1938 Kodak Retina II, prewar Coupled Rangefinder camera. CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!
Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted. Ready for immediate use!
There’s a real charm to owning and using a vintage camera that’s difficult to put into words. Part of it has to do with a sense of history and heritage as well as the simple pleasure of manually setting the dials. Personally I like the simple purity of it and the outstanding results when you get it right, results that always amaze friends and family. It’s a bit like fly fishing I suppose, where the feel of the rod, the rush of the line between your finger tips and the fresh mountain air, cool against your face, is just as important as the fish themselves. After all, if you just want fish… it’s quicker to buy them at the local super market.
If you like the feel of a fine mechanical camera then you’ll love this one. This is the first successful Kodak Retina with a coupled rangefinder. It was produced between 1937 - 1939 in the Nagel factory in Germany which at the time Kodak had purchased in order to produce cameras for the European market. As many fine Nagel products, this Retina II features old world craftmanship, chrome plated brass components, real leather covering and silky smooth controls. When it comes to early prewar rangefinder cameras, this model is one of my favorites of this era. It’s also historically important in having helped popularize a brand-new Kodak 35mm film, which was cleverly designed to fit Retina, Leica and Contax cameras. (Prior to this introduction, photographers had to use dark rooms to load bulk film onto special spools and holders…) This new 35mm film had a profound impact on camera design and it quickly became a standard. Eighty years later, all modern 35mm cameras are still using this film… because of this and other reasons the early European Retinas are historically very significant.
The camera is in excellent condition with only very light signs of very careful use. It’s hard to believe that it managed to survive the rigors of WWII here in Europe and look this nice.
Like other high-end cameras of its day, this camera features a coupled rangefinder never leaves you guessing about focus or distance. It’s bright, accurate and smooth and a real pleasure to use. 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 the top quality Ektar 3.5/50mm, a superb 4 element lens designed to compete with the Zeiss Tessar and the Leitz Elmar. All three lenses share the same general layout of the optical elements and as a result the photos this camera produces photos that have the same look and glow as photos taken with a prewar Leica. The Retina II also has the added advantage that it can be folded up and safely slipped into a pocket. So if you like the look of classic Leica photos taken with the 3.5/50 Elmar but can’t afford one (or you have one but you don’t want to risk using everywhere) I can whole heartedly recommend this camera.
The top of the line Compur-Rapid shutter has been carefully cleaned, lubricated and adjusted. The shutter works well. All speeds (B & 1 sec.-1/500th) fire smoothly and all speeds are appropriate. The slow speeds buzz along smoothly and the faster ones are nice and snappy.
The Ektar lens is very clean and clear with no separated elements, crystallization or other problems. There are no scratches, just a few light cleaning marks and it’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W film.
All in all, a fine enjoyable vintage camera. It’s a design Icon that may just become your favorite photographic companion.