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Kodak Retina 117. Photograph gallery.
paddle steamer "Waverley"

The paddle steamer Waverley coming alongside Swanage pier late in the evening of 3rd September 2000. A quite heavily cropped image.

Despite appearances the ship is newer than she looks, being built in 1946, making her 11 years younger than the Retina that took the picture, but a suitable subject all the same. "Waverley" remains seaworthy in 2018 and is the last sea going paddle steamer in the world.

Seagull Steam locomotive main driving wheel

The seagull was taken at the other end of the Compur's speed range, i.e., 300th sec., at the widest aperture of f/3.5. This is also a heavily cropped image representing approximately 15% of the negative area.

Eastman Kodak's genius wasn't in inventing new things, but perfecting processes and perfect timing. Kodak introduced the 135 film and the camera to take it when the film was capable of producing the results needed.

historic city of Prague historic city of Prague To celebrate the Retina's 70th birthday - and incidentally my (and a bunch of others) 40th birthdays, the old camera was treated to a trip to Prague in June 2004. Looking across the historic city of Prague, Capital of the Czech Republic. The River Vltava can be seen winding its way through red roofed city and the ancient Charles Bridge with its many arches. These web images really cannot do the Retina justice, it really is quite clear for the era.
Hindu Kush

In November 2017 the 1934 Kodak Retina Model 117, now 83 years old and, you might think, overdue for retirement - was despatched on what would turn out to be almost a world tour. The camera was taken from the display case, given the briefest of checks entailing a quick look for holed bellows and a visual test of the shutter, two films were grabbed from the fridge and off it went. In the next 6 months it was subjected to temperature ranges of -10 to +33c. Altitudes up to 11,000ft and about 30 airport x-rays. Of the 70 frames exposed, 58 are usable. The exposures mixed on those two films ranged from night time long exposures to insane cold, high altitude and sun so bright it made your eyes hurt. Both films were then developed together in the same tank in multi-shot ID11. What could possibly go wrong!

I think, the camera behaved impeccably. The photographer, less so.

In 1934, the jet engine didn't exist. The most modern airliner was the Douglas DC2, seating 14 passengers. The fastest a human had travelled was 440mph in the sublime Italian Macchi M.C.72 Schneider racing seaplane.

Here the Retina captures part of the Hindu Kush from 37,000ft at 510mph, December 23rd 2017. The film was some rather elderly Efke 100.

Capitol Building, Washington DC Washington Monument

Capitol Hill, Washington DC. The original Capitol building dates from 1800, and predates photography by 39 years although an early Daguerreotype image was made of it in 1846. That image bears little resemblance to the building as recorded by the Retina on a chilly afternoon in late January 2018, for it didn't take on the appearance it is today until 1960.

The Washington Monument, finally completed in 1884 after a few fiscal hiccups. On this day the sky was a little more interesting for this study but mostly I just wanted geometric shapes and converging angles to compliment the Monument's apex and linear form. The protracted wait for a gap in passing traffic, cyclists, tourists and wardens, was an act of patience worthy of canonization. IMHO.

The Wife

Now, there is a point to this hasty snapshot, and it is just that. This is what the Retina was expected to do on a day to day basis, take quick snapshots.

So the Retina now found its way to Kiev, Ukraine where it was taken from the bag, the focus guessed at roughly 1.5metres (yes this camera is calibrated in metric, presumably Kodak couldn't get Dr. Nagel to budge on that), aperture and shutter speed set and click. One of two frames, the other was a tad out of focus. Given that is was, shall we say, a little chilly - I wanted to work quickly without gloves, I'm happy with the outcome. The Retina with it's tiny controls and markings is a difficult thing to use with gloves and no reading glasses.

In the 1930s, people didn't "bracket", or fire off many frames, they set up, composed and shot one, maybe two frames.

When I compare this to many family snapshots taken in the 1930s with the common 6x9cm format 120 folding cameras, the Retina has performed commendably.

Bishkek Park

A bit further East now in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan during February 2018. A favourite location and one I've passed through several times in the last five years. I recall it was -10c when I ventured out to my local park to see what I could photograph. It was actually snowing, the resolution is just good enough to betray the 1/25th of a second exposure, as it was getting dark. In fact the negative was a little too dense, I over exposed it a stop I would think. Not helped by the development that was made with a diffuser enlarger in mind, so processed for high contrast.

This is one problem with having 35 exposures on one film, a wide range of subject material, lighting conditions and time variation between when the first and last exposures were made, compounded with a 'one process suits all' approach.

Bishkeky Railway Station

Now at Bishkek Railway station, the plan was to photograph this train in the sidings vanishing into the swirling snow and mist. The icy foot bridge and now cold stiff fingers lead to a slip at the critical moment resulting in this blurred image. Realizing what had happened, I took the shot again. But I much prefer the blurred one, which has taken on a rather impressionistic feel, complimented by the crisp grain structure superimposed on the movement blur.

Capitol Building, Washington DC Washington Monument

March 2018 presented the opportunity to walk the old Byzantine walls of Constantinople, modern day Istanbul in Turkey. The walls have been patched up in places, with the castellations being mostly modern. When using old cameras I often strive for what I term a "date ambiguous" image. That is, an image that at first glance you wouldn't know if it was contemporary with the camera's era, or a modern image. This often limits the view, in order to miss modern aerials, vehicles and present day dress fashions. These two images were squeezed between modern signs, a concrete mixer and a large wheeled refuse bin.

Bottom left, an un-restored section of Byzantine wall towers above these tatty two storey houses, I'm guessing the wall will still be there long after these two buildings have vanished.

Capitol Building, Washington DC Washington Monument

Exploring the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul revealed a dark corner where a single beam of sunlight penetrated from high up. After forming this fabulous backlit halo, the light bounced off the marble floor and again from a marble pillar to give the soft fill in illumination and resultant glow on the face. This was a difficult image to take, it was too dark to see the Retina's controls easily and I was close in where the depth of field is minimal, particularly as I was using the lens at the widest aperture. The exposure was long, at half a second and was handheld, requiring both me and the subject to remain still. The result is pretty much as intended, there is a small amount of camera shake, but that hasn't harmed the image overall.

But in 1934 the Retina made difficult shots readily attainable, and the 35mm revolution was on it's way.

Village Museum, Bucharest

A brief visit to Bucharest in Romania in march 2018, but managed to get the week the temperature suddenly dropped to several degrees below zero. This wasn't what had been expected when leaving three weeks previously,

so I wasn't really equipped. The village museum in Bucharest has collected together various wooden buildings from around Romania and re-assembled them here. It made for a suitably date ambiguous image, if you ignore the shopping trolley and carrier bag.

New Mosque, Bishkek Shymbulak

Back in central Asia. At left, you'd be forgiven in thinking we were back in Istanbul, but this gleaming new Mosque is approaching completion in Bishkek in spring 2018.

At right is Shymbulak, Kazakhstan, at the end of a fabulous three stage cable car ride approaching forty minutes duration. At this height in the clear air the sun was intense and the camera was stopped down to f/16 at 1/300th, and the shot was into sun. The brightest highlight is the sun reflecting off the ice high up on the slope, this exposure has enabled a good deal of tonal shaping in the snow despite the fact it was too bright to look at with the naked eyes.

Vienna Tram Vienna Alley

By late April 2018, the tour wound up in Vienna, Austria. At left we have one of the older tram car sets that still trundle the streets of Vienna. The public transport in Vienna is fabulous and integrated between tram, bus, train or metro so that one ticket is available to complete any journey for a fixed price.

Vienna is a fabulous place to explore, architecturally you need to lift up your eyes above shop front height to get the best from it. Here though, I have chosen a back alley illuminated by streetlights and the reflections off cobbles.

Anti Aircraft Tower, Vienna

The final image was a dilemma. Sitting at a cafe and with a coffee and munching my way through a piece of apple strudel, I was wondering how to take a picture of the colossal anti aircraft 'flak' tower, one of two monumental WW2 concrete structures that loom above the trees in Augarten. The sky was flat and uninteresting. I was reluctant to take this image, because middle aged guys taking pictures of children in the park is very much frowned upon these days. A sad indictment of our modern times. But the image was compelling, with the tower so alien in appearance towering over the scene. In the end I decided to give it a go, and elected to get down to the same eye level as the kids, using a slow shutter speed to allow movement to play a part and waited until there were no adults in the frame. They played, oblivious to me, and the alien structure behind.

I imagined I would never publish the image without permission and resigned myself to that end. I returned to my coffee and strudel. After a while I saw the kids run to two ladies sitting on a bench, so I decided to explain the shot I had taken and ask if it would be okay to publish. They were fine with it, and here it is.

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