Camera’s Explorer I – Kodak Retina type 118 (1935)

Posted: April 22, 2012 in WaLL Gallery!, WaLL Museum!
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

At 11:30 on the morning of May 29, 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mt Everest, 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth!!

The Ascent of Everest

The Ascent of Everest

It is the picture (source) of the Tenzing Norgay on the top of Mt Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary was the photographer.

If you are familiar with luxury watches (sorry I am not…), you must know it is the story behind the Rolex Explorer I – the first watch reached the highest mountain in the world, Mt Everest.
To my surprise, not so many people care or ask about which camera was used for this difficult task in 1953. What camera in 1953 was able to function well to capture this wonderful image at the highest spot on earth. The answer is here: Kodak Retina type 118 (RETINA 118). Retina 118 was produced in 1935-1936 and was the successor of Retina 117, which was introduced in my last article [Link].  Retina 118 is very similar to Retina 117,  except the rewind clutch lever was moved from film knob to the back of the top cover, and the film sprocket shaft extends across camera body. According to the record, only 9144 pieces of Retina 118 were produced.

Back of Kodak Retina type 118

Back of Kodak Retina type 118

You may question about why Sir Edmund Hillary had to use a 1935 camera to finish a 1953 Mt Everest expedition.  Obviously, Kodak was NOT the sponsor of their task. Sir Edmund bought his Retina 118 from a second hand shop and did some minor modifications, e.g. adding a small extension that was attached to the film advance lever. This allowed the operation of the film advance with heavy gloves. Now the camera was on display at an Auckland Museum.

My collection, Retina 118, is equipped with Xenar lens and Compur shutter.
It is a very compact and durable camera, so good for travel (if you don’t mind it is just a viewfinder camera, with no light metering).

Kodak Retina type 118 (1935)

Kodak Retina type 118 (1935)

Here I shared some of my photos, which were taken by this legendary camera during last Christmas…

Heidelberg Castle - Film: TMax100

Heidelberg Castle – Film: TMax100

^ This picture was taken under heavy rain in German Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle - Double Exposure - Film: TMax100

Heidelberg Castle – Double Exposure – Film: TMax100

^ Retina has no double exposure prevention system, you can  use it to create creative double exposure images

Heidelberg Christmas Market - Film: TMax100 - Model: Lu

Heidelberg Christmas Market – Film: TMax100 – Model: Lu

^ Do you like the bokeh of this  f3.5 Schneider Kreuznach Xenar Lens

Inside of Basel Munster - Film: TMax100

Inside of Basel Munster – Film: TMax100

^ Inside of the Basel Munster in Switzerland, 4s exposure time 

Details of the Camera:

Camera model – Retina type 118

Year built – 1935-1936

Lens – f3.5 Schneider Kreuznach Xenar (SN: 815333)

Shutter – Compur

Shutter speed – T, B, 1sec to 1/300 sec

Total quantity built: 9,144

Made in Germany

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Comments
  1. […] models a bit, I found out that Sir Edmund Hillary used a camera exactly identical to one of them on his first trip to the top of Mt Everest, a Kodak Retina […]

  2. Richard says:

    Just discovered that I have the same model which my father, a keen photographer at the time bought second hand in 1966. Mine is Serial No. 483378, not such good condition!

  3. Timber says:

    I just bought one off eBay in seemingly great condition. Looking forward to trying it out. I love 6×9 folding cameras, but I’m trying to stick to 35mm. My usual camera is a Leica CL (or M4, or IIIa, or Leicaflex SL) or OM-1. Apparently there’s something about mountaineering classics 🙂 The CL isn’t comfortable in a pocket, but the 118 is. I’m hoping the 1/300 is consistent (if not accurate), because I prefer ISO 400.

  4. […] level. One of the first series of Retina model (Typ 118) has even immortalized the conquest of Mount Everest! Demonstrating compactness, combined with a proverbial […]

  5. […] level. One of the first series of Retina model (Typ 118) has even immortalized the conquest of Mount Everest! Demonstrating compactness, combined with a proverbial […]

  6. victormbethell@gmail.com says:

    I have bought a model 118 from my local photography shop for £15. Only one shutter speed working but a previous owner has included given the aperture settings for Ilford FP4 film. Back to “proper” photography. Looking forward to seeing the results.

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