It’s a Kodak Retinette 1A or an IA, I can’t ever remember. I looked it up once. What’s important is it’s a neat camera to learn on. I managed to get out this weekend while the weather was good and run 3 rolls through it. I have two of them developed, and one-and-a-half of them scanned, and I’ll share a few shots here.This little gem I picked up at auction for $9.95 (and free shipping). I was expecting a shelf piece, but it turned out to be a fully functional, well-preserved model. It has a nice Schneider-Kreuznach Reomar 45mm f/2.8 lens on it, a leaf shutter and a max speed of 1/250s, and it turns out, this is a great camera to learn on. With only a short bit of practice one can produce some amazing results.
Sunny 16 Required
Yes, you read that right. Leave your trusty light meter at home and walk out the door with this almost-in your pocket. All you need is a quick scan of the available light and shadows, and an adjustment of the Sunny 16 to accommodate. If you’re too lazy to memorize the sunny 16, Google it before you leave and print out any one of the nifty business card-sized charts.
Go the Distance
Or, know the distance. This is not a rangefinder camera. Instead it has convenient lens with distance markings in feet for us dumb Americans. It also has a nice scale on the front that helps judge what the minimum and maximum acceptable focus distances will be. Even better, it has a shortcut, although it tends to over-expose on ISO 400 film, but you can lock the lens at 6.5 feet, set it to f/8 or higher, and pretty much anything from 3 feet to the end of the universe will be in focus. How convenient is that ?
Hang on in the Corners
One of the more interesting features of this camera is the soft corners. They’re fuzzy all the way to f22, although they become less pronounced the more you stop the aperture down. The Cowboy Stare photo above was shot at f/5.6. I know some people recoil at these types of aberrations, but I find they give the photos a bit of character in the otherwise-sanitized world of digital photography.
Whispers… “The film winder is on the bottom of the camera”. See how I did that ? That’s right. It’s a neat feature for no other reason than it leaves one solitary button at the top of the camera to depress. No fingers confused. Add to this that the control for the shutter is the ridged outer ring on the lens, then you have no excuse to not take a photo. 😉
Final Thoughts / Kodak Retinette IA
While this isn’t the flagship camera of the Retina series, it’s certainly a good entry into the world of older Kodak cameras. It’s nearly bulletproof, has simple mechanics, is completely manual, and it can be snatched up at auction for cheap. Did I mention it has a certain steampunk/retro appeal ? Yeah, you should be wearing leather gauntlets and spectacles made from compression fittings while carrying this camera.Best Settings: f/8, 1/250, ISO 400, and color film actually renders nicer than black and white in this camera, but I don’t mind the grain.