Kodak Retina IIIc

Urban landscapes

I have a new favorite camera. It’s a German-made Kodak Retina IIIc (see my detailed review here). This 35mm folding rangefinder from the 1950’s is fun and easy to use, and the image quality is excellent. I try to avoid being a ‘pixel-peeper’ – someone who zooms in and analyzes every part of an image for sharpness – but I can’t help it with the images from this camera. The first photo above is a classic lens-testing image – straight-on at a brick wall.  I wasn’t thinking of that when I took this photo, I just really liked the image. But looking at the high-res scan on my computer makes me realize how remarkable this camera and lens are. There’s no curvature of the lines, and every brick from corner-to-corner is as sharp as the ones in the center. I don’t think my high-end Canon DSLR would produce as sharp of images with as little distortion as this 55-year-old camera that I bought on ebay for $66. I’m tempted to show a bunch of close-up crops to demonstrate the sharpness, but I want to avoid making this post too much about the technical details. Maybe I’ll do that later on the camera page.

These  images are from a walk through an old industrial area in Northeast Minneapolis, where many of the old warehouses have been converted to art studios, but many are still used industrially. All of these were shot on Kodak Gold Max 400 film, and the ones shown in black and white were converted in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

The camera

This is my 1956 Kodak Retina IIIc that these images were shot on. I really like using this camera and I think I’ll be getting a lot of use out of it. More about the Retina IIIc.

The scans above are the Enhanced Scans from North Coast Photographic Services, and I’m really pleased with the scans from color negative film. They are extremely crisp, high-resolution images (from 35mm film they’re nearly 17 megapixel images).  I had the same problem as last time with some black and white film that I sent them (way high contrast with lost detail in the shadow and highlights), but I’ve been in contact with them and they’re going to rescan the black and whites for me.

The images above are all from color film, and some of them were converted to black and white in Lightroom. I like the control that I have in Lightroom when creating a black and white image from a color image, so I think I’m going to shoot more color film in the future. With Lightroom’s controls you can lighten and darken color ranges from the original color image after it’s converted to black and white, since Lightroom always saves and works from the original source file.  So for instance, if you want the sky to be darker, you can simply darken the blues and it’s as if you had shot the photo on black and white film using a red filter or a polarizer.  But the beauty of it is that you have endless possibilities for adjusting certain colors, not just adjusting the tonal ranges as you can with an image shot on black and white film.


5 Comments on “Kodak Retina IIIc”

  1. I have a Retina IIIc and am having a difficult time trying to price it. What do you suggest?

  2. Rick Schuster says:

    Hi Nathaniel. Just take a look at ebay to see what they’ve sold for recently. When searching, click the ‘advanced’ link, then select ‘Completed listings’, and you’ll see how much they’ve sold for.

  3. Hi! i just got my retina from my grandfather. Im looking forward to get to know how to use it well… can you post some hints?

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Take a look at my main Retina IIIc page under the “the cameras” link at the top-right of the page. That might give you some hints that you need. If you haven’t yet figured out how to reset the counter, you can find that info on that page — that trips up a lot of people. Enjoy using the camera!

  4. Jakob K says:

    Very nice review!! 🙂 Great to see some good test shots! 🙂 Thanks!

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