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Kodak Retina - 1937
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• First camera to take 35mm film cassettes

• $57.50 in 1936 ($902 in 2010 dollars)

Historically, Kodak simultaneously introduced a new film size and a camera that used it. In 1934 they introduced the 35mm Kodak Magazine, size 135, which was a huge improvement over the Leica magazine because it came preloaded with film, so you could load the camera in daylight without having to have loaded your supply of reloadable magazines in advance.

The corresponding camera was the Retina, a folder that used a bellows to connect the lens board to the body, like a tiny view camera. Roll-film folders had been around for years; even I have one from 1905, the Ansco No. 4. It was natural to just shrink the camera to take the new movie-film magazines. (A few years later Exakta shrunk their medium-format SLR for 35mm, giving us the first 35mm SLR.)

Retinas were made in Stuttgart, Germany, by a Kodak factory acquired when Kodak bought Nagel Camerawerk in 1931. Numerous models were introduced over the years, all folders until the Retina Reflex came out in 1957.

It's now 75 years after the introduction of the Retina, but a modern 35mm cassette still fits it, as shown in the photo below.

The original Retina was Type 117. Five or so models later came Type 141, which is what I have, so mine was made between 1937 and 1939.

Folders were nice because they folded with the lens tucked completely into the case, forming a package much smaller even than my very small Leica IIIc: But folders had disadvantages, too: The mechanism was fragile, and if a bigger lens or lens attachment was mounted, the camera didn't fold. As it was, you had to put the focus to infinity (lens all the way in) for the lid to close. Of course, very few Retina owners had any lens attachments.

The Retina was as much a vertical camera as a horizontal one, as shown below. The aperture scale was even engraved twice, so you could see it with the camera in either position. And there was a handy fold-out stand so you could put the camera on a table.

Kodak RetinaKodak RetinaKodak RetinaKodak Retina
Guide entry from Popular Photography, May 1938

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