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Retinette ? a matter of integrity


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Retinette Ė a matter of integrity

19 Feb 2021 9:03AM   Views : 450 Unique : 315


Over the time that Iíve been writing articles and (latterly) blogs on this site, thereís been an undercurrent in my mind that there are some cameras that I like because they work well, and others I really donít trust to do their job. Itís finally come together in my mind Ė itís about their integrity.

Integrity is a very serious word. Itís something that matters: a politician or entrepreneur without it may be wildly successful, but they will never be admirable. Those who have it often limit their careers by refusing to make promises they cannot keep, or by keeping the promises they have made, faithfully. It almost seems like a trivialisation to suggest that it applies to mere cameras.


I think it does, though. The camera I was thinking about in the first instance was the Kodak Retinette Ia that I inherited from my Dad. They sold for a little over £20 in the late Fifties Ė Iím not sure quite what that translates to in modern money, but itís not cheap. The specification is modest, and includes a fixed 45mm f/3.5 lens, a lack of a rangefinder, and a minimum focus distance of a little over three feet.

The lens uses front cell focussing Ė the front element moves, and the rest of the lens stays where it is. This is optically unsophisticated: more upmarket lenses move bodily forwards and backwards, and the filter ring doesnít rotate. But the mechanism is physically robust, and the results are excellent. And this is true of every aspect of the cameraís operation: while some controls are small and fiddly, they all work reliably, and the production engineering means that they have done so for over fifty years so far, and are likely to last another fifty.


Although vastly more sophisticated, all of this reminds me, now, of the Kodak Hawkeye that Janet (aka Chase) has lent me. It is, literally, nailed together, but it is similarly robust and durable, and gives results that are somehow far better than you expect. They contrast with the cameras where bright ideas for design contrast with fragile build quality and iffy mechanical reliability Ė like the Diana F that I wrote about a couple of years ago.


Integrity matters, in little things as in important ones. And Ė for me Ė it matters in the trivia of everyday life like ballpoint pens (Bic or Pilot disposables for me rather than stylish and rickety advertising specials) and cameras. Itís not a matter of metal versus plastic Ė my Samyang 45mm lens is plastic, but it has an integrity that the Sony kit 18-55 lenses of 15 years ago utterly lacked.

Integrity may be lacking in expensive trophy goods, too: I love the Cross fountain pen that Iíve owned for more than 30 years, sometimes refilling it three times in a week at work, but I reckon that the Mont Blanc things that boasted of holding one or two fluid ounces of ink were designed to be seen, not usedÖ Sorry Ė I donít own one, but you can look them up: bloated, like a cigar Ė who has fingers the right size to hold one and write for hours?


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
19 Feb 2021 9:06AM
I think it's a smart, tidy and unpretentious camera, complete with lever wind on the base of the camera and delayed action (the little green lever to the right of the lens).

It taught lessons in exposure, too - note the way that the shutter and aperture dials are linked, and all the combinations of exposure settings give the same exposure to the film. To actually alter the setting, you have to pull back on the tab next to the 'B' setting in my close-up of the lens, disengaging the lock between the two rings.
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.5k 89 Norway
19 Feb 2021 9:21AM
£20 in 1957, is the equivalent of £485 today, however, today's £ has only 4% of the buying power as the same £back then...

Another way to look at integrity is to say that it under promises yet over delivers...a lot of politicians should learn that...
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
19 Feb 2021 10:08AM
That's a good way to put it, Malc. And that describes it perfectly.

I was dithering about what model it was, precisely - it's not marked on the camera itself. Apparently, it's a special, UK-only version, with the top-plate from an earlier iteration, marketed in 1958. No promises about tomorrow's blog, then!
PaulCox Avatar
19 Feb 2021 10:57AM
My Father had a Kodak Bantam Coloursnap which Used an 828 roll film 8 Exposure I think they my have made a 12 Exposure as well but that may be a figment of my imagination, I still have the camera, tucked away in Never Never Land. I never understood why he didnít buy a 35mm camera. Paul.
P.S. Good article brought back a lot of memories, thanks.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
19 Feb 2021 2:59PM
I must admit that I see no advantages to a Bantam over a Retinette - rather the reverse. However, it may reflect caution over moving away from roll film - or maybe a reluctance to take onfilms with 36 exposures on them?
PaulCox Avatar
19 Feb 2021 7:54PM
My Mother had an Ensign Full View which used 120 Roll Film and gave 2.1/4 x2.1/4 negatives which she always had Contact Printed by a photographer across the road from where we lived, so I can only assume my Father was afraid of 35mm film, and roll film he could cope with. Paul.

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