PHOTOGRAPHY   © mike connealy
Kodak Retina Ia
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In production from 1951 to 1954.
The Kodak Retina Ia is one of a long line of compact folding 35mm cameras produced by the company's Stuttgart factory, the Kodak A.G. Dr. Nagel Werk. The pre-War origins of the camera are obvious, but there are also some important enhancements to the basic design, including a rapid advance lever, auto shutter cocking, and a depth of field scale on the lens mount. The top profile is more streamlined than pre-War models, and the camera now has a robust Synchro-Compur shutter.

A nice feature for camera restorers is that the film advance and counter mecanisms are identical to the IIa range finder model. So, a broken counter spring or a stripped advance rack is often easily obtainable from a junker Ia or IIa model.

In some ways, this camera represents the ultimate expression of the Retina design. The line continued on for some time, but the addition of light meters and other features seem more like responses to the competition rather than a logical continuation of the Retina traditon.

The Ia was a great little pocket camera, ready for anything, and ideal for the traveler. The Schneider Xenar lens, a Tessar design, was capable of recording very fine detail and nuances of tonality. Though the camera lacked the precision rangefinder of the IIa model, the focus by estimation was perfectly adequate to the requirements of the photograper wishing to record the highpoints of a European vacation or a family gathering, and accessory rangefinders were available.

The main competition for the Retinas at the time were offerings from the two other great German camera makers, Zeiss and Voigtlander. Both of those offered very similar Tessar-formula lenses in a folder package. The contemporary Voigtlander Vito II and the Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 35 lacked the rapid advance feature of the Ia, but they were every bit as capable as image makers, and I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite among the three.

Some images from the Retina Ia:


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