Camera and case, Retina IIIc, metal/ plastic/ glass/ leather, manufactured by Eastman Kodak Company, Germany, 1954-1957
Dr. August Nagel had directed operations at German camera maker Contessa Nettel before its merger with Zeiss-Ikon. According to Zeiss Historica (www.zeisshistorica.org), Dr. Nagel provided the framework for the Super Ikonta family of medium-format cameras before leaving the company to form his own camera factory, Nagel Camerwerks in Stuttgart.
In 1931, Kodak bought Nagel Camerawerks, renaming it Kodak A.G., and allowed Dr. Nagel to continue to oversee production and camera design for his American owners. Nagel produced several pre-Retina cameras for Kodak, including the Recomar, Pupille, Vollenda and Duo 620.
Just three years later, Kodak released the first Retina in 1934 -- the Type 117. It was followed by a succession of cameras bearing the Retina name, with several major design changes.
The first Retina was perhaps one of the more-important cameras in 35mm photography for a couple of reasons.
When the Retina was introduced, Kodak also unleashed another product on the marketplace that had a much broader, longer-lasting impact on photography: the 35mm daylight-loading film cartridge. It's materially the same 35mm film cartridge that we use today. Before this, photographers had to buy precut lengths of film and load their own film cartridges using a darkroom or changing bag. It likely dissuaded the average person from using a 35mm camera.
Next, the relatively low price of the Retina camera, combined with the easy-to-use 35mm cartridge, brought photography to the masses -- a trademark of sorts for Kodak.
Until the introduction of the Retina Reflex and Retina IIIS, all of the Retinas were folding cameras. As new features were added throughout the years, the bodies grew taller and wider and heavier.
You probably can divide the folding Retinas into four distinct periods: the original Retinas, the pre-war Retinas, the post-war Retina I and II models with the square lens doors and top-mounted wind knobs and levers and the Retina b/B and c/C models. But with more than 30 Retina models, it might be a little difficult to categorize them all. And to make identification even more confusing, there were small variations within each model. Further, some models were only sold in the U.S. or European markets. And for a long period, none of the Retinas were available for retail sale in the United Kingdom, due to strict import laws. However, that didn't stop returning World War II servicemen from bringing the cameras into the country.
Dr. Nagel didn't see the Retina line through to the end. He passed away in 1943, which was just as well, because by the time the Retina name was mercifully put to rest in the 1960s, the quality and look of the last cameras that bore the Retina name had departed sharply from Dr. Nagel's original design.
Still, there is no denying that the Retina cameras forever changed 35mm photography. And Kodak and Dr. Nagel each played a significant role in having shaped the market.
In 1846 Carl Zeiss (1816-1888) started his instrument making business in a small town of Jena in Germany. He quickly became interested in optics and by 1848 was making and designing microscopes. By 1866 Zeiss realised that to expand his business he needed someone with a greater understanding of optics. Zeiss found the right person in Ernst Abbe (1840-1905) and by 1870 they had devised a new way for computing the manufacture of optical lenses which would improve performance by eradicating much of the colour and spherical distortion of the lens.
In 1879 they produced the homogenous immersion objective but the flint and crown glass which they used to make their lenses needed to be improved before they could perfect their lenses. Optical glass made from silica, soda and potash was supplied by manufacturers who used the same recipes for much of the nineteenth century. It was only after Zeiss and Abbe teamed up with the glass maker Otto Schott in 1881 that they were able to produce a better quality glass without so much of the characteristic green or yellow tinges.
In 1886 Zeiss and Abbe produced the apochromatic (achromatic) microscope lens. Consisting of ten lenses it effectively removed secondary spectra distortion and spherical aberration. Using the new glass and Abbe's formulas the Zeiss factory began producing their famed anastigmatic photography lenses in 1890. It was around this time that the Zeiss works began constructing eye pieces and objectives for telescopes.
These eyepieces were used with the 11 1/2-inch refractor telescope, and were sold by Hugo Schroeder whose name is on the label in the wooden box.
Auerbach, F., The Zeiss Works and the Carl Zeiss Foundation in Jena, W. & G., Foyle, London, England, about 1925?
By Geoff Barker, November, 2007