A Retina Re-visited

Tenzing Norgay achieves the summit of Mt. Everest, May 29, 1953. Photograph taken by Edmund Hillary.

Tenzing Norgay achieves the summit of Mt. Everest, May 29, 1953. Photograph taken by Edmund Hillary.

Have you ever seen the somewhat iconic image of Sherpa Tenzing taken by Sir Edmund Hillary on the first successful expedition to the top of Mount Everest? Well just in case you haven’t, here it is reproduced on the right, click the pic for some more info if you’re interested… This photo was taken on a Kodak Retina (model 118) which he apparently picked up at a second hand shop, not knowing a great deal about cameras.

The Retina model 118 is actually quite a rare model with only just over 9000 units ever made. And as it happens, one of those 9000ish cameras was among the 6 camera’s given to me by one of the guys at work.

Considering that one of it’s kind made it all the way to the summit of Mount Everest and still worked should tell you that it’s quite a robust little thing. It’s small and solid with a petite little folding bellows which pops out on it’s own when you press a small button on the bottom of the body. They were made between 1935 and 1936, had a tiny viewfinder and distance scale focusing, so not the easiest of things to use when you’re used to autofocus, or at least a rangefinder at a push…

My Kodak Retina Model 118

A small piece of the 1930’s, my Retina model 118

The Retina series of cameras (model 118 being the second variant…) were also the first cameras to take the modern 135 format cartridge, which of course meant that I could use it, or at least try!

My specimen, however, has quite clearly been well used and I hope, well loved over the course of it’s 76 year life and the shutter wasn’t firing at all speeds, so a trip to a camera repairer and a bit of a wait later, I got it back in perfect working order. The optics were wonderfuly shiny, the shutter fired on all speeds, the aperture was smooth and not sticky and the bellows seemed to be intact. To be fair, that’s about all there is on the camera, so I thought that I’d throw a roll of colour 135 through it and see what happened.

So, below are some of the images from that test roll. it’s actually really quite a good lens, it’s quite contrasty, I assume helped by being an uncoated lens. Unless of course you under-expose (on purpose, of course *cough*) and it’s left to the scanner to bring out the detail, although I even rather like a couple of those.

I’ve not included the ones where I accidentally fired the shutter and the shots aren’t framed at all (it’s a VERY sensitive shutter!). Or the one’s where I’ve quite blatantly forgotten to focus. There were a few of those, it’s very easy to forget when it’s just a very small pointer on the side of the camera you’re generally not looking at…

It turns out that the Retina is still a very useable little compact camera, so it’s definitely not the last roll I’ll put through that one! Anyway, here’s a selection of 16 of the ones I liked from that roll of 24, do feel free to let me know what you think, I rather like them, hope you do too…

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