Kodak Retina Reflex Series

Retina Reflex S, Reflex Instamatic

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

By the late 1950s, it became clear that the era of the rangefinder was drawing to a close. People wanted to see exactly what they were shooting. They wanted to use interchangeable lenses without the complexity of multiple framelines. They wanted macro photography capabilities. This all pointed to the growing dominance of the single lens reflex (SLR). Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

The successful Retina rangefinder series at Kodak was feeling pressure to release a SLR. Using the basic body and shutter of the Retina, they built in a reflex mirror and pentaprism. The compactness of the Retina rangefinder was retained and the result was a well-built solid camera.

The first Retina Reflex (1958; code number 025) had a front-cell interchangeable Schneider Xenon or Xenar lens. You could actually use the interchangeable front-elements of the 35mm f/5.6 wide, 50mm f/2 standard, or the 80mm f4 tele from the Retina IIc or IIIc rangefinders if you wanted to change the focal length of the lens.

A year later, the factory in Stuttgart adopted the Deckel bayonet mount for their IIIs rangefinders and Retina Reflex S cameras. This allowed for a broad range of interchangeable lenses and was a brilliant move on Kodak's part. It also improved the optical performance of the camera since the each lens focal length could be optimized individually. The Retinas that use the Deckel mount are the: Retina IIIs, Retina Reflex III, Retina Reflex IV, Retina Reflex S, and the Retina Instamatic.

Deckel, a company based in Germany, is the creator of the Compur shutters and the designer of the bayonet mount for the Retina Reflex, Voigtlander Bessamatic and Ultramatic cameras. There was a very small modification to make it difficult to interchange Kodak 'S' mount lenses with their Voiglander cousins, but it's apparently easy to work around with some judicious filing.

Unfortunately, the quality German SLRs could not compete with the Japanese SLR invasion of the 1960s and 1970s in price. The Retina Reflex and rangefinder series ended in the early 1970s.

In addition to my Retina rangefinders, I own two Retina Reflex cameras: the Retina Reflex S and the Retina Instamatic.


Retina Reflex S (Type 034) 1959~61
The Retina Reflex S is built on the Retina IIIS rangefinder body (which is related to the Retina IIIc). It shares the rangefinder's strange bottom mounted wind lever, Synchro-Compur shutter, count-down frame counter and top-mounted match-needle selenium cell metering. My guess is that much if not most of the factory production tooling was shared between the two cameras.

The IIIs and the Reflex S share interchangeable Deckel mount lenses. You can take a IIIs lens and put it on the Reflex S. To some degree you can do the reverse, although there are some Reflex lenses that don't have the rangefinder cam to allow the IIIs to focus. There are quite a variety of 'S' lenses available. My camera came with a Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenar 50mm f/2.8. I'm looking to upgrade it to the a Xenon (50mm f/1.9) at some point. Unlike the IIIc, you don't have to worry about matching lens serial numbers with the body serial number because the entire lens optical unit is exchanged.

The user interface is a bit weird. The shutter-speed is controlled on the lens barrel. There's no obvious way to control the aperture, the barrel doesn't have any knob for it. It turns out that you control the aperture with a dial on the bottom of the camera. What's nice is that the depth-of-field indicators will move depending on the aperture you have dialed in. Despite being a Synchro-Compur shutter, there is no EV setting for quick dialing in of exposure values.



Retina Instamatic Reflex (Type 062) 1968-70
You have to admit by the time a company is producing an Instamatic, things have gone downhill. Indeed, the Instamatic Reflex was one of the last cameras to come out under the Retina marquee. But that being said, the Instamatic Reflex has to be the nicest Instamatic 126 camera ever made. The Instamatic cartridge was released in 1963 and lasted until 1988 when the last Instamatic camera was sold in the U.S. The problem was the plastic Instamatic film cartridge could not hold the film flat enough for good optical performance and the actual frame size was too small for even moderate enlargement.

The Instamatic Reflex had a bright crisp focusing screen with rangefinder-circle; CdS aperture-priority automatic exposure with an electronic shutter. The AE metering was one of the first ever designed. It used two huge PX825 batteries that slid into a very nicely designed battery chamber on the bottom. Of course, these mercury batteries are long since banned and aren't available anymore. But it doesn't matter because where are you going to get Instamatic film too? (Actually you can reload the spools or buy it from some vendors). Amazingly, the batteries in my Instmatic Reflex still worked and the shutter worked great too. The electronic shutter will open for more than 10 seconds in aperture priority.

The camera takes flash cubes but there's even a PC sync socket hidden right next to the flash-cube attachment. Like I said, this has to be the nicest Instamatic camera ever made.

The 45mm f/2.8 Retina-Xenar that came with the Instamatic is not rangefinder-cammed, so you can't use it for the IIIs rangefinder. It is, however, compatible with the other 'S' cameras using the Deckel mount as noted above.


Things to watch out for 

Like the Retina rangefinders, the Reflexes have a Dreaded Interlock that you should watch out for while evaluating the camera:

Technical Details

Camera Name
Instamatic Reflex (Type 062)   Retina Reflex S (Type 034)
Place of Manufacture

Stuttgart, Germany

Date of Manufacture
1968-70   1959~61
78,000 produced
Focusing System

Single-lens reflex


Interchangeable 'S' type bayonet lens mount (aka Deckel mount)
Lens has its own focusing helicoid


Compur Electronic leaf (in-lens) shutter: 10+ sec - 1/500


Synchro-Compur leaf (in-lens) leaf shutter: 1 sec. - 1/500 sec + B

Metering System

Aperture-priority auto-exposure
CdS cell on camera front


Selenium cell (coupled)


f/1.9-f/16 (stepless)


f/1.9-f/22 (stepless)
Actual range depends on lens


Built-in flash cube mount
PC flash sync

Cold shoe on top
PC flash connection on bottom (V-M-X switch on lens)

Film type / speeds

Kodak Instamatic 126
28mm x 28mm

  Type 135 (35mm standard)
24x36mm image size
Battery type
2 x PX825 (1.35 mercury-oxide)
Dimensions and weight



Retail price
$162 (1968 body only)
$199 w/ 45mm f/2.8


Retina Type 'S' Lenses

Lens Xenar 45mm f/2.8 Retina-Xenar 50mm f/2.8 Retina-Xenon 50mm f/1.9
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture      
Lens Construction   4 elements in 3 groups 6 elements in 4 groups
Lens Mount

Kodak Retina 'S' bayonet mount (aka Deckel mount)
no rangefinder cam

Kodak Retina 'S' bayonet mount (aka Deckel mount)
SLR and rangefinder-cam coupled
Focusing range

1m - infinity
3.3 ' - infinity
(left focusing, infinity on left)

3 ' - infinity
(right focusing, infinity on right)



f/2.8, 2.0 ~ f/16 (1 stop steps)
5 aperture blades

f/2.8, 2.0 ~ f/16 (stepless)
5 aperture blades

Filter Mount  

32 mm push-on

58mm screw-on
60mm push-on

Dimensions and weight      
Retail price   ¥ ¥



About Kodak

Let me get something straight: Kodak was never about high quality photography. George Eastman wanted to make photography available for the masses, to put a camera in every hand. Previously, photography was a messy, icky affair with wet chemistry glass plates that had to be coated before each exposure and processed immediately in a darkroom tent. You literally needed your own pack mule to take photos anywhere.

Kodak developed the technique of putting film emulsion onto a thin flexible backing and thus developed the first roll film. Kodak also gave us the numbering system (Type 135 for 35mm film; Type120/220 for medium format roll film, etc.). Originally, 35mm film was designed solely for motion picture usage. It was Oscar Barnack's brilliant idea to use it for still photography that led to the Leica, and the development of 35mm miniature cameras.

Despite the fact that I'm a technical snob and wouldn't use (or touch!) any Kodak camera except a Nagel-type Retina and a film snob so the only Kodak film I use is Tri-X (I'm Fuji Film all the way otherwise), I do have to credit Kodak (and Leica) with making photography available to everyone. Otherwise, we'd all still be hauling heavy glass plate cameras around on our pack mules. If you think your SUV gets bad mileage! ...


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