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Kodak Retina and Ektra Rangefinders This forum is for 35mm Kodak Retinas and Ektras rangefinders. The Retinas are known for their German engineering, relatively modest price and superb lenses. The Ektras are known as by far the finest 35mm American made rangefinder ever made.

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Review: Kodak Ektra (1941)
Old 07-23-2019   #1
eckmanmj
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Review: Kodak Ektra (1941)

Last week, I declared the Bell & Howell Foton to be my all time favorite 35mm camera, and now, I bring to you a camera which gives that Foton a serious run for it's money.

Designed in the late 1930s and originally called the Super Kodak 35, the Kodak Ektra became the most expensive and advanced camera, not just in America, but in the whole world.

With features that no other camera system had like an interchangeable magazine back, an adjustable varifocal viewfinder, and a complete selection of fully Lumenized coated lenses, the Kodak Ektra was a sight to behold.

Of any camera I've ever written about, this is the one I've wanted the most, and finally, I've done it. Here is my full 8681 word review of the Kodak Ektra.

https://www.mikeeckman.com/2019/07/kodak-ektra-1941/

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Old 07-23-2019   #2
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Congratulations, Mike, that's quite a score.
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Old 07-23-2019   #3
Steve M.
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I attempted to read that review, but all the over the top "patriotic" jingoism and ads for a paypal donation made that impossible. This is a photography site.

Sometimes, less is more
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Old 07-23-2019   #4
charjohncarter
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Joseph Mihalyi certainly had a different approach to designing cameras. I didn't pick up on flash capability. And is the Royal Scott outboard related to Scott Atwater? Good article thanks.
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Old 07-23-2019   #5
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Kudos to Kodak for being such an early adopter of the wind lever with its inclusion in the Ektra. A technical tour de force it's perhaps not surprising the model was the first of all Kodaks, to use one. But I think you'll find the Kine Exakta of 1935 is most likely the first 35mm camera to include a wind lever. Although, having a Kine myself, I wouldn't necessarily call that fitted to it a "rapid wind" lever, with its idiosyncratic Exakta massive arc of travel and absence of intermediate gearing to shorten the stroke.

The diagram of the Ektra rangefinder is fascinating, thanks for sharing that. I'd dearly love to examine one under the hood, in the flesh.

Lastly it's noteworthy that the Ektra shutter relied on a pre-formed slit width for varying the higher speeds. Whilst not unheard of in earlier large format shutters it's rather less common in 35mm cameras. The Contax and Contax II/III come to mind as another instance albeit, of course, in a vertically travelling installation.
Interesting review. It must have been hell, giving it back!
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Old 07-23-2019   #6
eckmanmj
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
I attempted to read that review, but all the over the top "patriotic" jingoism and ads for a paypal donation made that impossible. This is a photography site.

Sometimes, less is more
Thanks for the feedback Steve. I worked really hard on this review and hope people find it an enjoyable read. That said, I am always looking for ways to make the site more accessible so I'm curious how I could make it better.

I have only a single mention for donations on the page. This is consistent with many blogs that ask for these things to offset hosting costs.

Also, which patriotic jingoism were you referring to? The Ektra was an American made camera, so it does come up, but is there anything you're specifically referring to that's offensive?
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Old 07-23-2019   #7
eckmanmj
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
Joseph Mihalyi certainly had a different approach to designing cameras. I didn't pick up on flash capability. And is the Royal Scott outboard related to Scott Atwater? Good article thanks.
Flash synchronization must not have been a priority at the time as the only reference to flash use in Kodak's literature is by using one of those external sync cords that connects to the shutter release via the cable release socket.

This is consistent though with the Kodak Medalist I, which also does not have any internal flash sync capability either. That was later added to the Medalist II.

And the picture of the outboard motor isn't of any significance. Theres this car near where I work thats always parked with a boat connected to it that I like making photos of.
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Old 08-20-2019   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eckmanmj View Post
Last week, I declared the Bell & Howell Foton to be my all time favorite 35mm camera, and now, I bring to you a camera which gives that Foton a serious run for it's money.

Designed in the late 1930s and originally called the Super Kodak 35, the Kodak Ektra became the most expensive and advanced camera, not just in America, but in the whole world.

With features that no other camera system had like an interchangeable magazine back, an adjustable varifocal viewfinder, and a complete selection of fully Lumenized coated lenses, the Kodak Ektra was a sight to behold.

Of any camera I've ever written about, this is the one I've wanted the most, and finally, I've done it. Here is my full 8681 word review of the Kodak Ektra.

https://www.mikeeckman.com/2019/07/kodak-ektra-1941/

Excellent review. I fail to see any jingoism that Steve M. complains about; to the extent that it exists, it just reflects Kodak's motivation in making the system & their marketing materials.

I have several Ektras (2 working bodies) & the entire lens line (except for the 153) & they are fun to use. The biggest hang up for me is the left-handed orientation since I'm very right-handed, but it's a nice change of pace from my other cameras. The interchangeable magazines are a very useful feature & I think they're easier to use than the ones on the Zeiss Ikon Contarex (the other great over-engineered 35mm system of the 20th century).

To answer your question in the review about when the 50/1.9 lens was made, I think most lenses were made between 1940-early 1941 because Pearl Harbor most likely put the production of new lenses on hiatus until the end of the war. Almost all of my 50 & 135 Ektars were made in 1940. The exceptions are a 50/1.9 made in 1945 (which has visible coating on the external lens elements as well, unlike earlier lenses which had internal coating only), a 1946 50/1.9 non-focusing TV Ektanon & a similarly non-focusing 1953 135/3.3 TV Ektanon. My 35 & 90 Ektars are from 1941.

The 1945 50/1.9 & the 35/3.3 are my go-to lenses.

My biggest concern for Ektra owners would be finding 1 that works &/or keeping it running as there aren't many people who can fix them. In your article you mention that the owner of your review Ektra, Dan Hausman, had it serviced locally in Ohio. It would be great to find out who this person is, as the recently retired Ken Ruth was the only technician I knew about in North America.
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Five a Second. Chicago's Bell & Howell Co. (cameras) announced that it would put on sale this fall the world's most expensive still camera. Its "Foton" will take five 35-mm. pictures a second, sell for $700. Bell & Howell, which has found that "families of both low and high incomes now spend over $550" for movie equipment, hopes to sell 20,000 Fotons a year.
--Facts And Figures, Time magazine, Monday, October 4, 1948
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Old 08-20-2019   #9
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Thanks for pointing us to a great, and detailed review of a camera that I never knew existed. The back-stories that usually only collectors of rarities like this know, and that this high-end camera was actually made in America is very interesting, and even sweeter with patriotic jingoism to top it all off. I really enjoy your reviews.
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