Retina Reflex

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The Retina Reflex is a leaf-shutter 35mm SLR camera produced by Kodak in the 1950s and 1960s.

Type 025 Retina Reflex

The Kodak Type 025 Retina Reflex is a 35mm SLR camera produced by Kodak AG Stuttgart in West Germany, between the spring of 1957 and October 1958. It was sold with either the Schneider Xenon C or the less common Rodenstock Heligon C 50mm f2 lens. This was Kodak's response to the quite successful range of leaf shuttered Zeiss Ikon Contaflex cameras introduced in 1953. By doing so, Kodak expanded their Retina range to include SLR cameras.

The Retina Reflex body is based on the Retina IIIc, and they share the same range of lenses with an interchangeable front component, which can also be used on the Retina IIc, IIC, and the IIIC rangefinder cameras. Also the base mounted advance-lever, the frame-counter, the film channel, the selenium meter, and the lens focusing mechanism, are very similar to those on the viewfinder camera, while the Synchro-Compur shutter is of the SLR variety, which stays open prior to releasing the shutter.

The camera lens is a converter-based system, consisting of a fixed rear group and a bayonet mounted interchangeable front-component, the latter determines the compound focal length. This concept was introduced in 1954 with the Kodak Retina IIIc. The focusing mechanism moves the rear lens group and the Synchro-Compur shutter with the integral diaphragm together. A similar interchangeable component system was introduced on the Zeiss-Ikon Contaflex III in 1956.

Three accessory lens components were available, manufactured by both Schneider and Rodenstock; the 80mm and two alternative 35mm components. The Schneider and the Rodenstock front components are not interchangeable though, and they do not share the same bayonet mount, they only fit the camera equipped with either manufacturers own original standard lens. Care must be exercised using the accessory lens components, since the aperture control is not limited to these lenses' maximum aperture of either f/4 or f/5.6, but rather stops at f/2, not giving the expected exposure.

The Retina Reflex camera has an automatic lens diaphragm that stays wide open until the shutter is released. After exposure, the mirror stays up until the bottom-mounted single-stroke advance lever is operated. Focusing is on a ground glass screen with a central split-image rangefinder.

Most camera controls, except the wind-on lever, are found on the top plate. The manually set frame counter, which blocks the camera at the end of the film, has a reset-button in its centre, and a slide-button to turn the dial at the camera back. Also the shutter release, the film rewind knob with a film reminder dial, the exposure readout window, the meter adjustment knob with EV and ASA/DIN scales, as well as the accessory shoe are at the top. The tripod socket, the advance-lever, the film-rewind release-button, and the tiny backdoor release-button, found under a twist-cover, are all at the camera base.

In use, the Retina Reflex frame counter counts down from 36 (or 20) to 1, at which point the film advance locks. While this is convenient for the user and does prevent torn film sprockets at the end of a roll, setting the counter up properly at the beginning of a roll is complex, awkward, and time consuming. This is a typical example of much of the Retina engineering - complex and ingenious, but not always convenient.

The non-coupled selenium cell exposure meter shows exposure values (EV) only. The value is set on the EV scale found on the underside of the lens assembly. Once the aperture release tab is set and released, the shutter ring is interconnected with the aperture ring - the one automatically moves the other, so that the same exposure value is maintained. This was a quite common arrangement, found on many cameras at the time, like Hasselblad and some Rolleiflexes. It may be a bit confusing to those unfamiliar with the system.

All the Retina Reflex cameras are quite complex instruments and heavy, but still reasonably reliable, although the lever wind mechanism tends to wear out. The repair is considered complex and many repairmen refuse to work on them. It is however, usually possible to repair the mechanism without spare parts for a handy repairman.

The Retina Reflex originally sold for $215 USD[1] (about $2300 USD in 2023). Approximately 65,000 were made.[2]

Lenses for the Retina Reflex (also for the Retina IIc, IIC, IIc, and IIIC cameras)

The Retina Reflex can be fitted with four different lenses. They all share a common set of three elements at the rear of the lens.

  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f/2 (3+3 elements in 4 groups)
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Longar-Xenon C 80mm f/4 (6+3 elements in 6 groups)
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtar-Xenon C 35mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtar-Xenon C 35mm f/5.6 (6+3 elements in 6 groups)


  • Rodenstock Retina-Heligon C 50mm f/2
  • Rodenstock Retina-Longar-Heligon C 80mm f/4
  • Rodenstock Retina-Curtar-Heligon C 35mm f/4
  • Rodenstock Retina-Curtar-Heligon C 35mm f/5.6

Type 034 Retina Reflex S

The Type 034 Retina Reflex S is a major redesign of the original Retina Reflex, produced in 1959 and 1960. A new lens system is employed based on the DKL-mount, made available a year earlier for the Kodak Retina IIIS rangefinder camera. The concept eliminates the rear lens group, permitting a much wider range of accessory lenses for the camera, subsequently also used in Retina Reflex III, Retina Reflex IV, and the Kodak Instamatic Reflex, all having the same mount. Both Schneider and Rodenstock supplied lenses for the camera. Almost the same, but not interchangeable mount was also used by a number of other German camera makers, including Braun and Voigtländer.

The shutter, now an integral part of the camera body, is a SLR Synchro-Compur behind the lens unit, with speeds from 1 sec. to 1/500 sec. and B. A small lever on the right-hand side of the shutter have settings for M and X flash synchronisation, as well as V for self-timer, shifted when a small button is depressed on the opposite side of the shutter housing. The shutter speed ring is at the base of the lensmount. It is set by gripping the black ridges either side. The selected speed appears at the top opposite a black arrowhead. The speeds is shown in black numbers on the right-hand half of the scale, they run from 1 through 500, indicating fractions of a second. The left-hand part of the scale is in green numerals and indicates full seconds as suggested by a meter reading. They all are part of the B-setting, and requires manual timing by keeping the release depressed. A wire release with a clamp may be useful for time exposures.

The aperture diaphragm is in the interchangeable lenses, and a stop eliminates the risk of setting non-existing aperture values, as was possible on the original Retina Reflex. A partly protruding wheel, seen on the base when turning the camera upside down, is used to set the lens aperture. However, by pushing a button on the film speed dial, it also sets the film speed. Actually, it also doubles as a standoff camera support as well. The aperture scale is in front of the shutter-speed ring, read using the same arrowhead index at top.

Features on the top plate are slightly rearranged; gone is the meter adjustment knob on the top plate, replaced by a fixed protrusion for the film ASA/DIN scale with the adjustment button in the middle, set using the aperture wheel. In a sector window next to it is the meter needle and a pointer. All exposure parameters are coupled to the selenium light meter. The pointer must coincide with the needle to obtain correct exposure, accomplished by selecting a suitable shutter speed and turning the aperture wheel. The meter reads reflected light. To read incident light, a white plastic diffuser cover, provided with the camera, is placed over the meter cell in front of the film speed dial.

Features on the camera base plate, and the camera body otherwise, closely resemble the type 025 Retina Reflex.

The Retina Reflexes are fascinating instruments, which make them a joy to use, but after many years in service, it is not to be expected every function works properly, yet the camera might still take pictures. The cameras are expensive to repair, and most repairmen are reluctant to touch them.

The Retina Reflex S originally sold for $235 USD[1] (about $2400 USD in 2023). Approximately 78,000 were made. [2]

Lenses for Retina Reflex S, II, IV, Instamatic Reflex, Retina IIS, and Retina IIIS

  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtagon 28mm f/4
  • Rodenstock Retina-Eurygon 30mm f/2.8
  • Rodenstock Retina-Eurygon 35m f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtagon 35mm f/2.8
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenar 45mm f/2.8 (sources are unclear on this lens)
  • Rodenstock Retina-Ysarex 50mm f/2.8
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenar 50mm f/2.8
  • Rodenstock Retina-Ysarex 50mm f/1.9
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f/1.9
  • Rodenstock Retina-Rotelar 85mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Tele-Arton 85mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Tele-Arton 90mm f/4
  • Rodenstock Retina-Rotelar 135mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Tele-Xenar 135mm f/4
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Tele-Xenar 200mm f/4.8

Schneider-Kreuznach lenses for Retina Reflex S, ..
images by Alf Sigaro (Image rights)

Type 041 Retina Reflex III

A later variant is the Type 041 Retina Reflex III. It was made from 1960 to 1964.

Its match-needle meter instrument scale is visible in the viewfinder as well as on the top plate. The camera was originally equipped with the same coupled selenium meter as the Reflex S, but after 1962 a larger one was fitted, again made by Gossen. The Reflex III features the same "setting wheel" and interlocking aperture/shutter rings as the Reflex S. As it was fashion in the early 1960s the shutter release button on top was replaced by a shutter release shifter beside the lens mount. The film advance release button was eliminated, that function being incorporated in the frame reset slider, which was moved to the bottom plate along with the (still) manually reset frame counter. The ASA setting button was moved from the ASA dial to the spot vacated by the release button.

This redesign made a new camera case design necessary, leaving additional space for the frame counter, and the frame reset slider. The Retina Reflex cases were already something special before since the film advance lever (Reflex) and aperture/shutter setting wheel (Reflex S) are located on the bottom. The photo shows just how complex the Retina case had become.

The Reflex III features the same aperture/shutter setting wheel (which Kodak called simply the "setting wheel") and interlocking aperture/shutter rings as the Reflex S.

The Retina Reflex III originally sold for $248.50 USD[1] (about $2500 USD in 2023). Approximately 116,000 were made. [2]

Type 051 Retina Reflex IV

The Type 051 Retina Reflex IV was made from 1964 to 1967. It has a characteristic little window in the front of its pentaprism housing, which displays the aperture in use in the viewfinder. A hot shoe replaced the accessory shoe of the Reflex III. The frame counter now automatically resets to 36 when the back is opened; the frame advance slider is used to set the counter for shorter rolls. The split-image rangefinder on the ground glass is now at a 45 degree angle.

The Retina Reflex IV originally sold for $277 USD[1] (about $2660 USD in 2023). About 52,400 were made.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 History of Kodak Cameras at
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Helmut Nagel, "Zauber der Kamera" (in German), ISBN 3-421-02516-9
  3. Rick Oleson, "Use Retina Reflex Lenses on your Voigtlander Bessamatic (and vice versa)"
  4. Helmut Nagel obviously had a typo in his book adding a zero to this number. However, based on the market situation and the high list price this is not realistic. Another source confirms this.


  • Brian Coe, Kodak Cameras - The First Hundred Years, Hove Foto Books, 1988
  • Rudolf Kingslake, A History of the Photographic Lens, Academic Press, 1989
  • Original Kodak user manuals for the Retina Reflex, Retina Reflex S, and Retina Reflex IV