The Kodak Retina 1a was a camera that I bought because I wanted a small 35mm folding camera, back in 2000. Found one in a second hand photographic equipment shop in Oxford, at a good price and therefore, quite affordable for my income at the time. My previous 35mm small folding camera was a Welta Weltix, which gave up after being dropped, which was a shame because it was quite a good and interesting little folder.
Kodak Retina 1a was introduced in 1951 and ended production series in 1954, so only 3 years of manufacturing period. This was the first of the Retina I models to feature a film advancing lever that cocked the shutter at the same time, which was revolutionary. This method superseded the old shutter cocking method, done manually for each frame upon film advance (knob wise).
The lens is an excellent Retina-Xenar (Schneider Kreuznach), 50/2.8, set in a Synchro Compur shutter of the best German quality. Shutter speeds range from B to 1/1 to 1/500. Focusing is manual, at distance, set by a smooth dial, in meters. The film winding lever is sturdy and operates very nicely. The apertures are set from 2.8 to 16, by an underneath the lens lever. Film type reminder on the top plate, but not linked to anything.
The focusing is extremely smooth, I have no other term for it. It basically slides effortless on its course, and on this camera, is actually very exact, and I really mean that. The shutter speed ring is also moving in a crisp and reassuring way to each of the notches present.
There is cold shoe on the top plate, which can be used together with a flash sync socket to be found underneath the lens. The release button is very crisp and threaded, but no locking ring or option. The top of the film winding lever is housing the exposure counter, which can be and should be manually set.
The camera is covered with some sort of leatherette, but it feels like a layer of vulcanite. Very good quality, very hard to scratch or rip. Camera sports two eyelets for a neck strap, advisable if you do not have the ever-ready case, or if you choose to use it without one such protection.