Retina cameras are surely one of the most avidly
collected of all system cameras. The Retina name was
applied to several different lines of camera, including
folding 35 mm. cameras, rigid 35 mm. cameras and reflex
35 mm. cameras. I have restricted myself to the folding
35 mm. cameras here. Detail variants exist for some
models, which I have not described. Retina cameras were
the product of the former Nagel camera works in Germany,
and models are frequently identified by "type number",
e.g. type 117. Folding Retina cameras were in production
from 1934 until 1954, and over half a million cameras
were made. An additional small batch of IIIC models was
completed in recent years, using remaining spare
The first Retina, the
Retina type 117, established the basic design for
future Retina folding cameras. It was supplied with a
Schneider Xenar f/3.5 50 mm. lens in a Compur shutter.
The camera has an optical viewfinder and there is
separately-operated double exposure prevention interlock.
The top plate is in black enamel.
A similar, but slightly improved
version, came out in 1935. This was the type 118,
with automatic double exposure prevention
The "modern" style
Retina appeared in 1936 (type 119). This features
a redesigned top plate, with the film counter
incorporated into the same pressing with the viewfinder.
This model is seen with the Kodak Ektar lens, or the
Compur Rapid shutter, as alternatives. Also in 1936, a
"de lux" version was obtainable (type 126), with a
chromed finish in place of the black enamel. A Compur
Rapid shutter was standard, and Xenar, Ektar, or the
f/3.5 Carl Zeiss Tessar lenses, were
The Retina II
was first introduced in 1936 (type 122). The first
model has separate rangefinder and viewfinder eyepieces,
but the basic camera design is retained. A Compur Rapid
shutter is used, with f/3.5 Ektar, f/2.8 Xenar, or f/2
Xenon lenses available.
A cheaper version of
the Retina I appeared in 1937 (type 141), with
Compur or Compur Rapid shutter and Ektar or Xenar f/3.5
lens. The film counting dial is of a different
A further change was made to the top
plate and film counter of the Retina II for 1937 (type
In 1938 the Retina I was available in
black enamel finish (type 143). This was possibly
a cheaper version of the camera.
In 1939 another redesign of the top
plate and film counter appeared (type 148). The
top plate is all chrome. Another version (type
149) has the viewfinder/film counter pressing
chromed, with the rest of the metal in black
The Retina II
was redesigned in 1939, with the viewfinder and
rangefinder eyepieces combined. This camera appears to
have been designated in some markets as the "IIa", but
should not be confused with the post-war camera of that
Production resumed after the war, with
minor variations occuring up to the introduction of the
Ia and IIa in 1951. The Retina I (type 010)
follows the style of the pre-war camera, with chrome top
plate, Compur Rapid shutter, and Ektar, Xenar, or
Rodenstock Ysar f/3.5 lenses. The Retina II
(type 011) is similar to the pre-war camera, with
Compur Rapid shutter and f/2 Xenon or Rodenstock Heligon
In 1949 the Retina I (type
013) saw the introduction of the full-width top
plate, and the "streamlined" trim on the shutter front.
The f/2.8 Xenar became available about this time. The
Retina II (type 014) also featured the trim
on the shutter front.
In 1951 lever-wind was
added to the camera, to give the Retina Ia
(type 015) and the Retina IIa (type
016). Both cameras started using the Synchro-Compur
shutter as soon as it was available.
A major redesign appeared in 1954 with
the introduction of the Retina b and c models.
The Retina Ib
(type 018) was the basic model, without the
rangefinder. It came with the f/2.8 Xenar and
The Retina IIc
(type 020) uses the same body and front, but
incorporates the coupled rangefinder.
IIIc has in addition a built-in uncoupled exposure
meter. The remarkable feature of both the IIc and the
IIIc is their provision for changing the lens focal
length. Both Rodenstock and Schneider developed special
lens equipment for these cameras, said to be amongst the
finest lenses ever made, which provide converters to
change the focal length to 35 mm. or 80 mm. from the
standard 50 mm. The lens systems are not interchangeable,
however - if the basic lens is Schneider, then the
converters must be Schneider also. The basic lens in the
Retina IIc is a 50 mm. f/2.8, in the Retina
IIIc it is a 50 mm. f/2. The viewfinder shows the
field of view of the 50 mm. standard lens. A
supplementary viewfinder is required for the converter
In 1957 the Retina
IB (type 019) was introduced. This follows the design
of the Ib, but has a built-in ncoupled exposure meter.
The viewfinder is of the "bright-line" type.
In 1958 the final versions of the
production cameras appeared.
The Retina IIC
(type 029) now has the brightline viewfinder, with fields
of view for the 35 mm., 50 mm., and 80 mm. focal
IIIC (type 028) also now has the brightline
In the 1980s a small final batch of
Retina IIIC cameras was assembled from remaining
spare parts. These cameras incorporate a later version of
the exposure meter, with provision for more sensitive
emulsions, and are the most sought-after models of these
popular and successful cameras.
A wide range of accessories was produced for the
Retina cameras, including close-up filters and copying stands.
Retina I and II advertisement (1939)
Other Retina Advertising (1960, 1961 and 1962)
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