1939 Kodak Retina I, type 149, German production (Nagel), CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!
Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted. Ready for immediate use!
This is the high end version of the prewar Kodak Retina which featured a lovely satin chrome finish. It was only produced at the Nagel factory in Stuttgart Germany between 1939-1940 and intended for the European market. As a result if you’re located outside of Europe, this can be a very difficult camera to find. This Kodak Retina featured a very fine satin chrome finish that’s silky smooth to the touch. It also features two shutter release options. (There is a body mounted shutter release button which has an interlock system which helps avoid accidental double exposures. There is a second release button on the shutter which allows you to shoot whenever you want, as many times as you want.)
The early ‘Retina I’ cameras introduced 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 still are still using this film… because of this and other reasons the earliest black Retinas are historically very significant.
This 81 year-old Retina is in beautiful condition and works very well. These cameras were used quite intensively in Europe during WWII because of their compact size and excellent performance. 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 Compur shutter which made it an excellent choice for covert use. Many collectors in Europe believe that these early Nagel Retina’s are at 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 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. I should also mention that the shutter is flash synced. Originally it was set up for flash bulbs but it’s been readjusted and tested and now works with a normal electronic flash. The flash will fire correctly at any desired shutter speed. (Which is of course convenient for flash fill.)
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 the 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 Xenar lens produces photos that are nearly identical to the 3.5/50mm Leitz Elmar on the Leica II.) The lens has been well protected and is clean and clear. There are no scratches, just the usual light cleaning marks (but you’ll need a magnifier to see them). There are no separated elements 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 interested in working with a WWII era camera. Load it with your favorite film and enjoy exploring the world with this 81 year old veteran.
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