camera||Retina II Type 014|
|Year built||March or April 1950|
|Serial number||304102 (lens 2225448)|
|Lens||Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f 2.0 -16|
|Accessories||Bottom part of the ever ready case|
|Manufactured by||Kodak AG , Stuttgart|
|Date of purchase||2016 (gift from my cousin)|
|Place of purchase||Königsfeld im Schwarzald|
Tips & Tricks:
This is solid schwäbisch engineering. No tips needed, no tricks allowed.
Film purchase & processing:
The camera can use any 35mm film, shots above we done with Ilford HP 5, Fuji Superia 400 and now it’s finally loaded with a Kodak Tri-X
http://www.butkus.org/chinon/kodak/kodak_retina_ii/kodak_retina_ii.htm (Kodak Retina II Manual on Mike Butkus page)
http://retinarescue.com/ (Chris Sherlock’s Retina page with repair tips, and the place to get your Retina repaired)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/KodakRetinaRetinetteLovers/ (A really great Facebook group full of Retina enthusiasts)
The Retina Flickr pool
My pictures on Flickr
10 thoughts on “The Kodak Retina II (014)”
Lovely color in those photos. Every Retina I’ve owned has been capable of great sharpness and color. I still own one Retina, a IIa, and if you told me it was the only camera I could have for the rest of my life — I’d miss my other cameras, but I’d get on with making a lifetime of wonderful photographs with that Retina.
Thanks! I am still trying to master this camera, my main problem is the small viewfinder in combination with my glasses. Maybe I’ll get once one of the later models with a bigger one. But it is a wonderful camera
Lovely photos, makes me nostalgic remembering my student days photographing and then in the darkroom. I have seen similar cameras to your website, might go and get one to play with a bit of film photography. Great blog!
I just had a Retina II 014 restored. It was my dad’s and had not been used since around 1970. I sent it to Chris Sherlock in New Zealand. He did a fabulous job and it was well worth the shipping cost from the United States. The results are amazing. The color and sharpness of the Sechneider Xenar f 2.0 lens can give any modern lens a run for its money. The camera has its quirks but it has a feeling of precision and is fun to use once mastered. The rangefinder just snaps in focus. Overall, this is wonderful camera.
As this Retina has a special value, I will probably have it restored too. I still hope I will find someone to do this in Germany, as the camera was produced here…
Because of your thorough review on the Retina ii, 014 my wallet’s a bit lighter. I’m looking forward to placing the first roll in. Your pics are phenomenal to say the least.
Thanks for taking the time to share your expertise on the Retina!
Thank you Steve! Great feedback and you won’t regret it. Meanwhile I bought another Retina II (an earlier model I fond for 10 €), new post should arrive in the next month.