PHOTOGRAPHY   © mike connealy
Retina Reflex
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Retina Reflex (Type 025) 1956-58

Below are a couple photos from the Retina Reflex:

The Type 025 camera was the Retina factory's first try at a single lens reflex (SLR) design. Like several other manufacturers of the time, Kodak's German operation opted to build on their existing rangefinder line by basically just modifying the rangefinder frame to accomodate a mirror and prism housing. The result was an SLR that looked very much like the older Retina IIc and IIIc cameras. The lens on the first reflex was also a carry-over from the rangefinders, appearing identical to the previous Xenons and Heligons, and having an interchangable front element offering moderate wide-angle and telephoto capabilities. The new reflex camera also sported the same non-coupled meter.

As in other leaf shutter SLR cameras, the user had to wind the advance in order to bring the mirror down to allow viewing through the lens. When the shutter is released the view blacks out – a bit disconcerting for first-time users accustomed to newer focal plane shutters in their SLR cameras. However, unlike simpler designs such as that of the early Zenit, the Retina Reflex did let the users compose the view at maximum aperture, and the selected aperture was then activated only when the shutter was released.

Like the earlier rangefinders on which it was modelled, the Retina Reflex exhibits fine design, materials and workmanship thoughout. There is a feeling of high precision in all the camera's functions, and the designers did an amazing job of dampening the mirror action sound so that one hears little more than the soft click of the leaf shutter.

The only thing unappealing to me about the camera is the coupling of the aperture and speed settings; it just seems a nuisance. However, this same feature was also present on the rangefinders, and some users will like it. Taking the long view, current-day users of the Retina Reflex are likely to run into one fatal flaw in the design; the prism has a mirror coating that is very often deteriorated, and can seriously degrade the image in the viewfinder. As it turns out, the prism is rather easily removed and replaced. Lacking a junker Retina as the donor, it is possible to use the prism from a Minolta X series SLR that can often be found cheaply in non-working condition.

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