I love Kodak Retina Cameras. I’ve already posted about the first one I acquired: A Gem of a folding 35mm – Retina IIc. Since then I’ve acquired three more: A IIIc, a IIa, and this one – also a IIa. The IIIc seemed to work except for the slow speeds. When I tried it today that was how it worked, but then suddenly it wouldn’t work on any of the speeds. The first IIa was a bit “beat up” and didn’t seem to be working (that’s why I bought this one), but when I tried it today to my surprise everything seemed to work so now I have two IIa’s. Apart from condition the only difference between them is the shutter. This one has a Syncho-Compur while the other one has the Compur Rapid (an earlier shutter carried over from the Retina II I believe). This one is fairly good cosmetically and everything seems to work. Of course, I won’t know for sure until I try it so we’ll have to wait and see.
Mine has the following features:
- Combined Rangefinder Viewfinder. No brightlines. No parallax correction
- Fixed 6 element 50/2 Schneider Xenon focusing to 2.5 ft.
- Synchro-Compur Shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/500th, plus B. Electronic flash sync at all speeds
- Screw threads on shutter release for manual cable release.
- Film counter is manually reset and counts down.
- No hot shoe but lens has flash connection on bottom.
- Tripod socket on bottom of camera.
The Kodak Retina IIa is my favorite of the long lived Retina series, the epitome of a classic small fast lensed 35mm folder. What makes it so good? It’s small size, superb 50/2 Xenon or Heligon lens, better than average finder, quiet leaf shutter, and the simple straightforward design which translates to pleasurable shooting. The IIa was produced only from 1951 to 1954, yet over 100,000 were produced. In a nutshell, many Retina fanatics feel the earlier Retinas had less of the desirable features, while the later Retinas sacrificed too much size and weight for additional features. The IIa is Type 016 in Retina nomenclature.
All shooting controls except f/stop are easily seen from the top, including the frame counter, shutter speed, and focused distance, and depth of field scale. The hinged back opens by pulling downward on the clasp at the rewind edge of the camera. While the Retina IIa lacks the magnificent finish of the Zeiss Contessa or Voigtlander Vitessas, the Retina is the simpler, quicker photographer intuitive camera design. The IIa was among the best sellers of its day, so they are not that hard to find. Yet, it is difficult to find one in mint condition. This sad state of affairs is due to the damn photographers out using Retinas to take pictures.