While Eastman Kodak produced millions of low cost cameras for the whole family to enjoy, such as the Brownies, and various box, folders and 35mm cameras; they also produced some excellent 35mm Rangefinder cameras of very high quality. The Retina Automatic III was produced after the IIIc, and incorporated many similar features. Although not a “folder” like several in the Retina line, it utilizes a similar body style and optics. The excellent, coated, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 45mm lens is of optimal design and produces sharp, beautiful images while offering a standard range of aperture settings. The standard Synchro Compur shutter provides a decent range of speeds, although nothing slower than 1/30 of a second is possible, save for Bulb. Unlike the IIIc the lens is not interchangeable, and the confusing EV scale is thankfully missing from the camera; a feature on the IIIc I generally ignored. One interesting feature is the camera’s namesake, the Automatic feature is actually a Shutter Priority function. When the aperture dial is set to “A”, the camera will automatically select the correct aperture when a specific shutter speed is chosen. Exposure lock is also available when holding down the shutter release half way. Amazingly the built-in, coupled, Gossen selenium meter still functions on this model, and is actually accurate. The meter is also coupled to the ASA selection function which ranges from 64 to 1600. There is even a low light warning that displays a yellow “stop” in the viewfinder when in the “A” position. This feature also prevents shutter release until an acceptable exposure is set. These are some nice features for essentially a pocket Rangefinder from the early 60s. Of course the odd Retina frame advance release button is here, along with the frame counter that counts backwards as the shots are taken. Once the last frame “1” is taken the system locks to prevent film advance and shutter release. Once the new film is inserted, the frame release button on the top of the camera must be depressed and using the frame counter advance slider on the back of the camera, advance the counter to either 36 or 24, etc. It does feature and accessory shoe and flash synch connector. This is one of many fine Retina cameras from Kodak. Every collection should have at least one.
CLEANING AND REPAIR
The norm for EBay acquisitions is dust, dirt, grime, gunk and fungus. All of these can be cleaned when necessary. This camera by far was in the best condition I have ever seen for an EBay auction. All that was needed was a quick cleaning of the lens, some light dust was present, and going over the leatherette with leather cleaner, just to give it a little added shine. Otherwise we’re talking near mint condition. For what was paid, this was quite the find. The only downside is that the coupled rangefinder is a little off when focusing. This apparently is common with these cameras, and after some comparative testing against the Depth of Field scale on the lens, I have discovered it is only slightly off. The Rangefinder can be adjusted after removing the top cover, and turning a couple of small screws, but I prefer not to open a camera if not absolutely necessary.
In one word…patience. All of the Retina cameras hold their value well, especially the IIIc or IIIC. For the non-folding Retinas expect to pay around 30-100 dollars depending on the model and condition, while a IIIc in good working condition can fetch 100 to 200 dollars if sporting extras. Always ask about the lens condition, if the lens is scratched or marred, the camera might as well be a doorstop. Retina’s, especially the IIc and IIIc tend to have problems with the film advance and shutter cocking mechanism. Expect any reliable camera repair shop to charge 100-150 dollars for a CLA (cleaning, lubrication and adjustment) if parts aren’t necessary. Unless you know how to fix these problems, it’s probably not worth buying a non-working Retina. These cameras are plentiful on EBay and you’ll have your choice of models, so place a maximum bid and wait. I’ve seen some erratic sales, such as a IIIc in working condition with extras sold in an auction for 85 dollars, while in another auction just the camera went for $160.00. Timing is everything, so If you don’t win the auction, bid on the next one. Eventually you will get the camera you want for the right price.