This Kodak Retinette is one of a family of vintage compact cameras known as non-folding, or solid, Retinettes, which appear to have been produced from around 1954 until the mid 1960s. The model reviewed here, is known as the Kodak Retinette I, Type 030, produced from around 1958.
Design of the Kodak Retinette I, Type 030
Like many viewfinder cameras from the 1950s, such as the Voigtlander Vito B and the Zeiss Ikon Contina, the Kodak Retinette I Type 030 has a familiar design styling. Although, the Retinette is noticeably larger than both the Voigtlander and the Zeiss. The Kodak Retinette 1 also has, what appears to be, a real leather covering, as opposed to the more plasticky covering of the previous two models.
The film rewind knob on the Retinette features an interesting display of the types of Kodak film brands available at the time; most of which are now defunct. For currently available Kodak films, that would be limited to Tri-X; because Pan-X, Plus-X and Kodachrome are no longer available.
Even though Kodak have announced the forthcoming re-release of Ektachrome transparency film, I’m not sure that either of the two variations of Ektachrome listed, Ektachrome F and Ektachrome D, are the same type of film. That said, the display on the dial doesn’t actually serve any mechanical function, other than to remind the photographer what type of film is loaded (assuming that the photographer remembers to manually set the dial).
Technical specifications for the Kodak Retinette I, Type 030
According to the manual, the Kodak Retinette I Type 030 has a fixed 45mm ƒ/3.5 Schneider-Kreuznach Reomar lens, comprising of 5 blades. The diaphragm goes up to ƒ/22 and the maximum shutter speed is 1/500.
The viewfinder is nice and large and has a bright line, similar to those used in rangefinder cameras like the Canonet QL19, which allows photographers to see an area just outside of the image area. Although, as this is not a ‘through-the-lens’ view (unlike an SLR), this cannot be relied upon for perfectly accurate framing of a photograph. Also, the Kodak Retinette I Type 030, doesn’t have a rangefinder focussing system – more on focussing later.
The Retinette has a shutter countdown timer, as well as a manually set frame counter (which counts down from 36, 24 or whatever) on the top right of the camera, next to the shutter button.
Using the Kodak Retinette I, Type 030
Much like the Zeiss Ikon Contina, the shutter speed dial and the aperture dial of the Kodak Retinette I move in unison. Setting one of the dials ‘binds’ them together and when you change the aperture, the shutter speed adjusts at the same time and visa versa; almost like a latter day programme mode, or a retro form of automation.
Like most compact cameras of this period, focussing is more a case of estimation, involving guessing (or manually measuring) the distance to the photographic target. Once that is done, the distance scale focus on the front of the camera can be adjusted.
The film rewind knob is where you would expect it and pressing a button on the underneath of the camera allows this to be engaged. Which brings us to the rather unintuitively placed manual film winder.
Yes, the film advance lever is on the base of the camera.
This isn’t actually as odd as it sounds and, with a bit of practice, is quite easy to use. Not as easy or as elegant as the Voigtlander implementation, but I guess that this period of camera development was more or less when cameras were moving from film advance knobs over to levers, and camera designers were still experimenting.
In summary, I found the Kodak Retinette I Type 030 to be a decent vintage compact point and shoot camera, from the days when Kodak was still a key player on the industry.