1938 Kodak Retina I, type 143, German production (Nagel), CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!
Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted. Ready for immediate use!
I’ve been collecting classic cameras for many years and I enjoy using them. There is a subtle pleasure to using a prewar camera and often I have a sense of connection to the past while using it. I feel things that are difficult to put into words… a strong sense of here and now, an awareness that everything around me is a fleeting moment in time and the sensation of past and present intertwining when the camera’s shutter clicks again. Here, now, is gone… as everything moves into the relentless future. Yet the tender fleeting moment is now safely cradled within my fine old camera and merges with eighty years of scenes and adventures...
In this listing we have a black Kodak Retina I (Type 143). This model was produced between 1938-1939 at the Nagel Camera Works in prewar Germany. It was only briefly in production and because of the short production run and the limited numbers, it’s very difficult to find good, clean, fully working examples. This is especially true in the USA because it was never officially sold there.
This Retina is in exceptionally fine condition with only light signs of careful use. I especially like the black lacquer finish, the warm nickel plated knobs and leather covering. (Please see photos.) This fine condition of this camera is somewhat surprising because these cameras were very compact, highly regarded and often used intensively in Europe during WWII. They were used by both sides of the conflict when a Leica or Contax camera was deemed too heavy or bulky. The Retina was a good choice if you had to carry it for weeks or months at a time, over long distances and rough terrain. It also had the advantage of an extremely quiet & reliable shutter which made it an excellent choice for covert use. (Many collectors here in Europe believe that these early black Retina’s are at least as important as the first Leica or Contax cameras because without the Kodak Retina and its universal film cassette, 35mm photography might not have developed into the major photographic format of the post-war years.)
This 80 year old Retina has been carefully cleaned, lubricated and adjusted. Everything works and it uses normal 35mm film. The quality Compur shutter works very well. All speeds (T, B & 1 sec.-1/300th) fire smoothly and appropriately. The slow speeds buzz along smoothly and the fast speeds are clean and snappy.
The camera has a nice technical detail in that focusing is achieved by moving the entire lens/shutter combination back and forth. This provides better lens performance (especially up close) than the more common “front cell focus” in which only the front element is turned in or out.
The lens is a sharp Schneider Xenar 3.5/50mm, a four element lens very similar in design and performance as a Zeiss Tessar. This lens is well respected for its excellent performance and lovely rendition. (I enjoy using classic cameras and I’ve found that the 3.5/50mm Xenar produces photos that are nearly identical to the 3.5/50mm Leitz Elmar on the Leica II.) The lens is clean and clear. There are no scratches, just a few unavoidable cleaning wisps (but you’ll need a magnifier to see them). There are no separated elements, crystallization or other problems and it’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W films.
All in all, a significant, enjoyable classic camera. Perfect for photographers with a historical interest or WWII reenactors. If you’ve been looking for an exceptionally fine, useable example, then you’ve just found it…