I have had this camera for 21 yrs now, bought it from a small shop in London, in Camden Town. At the time of this purchase, never owned or tried out a Retinette camera, and I cannot say that I wanted one badly. My camera of choice back then was an Olympus OM1, together with the Minox cameras always in my bag. What convinced me to buy this Kodak was the accuracy of the meter, and the manner in which the reading was taken.
It feels like an indestructible piece, when you handle it for the first time. I am pleased with its design too, for the minimalistic approach to how it’s been put together and its functionality makes this little camera a joy to hold, use and shoot with. Suffice to say that I haven’t had any issues with it, and believe you me, this was a camera which I carried around for many years while traveling. Always worked like a charm, never ruined a film.
Made starting with 1959, the Kodak Retinette 1b is a great piece of engineering. A beautiful coated glass Rodenstock Reomar of 45/1:2.8, in a Pronto LK shutter, with speeds ranging from B to 1/500th of sec, smooth operation and a reliable leaf assembly. The meter is selenium, coupled with the shutter; reading is made via a lever sliding around the lens housing. A flash sync socket can be found on the front plate.
Sliding the lever moves a needle in the viewfinder scale, left/right, and one has to match the middle of that scale with the needle. Distance is set by zone focusing, and numbers are conveniently marked in both imperial and metric. Apertures from 2.8 to 22.
The viewfinder is a large, really large one, making it easy to frame the subject, and the meter scale with its needle matching thing is extremely easy to see and use. I would say that the size of the viewfinder is one of the largest I have seen in this type and class of old cameras. The top plate is minimalistic too, with a cold shoe, release button (threaded), an exposure counter and a rewind wheel. There is a disc on top of the rewind wheel, actually a simple reminder of the type of the film one loaded in the camera.
The film advance lever is unusual. Although this is not the only camera to sport a lever on the bottom plate instead of the regular top plate, the Retinette 1b looks like it was designed for it or around it. It comes very natural to using the lever, very well made and with a smooth action. It is not obtrusive in any way, and does not hinder the handling of the camera whatsoever. A tripod bush is situated on the opposite side of the lever, on the same bottom plate, where there is also a button to unlock the gears for rewinding the film.
This camera still works great. Pity that I do not have the time or opportunity anymore to use it more often.