Retina series - lens element question

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ggray79

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I am completely satisfied with the resolution provided by my IIIc, which has a six element lens. If I get a Ia or Ib will I notice a difference in resolution due to the four element lens? I develop at home and scan for use on my 24 inch diagonal computer screen in my office. I might print an 8x10 but nothing larger. Most of my pictures are outdoors on sunny days using black and white film with apertures from f8-f16. Thanks!
 

BrianShaw

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Probably. While you might notice a difference the more important question could be if it affects your photographic intent.

The Retina IIIc/C are very high on my list of favorite cameras. I’m very satisfied with image quality from them. But I also use older cameras/lenses when sharpness isn’t really the imaging goal.
 

John Wiegerink

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All of the lenses that were used on the folding Retina cameras are of extremely high quality. Even the early Retina cameras with the Ektar and Xenar lenses are no slouches. I don't think you'll see much difference when stopped down to f8 or so. I keep an old KODAK RETINA I TYPE 010 just because I love what the coated Ektar lens produces. I had most of the folding Retina cameras at one time, but only have the one I just mentioned and a user IIa left. Really great travel cameras.
 

MattKing

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If you aren't printing larger than 8x10, I would say no.
Do you use and project slide film? If so, you might see a small difference there, if projecting large.
But lens "quality" differs very little when comparing lenses like the ones you reference.
 

JPD

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I've had all three of the Retinas you mention, and still have the Ib. I recommend the Ib (small b). Very sturdy camera, and the Xenar is very sharp. It's only at apertures 5,6 and larger you will notice differencies between the Xenar and the Xenon/Heligon.

I have a IIc with the 2,8 Heligon that I sometimes use with slower film and have to use larger apertures, because the IIc has a rangefinder, and if I want to use the tele or wide accessory lenses. But when using the normal lens, medium speed or fast film, the Ib is amazing.

The Ib has a better finder than the Ia and can easily be used while wearing glasses, which is a big plus. That was the main reason I sold the Ia and kept the Ib. The Ia is a nice camera, though, so I regretted selling it. 🥲
 

removedacct1

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I am completely satisfied with the resolution provided by my IIIc, which has a six element lens. If I get a Ia or Ib will I notice a difference in resolution due to the four element lens? I develop at home and scan for use on my 24 inch diagonal computer screen in my office. I might print an 8x10 but nothing larger. Most of my pictures are outdoors on sunny days using black and white film with apertures from f8-f16. Thanks!

There is no appreciable difference between the earlier Retina lenses in terms of resolution, when used with care (using an optimal aperture, making sure there is no camera shake, etc). However, the earlier lenses (especially the uncoated ones on pre-war models) aren't going to have the same contrast as post-war coated lenses, and contrast contributes to the impression of sharpness. You could easily chose one of the Ib or Ia models and get superb results from those lenses, assuming the lenses are not damaged or have fogged balsam (glue) layers.

That said, be aware that the Ia and Ib types do not have a built in rangefinder, which I find seriously limits how usable they are. It would be in your best interest to choose instead the IIa (type 016) or a II (type 011 or 014), which have a rangefinder built into the camera. But if you are asking specifically about the Ia and Ib because someone is giving them to you, there's no reason not to use them. If you're hunting for another model of Retina, there are far better options than the Ia and Ib, solely because of the rangefinder.
 

JPD

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Taken with my Retina Ib with 2,8/50 Xenar. Fuji Reala 100. Scanned print, so there are more details in the negative.

3490792277_97111726c8_h.jpg
https://live.staticflickr.com/3558/3490792277_97111726c8_h.jpg
 
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ggray79

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There is no appreciable difference between the earlier Retina lenses in terms of resolution, when used with care (using an optimal aperture, making sure there is no camera shake, etc). However, the earlier lenses (especially the uncoated ones on pre-war models) aren't going to have the same contrast as post-war coated lenses, and contrast contributes to the impression of sharpness. You could easily chose one of the Ib or Ia models and get superb results from those lenses, assuming the lenses are not damaged or have fogged balsam (glue) layers.

That said, be aware that the Ia and Ib types do not have a built in rangefinder, which I find seriously limits how usable they are. It would be in your best interest to choose instead the IIa (type 016) or a II (type 011 or 014), which have a rangefinder built into the camera. But if you are asking specifically about the Ia and Ib because someone is giving them to you, there's no reason not to use them. If you're hunting for another model of Retina, there are far better options than the Ia and Ib, solely because of the rangefinder.

Good point about the rangefinder. I was actually considering the Ia and Ib to satisfy my "minimalist" urge! Thanks!
 
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ggray79

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I've had all three of the Retinas you mention, and still have the Ib. I recommend the Ib (small b). Very sturdy camera, and the Xenar is very sharp. It's only at apertures 5,6 and larger you will notice differencies between the Xenar and the Xenon/Heligon.

I have a IIc with the 2,8 Heligon that I sometimes use with slower film and have to use larger apertures, because the IIc has a rangefinder, and if I want to use the tele or wide accessory lenses. But when using the normal lens, medium speed or fast film, the Ib is amazing.

The Ib has a better finder than the Ia and can easily be used while wearing glasses, which is a big plus. That was the main reason I sold the Ia and kept the Ib. The Ia is a nice camera, though, so I regretted selling it. 🥲

I wasn't aware of the finder difference. That's definitely a plus for the Ib! Thanks!
 
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ggray79

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If you aren't printing larger than 8x10, I would say no.
Do you use and project slide film? If so, you might see a small difference there, if projecting large.
But lens "quality" differs very little when comparing lenses like the ones you reference.

I was hoping someone would discount my resolution phobia! I don't do projected slides so I should be okay. Thanks!
 
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ggray79

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Probably. While you might notice a difference the more important question could be if it affects your photographic intent.

The Retina IIIc/C are very high on my list of favorite cameras. I’m very satisfied with image quality from them. But I also use older cameras/lenses when sharpness isn’t really the imaging goal.

As I mentioned below, I am looking at the Ia and Ib as a "minimalist" camera. I will undoubtedly blow a shot now and then not having a rangefinder! Thanks!
 

JPD

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I wasn't aware of the finder difference. That's definitely a plus for the Ib! Thanks!

Then there are the IB (Big B) models with lightmeters, but they have bigger tops and not as pocketable, and the lightmeters seldom work anymore. The later IB has a big viewfinder, but I don't think it makes up for the bigger size of the top, so I still prefer the Ib (small b). 🙂
 

JPD

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As I mentioned below, I am looking at the Ia and Ib as a "minimalist" camera. I will undoubtedly blow a shot now and then not having a rangefinder! Thanks!
If you are good at estimating distance and stop down to at least f:8 the depth of field will compensate for small fodusing errors. I have an accessory rangefinder but have never used it with my Ib. The DoF markings are very useful. Just make sure you buy a camera with the correct focus scale as converting Meters to Feet or vice versa could be confusing.

The Retina Ib instructions manual: https://www.cameramanuals.org/kodak_pdf/kodak_retina_ib.pdf

Edit: Another plus for the Ib is that it uses the same bayonet sun shade as the IIIc and takes the same filters. The 2,8 model of the Ia takes the same filters but has to use a 32mm slip-on sun shade. The 3,5 Ia model takes smaller filters and sun shade.
 
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removedacct1

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Good point about the rangefinder. I was actually considering the Ia and Ib to satisfy my "minimalist" urge! Thanks!

If you want a minimalist Retina, get the pre-war Type 119. It’s a wonderful, tiny camera with an excellent Tessar type lens.
photo made with a Retina type 119:
 

JPD

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If you want a minimalist Retina, get the pre-war Type 119. It’s a wonderful, tiny camera with an excellent Tessar type lens.
photo made with a Retina type 119:

Beautiful photograph! And that camera has an uncoated Xenar! But the pre-war Retina I cameras have squinty viewfinders, unprotected bellows and are not as rigid as the Ib. They take smaller sized filters and 27mm slip-on sun shades. But they are lighter, cute and now there is an expert in America who can repair them. 😉

Retinas are addictive. 😖
 

removedacct1

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Beautiful photograph! And that camera has an uncoated Xenar! But the pre-war Retina I cameras have squinty viewfinders, unprotected bellows and are not as rigid as the Ib. They take smaller sized filters and 27mm slip-on sun shades. But they are lighter, cute and now there is an expert in America who can repair them. 😉

Retinas are addictive. 😖

Thank you.
Yes, the pre-war Xenar lenses are excellent. Its true that the viewfinders on these early Retinas are "squinty" small, but they get the job done, even with my 63 year old eyes. I've rarely encountered damaged bellows on these, exposed though they may be, which is a testament to how well made they are. And yes, its true that the filters for these are VERY difficult to find and the lens shade is nearly impossible to source as well. But these tiny, early models are a delight to use and so small they can literally fit in most any pocket. That alone is a great asset.
 

BrianShaw

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As I mentioned below, I am looking at the Ia and Ib as a "minimalist" camera. I will undoubtedly blow a shot now and then not having a rangefinder! Thanks!

I can align with that! One of my favorite cameras when I feel minimalistic is a Kodak Duo 620. 1939 vintage with uncoated lens and range focus is actually pretty good picture taker if stopped down.. Wide open... a bit of a different situation.
 

Kodachromeguy

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Great advice above. A quick summary of Retina 50mm lenses:

1. The Schneider Xenars are 4-element lenses similar to the Zeiss Tessar. The ones on Retinas are unit-focus, which is said to be slightly better for resolution than front element focus (but this may not be typically visible). Xenars may be slightly soft at ƒ/2.8 but clean up nicely by ƒ/4 and especially at ƒ/5.6. Xenars are capable of first class results! Voigtlander's Color-Skopar was another example of this design.

2. The Schneider Xenons are double-Gauss lenses with 6 elements. These are fully usable at ƒ/2 and excellent by ƒ/2.8. The ultimate resolution at ƒ/5.6 or ƒ/8 may be marginally better than the 4-element lens, but you probably will not see it. The Xenon on my IIa uses 29.5mm screw-in size. The Rodenstock Heligon is a similar 6-element lens.

Summary: If you want to use your Retina in lower light, choose a model with the Xenon. If you will mostly use ƒ/5.6 or smaller, either will be fine.
 
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ggray79

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If you want a minimalist Retina, get the pre-war Type 119. It’s a wonderful, tiny camera with an excellent Tessar type lens.
photo made with a Retina type 119:


Is the 119 held vertically? One on ebay has some vertical shots. Looking through the back there and looking at your shots it looks like it might be a square negative? 24x24? Great pictures!
 

JPD

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Is the 119 held vertically? One on ebay has some vertical shots. Looking through the back there and looking at your shots it looks like it might be a square negative? 24x24? Great pictures!

It's a normal 24x36 camera. It has a little "leg" on the door you can fold out to stand the camera vertically. Many cameras had that back then.
 

blee1996

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My all time favorite of the minimalist 35mm camera is the Retina I (type 010) with Ektar 50/3.5 lens. I like it more than the Rollei 35TE. The Retina is more precision built, and in my humble opinion, has better lens. The rangefinder is quite optional, since you probably already know how to guesstimate distance.

Kodak Retina I (Type 010) with Ektar 50/3.5 lens by Zheng, on Flickr

A sample photo showing the sharpness and resolution of the lens (nothing artistic, and handheld). And it was from a 2400 DPI quick scan from an Epson V700 flatbed. I'm sure it could yield even better results with a Nikon Coolscan or drum scan:

Palm tree trunk details - Retina_Ektar_Arista100_033 by Zheng, on Flickr
 
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ggray79

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My all time favorite of the minimalist 35mm camera is the Retina I (type 010) with Ektar 50/3.5 lens. I like it more than the Rollei 35TE. The Retina is more precision built, and in my humble opinion, has better lens. The rangefinder is quite optional, since you probably already know how to guesstimate distance.

Kodak Retina I (Type 010) with Ektar 50/3.5 lens by Zheng, on Flickr

A sample photo showing the sharpness and resolution of the lens (nothing artistic, and handheld). And it was from a 2400 DPI quick scan from an Epson V700 flatbed. I'm sure it could yield even better results with a Nikon Coolscan or drum scan:

Palm tree trunk details - Retina_Ektar_Arista100_033 by Zheng, on Flickr

Will the knob advance usually be more trouble-free compared to the lever advance? My IIc has developed a slight sticking in the advance lever return after advancing the film. How do you know when to stop using the knob advance?
 

momus

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I preferred the little IA cameras. Tiny (but heavy because they're all metal). I got pretty good estimating distances w/ those. Watch out for lenses that say Ektar but have chrome and black front lens surrounds, those are rebadged Schneiders. There was a supply problem w/ the Kodak lenses so they did that due to high demand.

It's not a bad lens at all, but the chrome front Ektars make sharper pics, and I mean razor sharp. It was actually a little too sharp for my tastes so I went back to the bottom of the barrel Xenars. Those are great lenses, and image more like a Leica. Even the 3 element Reomars on the Retinette cameras are nice and sharp when stopped down.
 
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