Kodak Retinette 35mm folding camera

The Kodak Retinette series was a simplified and cheaper version of the Kodak Retina camera and was made between 1939 and 1966 during which time the design changed from a folding to a solid frame camera. The version in this post is a Retinette type 017, which was the last folding version made.


These pictures can also be viewed full sized here.

My Camera

I bought this camera a few weeks ago in an untested condition for £10.

The cosmetic condition is quite reasonable for a camera of this age. There is a bit of paint missing on the lens cover and also some chipped areas on the back cover, but considering the camera is about 60 years old that’s not bad. The main worry when buying a folding camera is the condition of the bellows, but as far as I can see they look in good condition.

The front lens cover is a bit reluctant to pop out when I press the release button, and the slower shutter speeds are also a bit slow to complete their action, so the camera shutter could do with a CLA before I try to use it. Fortunately, the Prontor SV shutter fitted to this camera is easy to work on.

I initially thought that there was a problem with the film advance. When the film advance knob is turned, the shutter release mechanism doesn’t unlock and work the release arm on the lens, but I wasn’t sure that it was actually faulty. It occurred to me that the camera may have to be loaded with film for this part of the mechanism to correctly work, so I loaded a reel of exposed film into the camera and confirmed that this is indeed true. The film advance will only correctly work with film loaded in the camera because the sprocket holes in the film are used to move the release arm mechanics.

Kodak Retinette Description

The Kodak Retinette type 017 is a 35mm folding camera with a Prontor SV shutter and a Schneider-Kreuznach Reomar 50mm f/4.5 lens.

The basic design is very similar to the Kodak Retina series of cameras with a closed cover over the lens which can be released with a button on the bottom plate. When open the lens can be pulled up out of the body on a set of collapsible bellows by opening the lens cover. This gives the camera a small size when closed, easily able to fit into a bag or jacket pocket, whilst still being able to take full frame 35mm negatives when open.

The viewfinder in the Retinette 017 is just that – a simple viewfinder. In the Retina series some models had rangefinders fitted but all the retinette series were viewfinder cameras. In this model it is centrally placed and quite small without any composition lines.

The operation of the camera is not quite as slick as we would be used to today. Once the camera is loaded with film and the frame advanced, the shutter speed and aperture need to be set based on the light from the scene and that needed to be determined by the photographer. Since there is no inbuilt light measuring device on the Retinette, that could either be with a seperate hand held light meter, or by using the Sunny 16 rule. Once set, the shutter has to be manually cocked using a small lever on the side of the lens, and the focus set. The focus again has to be either estimated or measured with a separate rangefinding device which was available as an option for photographers. With the settings made, the camera could be lifted to the eye and the shutter release pressed to take the photograph.

To close the lens cover after a picture has been taken, two small locking buttons on the top and bottom of the lens mount are pressed in and the lens can then be pushed back into the camera body as the lens cover is closed. On the Retinette series, in contrast to the Retina, the focus doesn’t need to be set to infinity to close the cover.

Once the film has been completely exposed the film is rewound into the original cartridge using the rewind crank and the small rewind lever under the film advance.

The Retinette series of cameras were a very popular camera which many people purchased which means many are available at quite resonable prices today. A search on Flickr suggests it is capable of some nice results.

Kodak Retinette type 017 specifications

  • Kodak Retinette type 017 35mm folding viewfinder camera
  • Prontor SV shutter
  • 1sec to 1/300sec + B shutter speeds
  • Self timer built into shutter
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Reomar 50mm f/4.5 lens
  • Aperture range f/4.5 to f/16
  • Focus by distance scale on lens
  • Automatic frame counter
  • X & M flash sync socket
  • Accessory shoe built into top of camera
  • Tripod bush in bottom of camera
  • Shutter release on top plate
  • Shutter needs to be manually cocked prior to picture taking.
  • Body Ser No: 927324
  • Lens Ser No: 3156235
  • Manual available here
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