View Full Version : Retina IIIS (from Retina Automatic III)
I just ran a couple of rolls of film thru my Retina IIIS. My first "trial by fire" since I acquired it a few weeks ago. I shot a High School Awards ceremony and a Middle School Band Concert. Both indoors and both with an "eyeball burner" Sunpak 522 flash.
One of the reasons I wanted the IIIS was to have a leaf shutter camera with interchangeable lenses to use with a powerful flash. I was tired of dealing with ghost images from ambient light and the slow speeds of most focal plane shutter cameras. However, I also needed a longer lens than the 45-50mm that most fixed lens leaf shutter cameras come with.
I used both the 135/4.0 Tele-Xenar and the 50/1.9 Xenon. Both were very sharp. The problem I did not think about before hand was that even though the IIIS has a 135mm frame in the viewfinder, because it is a rangefinder camera the image within the frame is very small. That makes accurate focusing inside that little rectangle even harder at ranges out to 50 feet or more. Many of my 135mm shots were blurry from focusing errors.
On the plus side, when I changed from the 135mm to the 50mm, the new lens was automatically set at the same f number as the old lens. I took several shots before I thought to check and was pleasantly surprised to find that my exposure was the same because the f-stop setting is actually made on the camera body rather than the lens.
Another problem I never considered before was advancing the film on a bottom lever camera when the camera is mounted on a handle mount flash bracket.
The IIIS is a really great camera, but it might not have been designed with this particular type of photographic activity in mind.
I have used a 135 on my IIIS without having problems with the focus; the frame is small and the 14ft minimum focus is limiting. I used mine last at the National Zoo without problem, even in shaded areas with the lens wide-open.
You might try checking the RF accuracy at several ranges. You can also test the frame line accuracy. I think there are about 6 adjustments on the IIIS RF for close focus, infinity, slew rate, parallax... I have the Repair Manual which shows how to perform the adjustments. I usually set my RF's for a known 15' distance and then check the infinity focus. If infinity works after setting the RF to align for 15', I feel comfortable.
I'll just have to locate a copy of the manual and acquire one.
Other than a little dirt or smudging on the viewfinder window, I don't think my problem was with a flaw in the camera itself. A 50 foot shot in dimlight just doesn't give much of an image for focusing when there aren't any strong hi-lights in the picture. Some of the pictures were quite sharp, but it required a lot of back-and-forth focusing to narrow the range.
I tried the exact same shot last year with a Nikon F with a 135/3.5 and a Kiev 60 with an 80/2.8 Volna. My results were not much better because of camera shake. The FP shutter requires a slower sync speed and the stage lighting contributes too much light to the picture (but not enough to help with focusing).
The other possibilty is that my eyesight is becoming more and more of a hindrance in dimlight shooting. I noticed that my teenagers don't seem to have as many problems with focusing as I do.
I've been working a little more with my IIIS. Once I started getting accustomed to the Kodak ergonomics again it started getting easier to use.
I just bought a Retina-Curtagon 35/2.8 at a bargain price. About $15.00 plus shipping. The only flaws seem to be a partially illegible distance scale (in meters only, not feet!), and slightly bent internal f-stop tab which I fixed with my Swiss Army knife. Since the Retina's internal finder has 35mm frame lines, this may be the best default combination for the Retina.
Thos plastic bubble cases for Kodak lenses really seem to have done their job over the years. All of the Retina lenses I've purchased in those cases seem to have perfect glass!
I found that an Ocean Spray juice bottle lid can be reamed out very slightly to make a lens cap for the 35/2.8 and 50/2.8 lenses. The caps are color coded for the different types of juices, so the lenses can be color coded too. Just use an Exacto knife to trim the threads back a little.
However, the dim light focusing problem with the 135mm lens is definitely an incompatibility between me and the camera. Not really a design flaw in the camera itself. When I need this lens length, I'll just go with an SLR.
I will try the juice bottle trick on the Xenar and Curtagon! I found that some of the film canister lids (like from Fuji) make decent rear lens caps for the lenses that strayed away from their bubbles.
It's the rectangular 64 oz. size.
This is from the test roll on my $15.00 35/2.8 Curtagon.
looks good paul!
15 bucks eh?
You have to love the Schneider lenses for the Retina cameras. Fine German quality for about 5% of the cost of Leica. The 50mm F1.9 Xenon is terrific. I bought one for $10, and sold for the same to give someone else the oppurtunity of using it. I keep one on my IIIS and one on the Retina Reflex-S. It, the 35mm Curtagon, and 85mm F4 Tele-Arton are the best of the series. The 28mm and 135mm are "serviceable".
Nice to read good comments on the Schneider Retina lenses. Only comments I could get on other sites were disparaging remarks and many years ago contacted Schnieder on LI about cleaning the moving DOF linked arms and a woman with an accent told me to 'Srow Zem Aut'.
Now I guess they're considered collectables. So there. She's probably retired, but the lenses aren't!
Not a RF, but I have a Reflex S with 50/1.9. I hate to admit it, but I opened either the 28 or 135 (I forget, but it doesn't matter, as you'll learn later) to try cleaning it myself in college when I thought I could fix anything. I realized I needed a third hand, put everything in a recloseable bag and in a panic opened the other remaining lens to see where things belonged. Pretty stupid...I had two sets of parts in Zip-Lock baggies for years. Scared off by $$$-quotes with no guarantee, I finally found out about George Mrus and procrastinated too long to scrape up the money and he passed away.
So I took the lenses the rest of the way apart for hacking projects and bought a spare 1.9 as condolences. Interesting, one 1.9 has both feet and meter scales and the other only has feet. One is easy to turn, a little loose mechanically and has a glass flaw on an inner element. The original one is stiffer and unflawed.
Are these Planars? I think I read somewhere they are 6-element. I cannot tell if they are coated. If so, I guess singly.
I am still leery of CLA cost on this...any recommendations? There's a local old timer who has done two Schneider Xenar's for me and unless he won't touch it I think he can do it.
How does the 50/1.9 compare (esthetically is good enough) to something like my Minolta SLR lens (50/14.7 Rokkor?).
The Xenon formula was computed by Taylor, Taylor, and Hobson in the early 1920's. It is often called a "planar", but is similar to the formula. I have read
(here for one)
that it is asymmetrical, and other places that the original Planar formula was very limited in F-Stop. The Xenon opened it up to F2 and faster.
The lens is very sharp, and a bit less contrast than the Japanese lenses. I find it works out quite well for B&W chromogenic films which have too much contrast with my Nikkor SLR lenses.
I have gotten the mounts back on, including those "damn" springs that control the moving DOF indicators. I think it was dental floss to hold them down...
I really like my Schneider lenses. I've mamaged to acquire the entire set of Retina IIIS compatibles save one, the 200mm, which I have no real use for anyway.
An easy way to get them is to watch the e-Bay auctions for the Instamtac Reflex cameras. Quite a few of them have additional lenses that are rangefinder coupled. I suppose some people who had the older Retina "upgraded" to the new 126 film back in the mid-60's. The onlt better bargain in lenses seems to be M-42 SLR lenses.
The Schneider 200mm F4.8 does not RF couple with the IIIS, and has a close-focus of 28'. It will fit on the IIIS. It is a nice looking lens, but can't keep up with a Nikkor 200mm F4.
I don't really like using the coupled 135mm lens, so I figure I had no use for the uncoupled 200mm either. For lenses longer than 100mm, I prefer using SLR's. However, it IS a very handsome looking lens.
What is the title and author of the reference book that you excepted above?
I recently acquired a Retina IIIS with the 50mm f1.9 and find it cumbersome to focus. I started out trying to focus (like with a Leica) with the thumb and forefinger of my left hand. Either due to the size of the focus ring, the turning effort required, or both I found it to be uncomfortable and could change the focus only in small increments and then had to regrip the lens. Anyone else have this problem, or am I just overly critical?
The way I opt to focus now (although not the most efficient way) is to grip the focus ring with the thumb and forefinger my RIGHT hand with the other fingers curled up beneath the lens (to keep them out of the path of the rangefinder). After focusing, the right hand grips the right side of the camera for taking the picture.
What's been your experience with focusing the f1.9?
I have one that is easy to turn and another that is stiffer. I like the eBay spare for the feel but am a little leery about the very slight mechanical clunk as one starts to torque the ring (ever so slightly loose) and the 'sparkly' on the one element.
The shutter was very slow, and I just decided I'd use an auto flash & got ok results except where a person in a black chair against a white wall fooled the auto exposure.
Now I see the shutter double bounces. I feel like I owe the camera the dignity of repair after what I did to it's lenses...and I see someone selling his on site here for 1/3 the cost of what some people want to CLA this camera. But I really don't need another...
I find the focusing is not as visually dramatic as Japanese split screen ground glass methods, but it is what it is. I used to use a rule of thumb for 'impressive' focusing ability- if I can focus a camera without my glasses, I'm impressed. I'll have to try that now with one of my Argus RF's. They give me that 'wow' - cool focussing sensation.
I've been considering the benefits of leaf shutter vs FP as rationalization. But there's still mirror slam...
I had a 50mm F1.9 that was very stiff. I partially disassembled it and lubed it, several years ago. The focus ring is not as wide as on other cameras due to the construction of the mount. The Aperture and Shutter control rings take up a fair portion of the mount.
I focus with my left hand, keeping it under the FOV of the viewfinder. It's fast enough to use on a moving child, but slower than the Leica.
Retina IIIS w 85mm F4 Tele-Arton:
If you like to focus and shoot with your right hand, you need a Nikon or Contax for that focus wheel!
The Reference Book is "Photographic Lenses" by Neblette, 1965 Edition. The 1973 edition covers about 1/2 the formulas. Get the '65 edition!
I have just got back the first roll that I ran through my recently acquired III S and figured that I would add a few shots to this post.
I was originally going to get an CL as a backup for my IIIC, but after using my screwmount for a while I know that I could never be happy with any other Leica other than a screwmount. Then I considered a Canon 7, but, after getting outbid at the last moment on serveral auctions, I started to look for alternatives. I was initially interested in a Voigtlander Prominent, but my sister gave me an old Pentax Spotmatic (no lens) that she had kicking around in her closet. It was at that point I remembered the Cameraquest article about the adapter they sell to allow the use of Retina lenses on Pentax screwmount cameras. My thinking being that I will use the long lenses on the Pentax, the 35 and 50 on the III S, plus a bellows and macrofocus Takumar for the Pentax and the whole kit would be just the thing to take along with me when I participate in archaeological field schools and excavations.
It should be said that my search for a III S started out the same way that my search for a Canon 7 started, getting outbid during the last thirty seconds by people with names like Kodachrome25 and BigYellowIsMyGod ;) etc. etc. And I should say that I was not bidding $50 for every auction either. Some of the cameras that I lost went for more than $150!!
The one that I got was kind of beat up looking in the auction photos and was missing its flash shoe. I thought that the last point was no big deal. I had spotted an original factory spare on the Ritz Collectibles website, but when I went to buy it I was informed that it had just been sold. Oh-well :rolleyes: Anyway, I got my particular Retina for $65, including shipping. And, while I was at it, picked up a 135 for cheap and have a 50 1.9 on the way.
I was surprised, when it arrived. It was nicer than I had thought it would be, and it came with the original manual and a lens shade for the 50 2.8. The viewfinder was bright and clean and everyting worked smoothly.
My first impression was that this is a big, heavy camera. Not something that I would pair up with a wrist strap and that was with the 50, the 135 makes this camera feel like I am carrying a sack of bricks around my neck. My second impression was that this is quite a beautiful looking camera, and in a distinctly different way from any Leica that I have ever seen. Whereas Leicas seem to scream workmanlike precision and efficiency, the Retina seems to be more designed to be eye candy. This was confirmed when I took my Leica and the Retina out to take photos and peoples' eyes would follow the Retina and whisper among themselves about what the camera with the big lens was.
I suppose that the difference could be compared to my first reactions to seeing a 60's Mercedes and 50's jaguar up close for the first time. I can still remember the feeling of awe I had when I got to take a close up look of the interior of a MK2 Jaguar and got a whiff of all that leather and wool carpeting. I can also remember when I got my first ride in a 60's Merc. I was initally impressed by the solidity of the door when I banged it shut, but once I got inside the first words out of my mouth were : "My God! Are these seats vinyl!!!" Of course I have since learned to love Mercs for their solid mechanicals, but I still drool every time I see a vintage Jag.
But I am getting way off track ;)
I have to say that I did not have a particularly difficult time getting used to the controls, but my first rangefinder was an Argus :D and the only difficulty I faced was figuring out what shoot with the 135. I am not particularly interested in wildlife photography or any of things that one usually uses for long lenses.
Photo 1: This was taken with the 50, stopped down and I used the shade. The sun was overhead, and, as you can see it handled it with no problems.
Photo 2: This was taken with the sun almost striking the lens head on and it handled it with no problems.
Photo 3 and 4: This is what the lens does wide open, with the shutter set at 1/500. I had not expected such unusual results. Obviously, not as smooth as my Leica lenses or Hi-Matic, but I like it. :) It is also different from what I have seen with other Retinas shooting wide open. Bad lens? Bad repair? Producion variation?
Photo 5: This was taken with the 135 f22 1/250. It also controlled flare pretty well, but you'll have to take my word on that since I seem to have uploaded the maximum number of photos allowed. :)
You know- this is bizzare. By coincidence I have been tracking the IIIs models that I could find on ebay.
I have been trying to locate more information on the web about this camera and it's kin. but I haven't made much sense out of what I am finding.
Its nice to know that there are others here that are interested and have some background knowledge of the mechanics and lenses.
The 50mm F2.8 Xenar is Schneider's Tessar formula lens. F2.8 pretty much pushed the limits of the classic four-element design. I think your results are pretty much representative of the lens.
The 50mm F1.9 Xenon is my favorite in the Retina line-up, followed by the 85mm F4 tele-arton.
Is the viewfinder clear on your new IIIS? The top pops with three screws, and the finder is accessible for cleaning. I will check if I have a spare accessory shoe in my parts bin. I think the one from the reflex will fit after taking it off of its "pedestal".
I was able to get the 1973 edition of Neblette's book from Amazon for just a few dollars. A discarded public library edition with a very robust binding. Thanks for the info.
My favorite IIIS lens is the 50/1.9 followed by the 35mm.
You can sometimes find great deals on Retina rangefinder coupled lenses by looking at e-Bay auctions for for Instamatic Reflexes. They sometimes accompany these bodies as accessories. Just look for the "Retina-" before the name, Curtagon, Tele-Arton, Xenar or Xenon.
My viewfinder was surprisingly clear. It is so clear compared to any other camera that I have ever gotten that I think that it may have been cleaned recently. And thanks for checking to see if you have a spare shoe :)
I was thinking about getting a Retina Reflex, too, but a 35mm version since I have always been curious about what it is like to use German leaf shutter SLR's.
It seems to me that every time I look here there is some new post about some lens or camera that I am interested in. Maybe that makes all of us co-depenedent enablers for our own GAS attacks, or whatever the term is :D :D
I have a pair of Retina Reflex III's and an Instamatic Reflex that I am trying to rewire to a single 3 volt battery. the Reflex III's both need CLA's . One theses days I will have that done. With the Reflexes in my collection, I am able to utilize those non-rangefinder coupled lenses that I have accumuilated in various batch purchases. The Reflexes ar great for fill-flash shooting since they sync flash at all speeds.
The accessory shoe for the Retina Reflex-S is the same as the IIIS; the screws are also the same. A lot of parts were common between them, all the way down to the fitted case. I've transplanted the meter module from a Dead Reflex-S to the IIIS. I must add that the Reflex cameras are not reliable, and that the gears in them wear out due to the force required to lift the mirror and open the aperture of the lens to the taking position against a spring to close it down once it is released. I had a Reflex-IV rebuilt once, it lasted 5 or so years before breaking down again. I have one Reflex-S in good working condition, Ronsonol to the rescue. But, it gets low use.
Thanks Brian. I'll keep that in mind before I invest too much in both of them. I may restore one for use and keep the other for spare parts.
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