Kodak Retina Reflex

Kodak Retina Reflex
Retina Reflex type III
Type 35mm SLR camera
Lens mount bayonet
Focus manual
Exposure manual
Flash cold shoe

The Kodak Retina Reflex was a series of four single-lens reflex cameras made by Kodak, continuing the brand Kodak Retina.

Type 025 Retina Reflex

The Kodak Type 025 Retina Reflex is an SLR camera with interchangeable lens components made by Kodak AG Stuttgart, Germany. It was made between Spring 1957 and October 1958. Like many SLR cameras of German heritage it works with a leaf shutter instead of a focal plane shutter. It was named Type 025 Retina Reflex since it inherited several features from the viewfinder camera Type 021 Retina IIIc: The film advance and exposure counting system, the film channel, the selenium meter, and the focusing mechanics of the lenses. Even the Synchro-Compur shutter is very similar to that of the viewfinder camera. The Retina reflex is basically a fixed-lens camera rear except for one aspect - the front three elements are contained in a cell that bayonets into the front of the lens assembly. The standard front cell can be replaced with one of three Schneider components - an 80mm and two different 35mm components. The rear part of the lens (which is a permanent part of the camera body) contains the focusing apparatus, the entire Synchro-Compur shutter, the aperture, and the three rear elements, which are common to all 4 lenses. This interchangeable front component concept was introduced in 1954 with the Kodak Retina IIIc. Care must be exercised when using front components other than the standard (50mm) one, as it is possible to set the body mounted aperture wider than the maximum aperture of the lens (i.e. f/2 instead of f/4 or f/5.6).

A similar system was introduced in 1956 with the Zeiss-Ikon Contaflex III. The Retina Reflex is, rare occasions, found with very similar lenses made by Rodenstock. As the Rodenstock front components are not compatible with the Schneider rear component(and vice versa), minor changes were made to the bayonet mount for each manufacturer. These interchangeable Retina lens components can also be used on the Retina IIc, IIC, IIIc, and IIIC rangefinder cameras.

The camera offers the convenience of image composition with wide open aperture. The aperture is stopped down to the selected value after the shutter is released. After exposure the mirror stays up until the bottom-mounted single-stroke film advance lever is again wound. Focusing is via a ground glass screen with a central split-image rangefinder.

The camera's top plate has the manually set frame counter, the shutter release, the film rewind knob with film reminder dial, the exposure needle window, meter adjustment knob with EV and ASA/DIN scales, the film (advance) release button, the frame (counter) advance slider, and the accessory shoe. The bottom plate contains the tripod socket, the film advance lever, the back release latch, and the film rewind release button.

In use, the Retina Reflex frame counter works down from 35 (or 20) to 0, at which point the film advance locks. While this is convenient for the user and does prevent torn film sprockets at the end of a roll, setting the counter up properly at the beginning of a roll is complex, awkward, and time consuming. This is a typical example of much of Retina engineering - complex and ingenious, but perhaps over-engineered.

The non-coupled selenium cell exposure meter reads out in exposure values (EVs) only. The camera is then set to the proper EV setting via an easily reached aperture release tab, though the EV scale itself is rather inconveniently located on the underside of the lens assembly. Once the aperture release tab is set and released, the shutter ring is coupled to the aperture ring - moving the shutter ring automatically moves the aperture ring, so that the same exposure value is maintained. In other words, when in use, the camera is normally locked into one EV setting until the aperture release tab is pressed. Needless to say this can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the camera.

All the Retina Reflex cameras are remarkably complex instruments and quite heavy for their size. The Retina Reflex originally sold for $215 USD[1] (app. $1570 USD in 2007). Approximately 65,000 were made.

Lenses for the Retina Reflex (also for the Retina IIc, IIC, IIc, and IIIC cameras)

The Retina Reflex can be fitted with 4 different lenses. They all share a common set of three elements at the rear of the lens.

  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtar-Xenon C 35mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtar-Xenon C 35mm f/5.6 (6+3 elements in 6 groups)
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f/2 (3+3 elements in 4 groups)
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f/2.8
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Longar-Xenon C 80mm f/4 (6+3 elements in 6 groups)


  • Rodenstock Retina-Heligon C 35mm f/4
  • Rodenstock Retina-Heligon C 35mm f/5.6
  • Rodenstock Retina-Heligon C 50mm f/2
  • Rodenstock Retina-Heligon C 50mm f/2.8
  • Rodenstock Retina-Heligon C 80mm f/4

Type 034 Retina Reflex S

Introduced in 1959, the Type 034 Retina Reflex S was a major redesign of the original Retina Reflex. The major difference is its use of fully interchangeable lenses, the same lenses that were made for the Kodak Retina IIIS rangefinder camera. The lens mount is commonly referred to as the Deckel mount, after the manufacturer of the Prontor, Compur and other shutters. This same mount, with minor differences, was also used by a number of other German camera makers, including Braun and Voigtländer. It was also used in the later Retina Reflex III, Retina Reflex IV, and the Kodak Instamatic Reflex. As for the original Retina Reflex, lenses were available from both Schneider and Rodenstock, but this time the lenses had identical bayonet mounts.

The shutter is a Synchro-Compur behind the lens unit, which is part of the camera body. The aperture is now in the interchangeable lenses, which eliminates the overexposure problem of the original Retina Reflex. Speed are from 1 sec. to 1/500th plus bulb. It features M and X syncs and a self-timer.

What was the meter adjustment knob on the top plate is now a fixed housing for the ASA/DIN scale. The selenium cell exposure meter is now coupled to a "setting wheel" located on the very bottom of the lens mount. This setting wheel sets adjusts the camera's exposure value (EV) by changing (in a most complex fashion) the aperture and/or shutter rings at the same time that it changes the depth-of-field pointers on the camera's lens. When another button (located on the top plate) is pushed simultaneously, the setting wheel is also used to set the exposure meter's ASA/DIN setting.

This remarkable bit of engineering demonstrates the complexity of the Retina Reflexes, which makes them a joy to use when they are working, which they seldom are. Their complexity and fragility also make most repairmen reluctant to touch them.

The top plate, bottom plate, and camera body are otherwise nearly identical to the Retina Reflex.

The Retina Reflex S originally sold for $235 USD[1] (app. $1670 USD in 2007). Approximately 78,000 were made.

Lenses for Retina Reflex S, II, IV, Instamatic Reflex, and Retina IIIS

  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtagon 28mm f/4
  • Rodenstock Retina-Eurygon 30mm f/2.8
  • Rodenstock Retina-Eurygon 35m f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtagon 35mm f/2.8
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenar 45mm f/2.8 (for Instamatic-Reflex, can be used with Retina-Reflex but not with the Retina IIIS)
  • Rodenstock Retina-Ysarex 50mm f/2.8
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenar 50mm f/2.8
  • Rodenstock Retina-Heligon 50mm f/1.9
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f/1.9
  • Rodenstock Retina-Rotelar 85mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Tele-Arton 85mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Tele-Arton 90mm f/4
  • Rodenstock Retina-Rotelar 135mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Tele-Xenar 135mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Tele-Xenar 200mm f/4.8 (does not have the rangefinder cam necessary for use with the Retina IIIS)

Type 041 Retina Reflex III

A later variant is the Type 041 Retina Reflex III. It was made from 1960 to 1964.

Its match-needle meter instrument scale is visible in the viewfinder as well as on the top plate. The camera was originally equipped with the same coupled selenium meter as the Reflex S, but after 1962 a larger one was fitted, again made by Gossen. The Reflex III features the same "setting wheel" and interlocking aperture/shutter rings as the Reflex S. As it was fashion in the early 1960s the shutter release button on top was replaced by a shutter release shifter beside the lens mount. The film advance release button was eliminated, that function being incorporated in the frame reset slider, which was moved to the bottom plate along with the (still) manually reset frame counter. The ASA setting button was moved from the ASA dial to the spot vacated by the release button.

This redesign made a new camera case design necessary, leaving additional space for the frame counter, and the frame reset slider. The Retina Reflex cases were already something special before since the film advance lever (Reflex) and aperture/shutter setting wheel (Reflex S) are located on the bottom. The photo shows just how complex the Retina case had become.

The Reflex III features the same aperture/shutter setting wheel (which Kodak called simply the "setting wheel") and interlocking aperture/shutter rings as the Reflex S.

The Retina Reflex III originally sold for $248.50 USD[1] (app. $1720 USD in 2007). Approximately 116,000 were made.

Type 051 Retina Reflex IV

The Type 051 Retina Reflex IV was made from 1964 to 1967. It has a characteristic little window in the front of its pentaprism housing, which displays the aperture in use in the viewfinder. A hot shoe replaced the accessory shoe of the Reflex III. The frame counter now automatically resets to 36 when the back is opened; the frame advance slider is used to set the counter for shorter rolls. The split-image rangefinder on the ground glass is now at a 45 degree angle.

The Retina Reflex IV originally sold for $277 USD[1] (app. $1860 USD in 2007). Over 524,000 were made.



  • Brian Coe, Kodak Cameras - The First Hundred Years, Hove Foto Books, 1988
  • Rudolf Kingslake, A History of the Photographic Lens, Academic Press, 1989
  • Original Kodak user manuals for the Retina Reflex, Retina Reflex S, and Retina Reflex IV

External links

  • Sylvain Halgand's www.collection-appareils.fr
  • German article in Schneider-Kreuznach archive
  • Retina Reflex section at Retrography.com by Simon Simonsen, Denmark
  • [1]
  • Retina Reflex at "Photoethnography"
  • [2]
  • History of Kodak Cameras at Kodak's website
  • Captain Jack's Kodak Retina Pages

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