Chris's camera pages

Retina & Retinette common faults

The shutters.

Leaf-blade shutters, like the ones fitted to various Retina & Retinette models, all need to be serviced every now and then to keep them working well, or even working at all come to that! Back in the days when this style of camera shutter was very much the flavour of the month, it was usually recommended that a shutter was stripped down, cleaned, reassembled and adjusted once every five years to keep working accurately. That doesn't necessarily mean that all shutters will become useless after five years of course, you might get twice that time, or even much longer with your camera, just don't count on it. If you don't need the slow speeds or the very fastest, then a shutter that needs a CLA may still work well enough for your purposes.

If you don't need to use the self-timer (also called the delay action ) mechanism, then leave it well alone. Many otherwise useful shutters will be jammed completely if the self timer is set and then refuses to run.

Shutter problems rarely require replacement parts, usually a CLA (clean, lube and adjust) is what is needed.

Over time lubricants elsewhere in the shutter will migrate onto the shutter blades, and this will stick the finely polished blades together like glue. A shutter with this problem will sometimes work fine when the camera is warm, but when the camera is cold the shutter just "clicks", but the blades don't open. A shutter with oil on the blades may also start working apparently normally after a few "wind and click" cycles, but when left overnight will be back to refusing to work.

shutter blades stuck together with oil

Here you see the shutter blades from a Retina IIIc that I lifted out as one piece because they were so well glued together with oil. You might also have noticed that there is no obvious sign of oil on the exposed surfaces. Oil on the blades is often invisible unless the shutter is viewed partly open, as the oil is hidden between the overlapping surfaces.

Alternatively, lubricants used in the shutter mechanism may have dried out to leave a sticky, wax-like base that prevents moving parts from traveling at the normal rate. Sometimes the sticking will be so severe that the various springs in the shutter are unable to move the part that they control back to the rest position, and you might see the blades do not open at all, or may not close again entirely if they do manage to open.

Another common source of problems is that the fine clockwork gear trains that regulate exposure time or the shutter delay action mechanism tend to accumulate dust and this can stop the shutter from working correctly.

Occasionally you will see a shutter where some component has been bent by a lever being forced. A broken self-timer on the Pronto shutters used on Retinettes is the classic example of shutters damaged by this sort of abuse. In some cases the damaged part can be straightened successfully, but at other times a replacement part must be fitted.

General faults

The Retina & Retinette models can, and often do, suffer from a variety of other faults.

The rangefinder images may be out of alignment, or the rangefinder may be gummed up with dried out lubricants. This could mean that it fails to follow the action of the lens focus mechanism and the coincident images in the rangefinder do not indicate correct focus.

Dried out lubricants in the helical thread lens mount can stick to such an extent that when the focus ring is forced it jumps over the retaining screwheads and the focus ring is left unconnected to the lens. This is most commonly encountered on the Ia, IIa and earlier models.

Models in which advancing the film also cocks the shutter automatically, can have problems with this mechanism. The shutter cocking rack is prone to having the teeth deformed and stripped. Other gears that transmit the action from the film advance shaft may also be broken. The only cure is replacement parts. The Retina Ia and IIa do not really suffer from these problems much, this is more of a problem on the later models. Retinettes mostly use a different shutter cocking mechanism which is not subject to this problem, the exceptions being the Retinette II & IIB, which use a special shutter-cocking rack.

Film advance and shutter interlock problems can be caused by a variety of things depending on the model.

The exposure meters fitted to the Retina IIIc, IIIC, IB, the Retinette IIB and the original Retina Reflex are not coupled to the aperture and shutter speed settings, but those fitted to the Retina IIS, Retina IIIS, Reflex S, Reflex III and the Reflex IV are coupled through a long cord running over pulleys and drums. Those cords are prone to breaking, and when this happens the follower needle will not move when the aperture or shutter speed are adjusted.

The most common problem with a dead meter is caused by the movement going open circuit, the selenium cells rarely die completely. A meter movement may also be jammed if it has jumped off the pivots, usually caused by the camera being dropped.

Each of the Retina models have their own particular set of common faults, I have tried to list some of them below for you.

Retina Ia and IIa

Retina Ia and IIa cameras have one or two special weaknesses that can cause problems. The most common complaint is that the frame counter at the top of the film advance lever is not working. This is almost invariably down to a broken frame counter spring. The part is quite fragile and will die of old age all by itself, but the process is assured if someone has attempted to turn the frame counter the wrong way.

Another common problem with this model is where the shutter fails to stay cocked, and instead releases immediately when the film advance lever is returned to the rest position. The problem is usually caused by a broken spring in the flash synch mechanism inside the shutter.

These models, and the earlier Retinas are often found with very stiff focus rings because the grease has dried out to a hard wax.

There is a commonly repeated myth circulating that these cameras suffer from weak shutter-cocking racks, they don't. In fact I can't remember when I've had cause to replace one. I have seen a few Ia and IIa cameras with a broken gear on the top of the sprocket shaft, or elsewhere in the film advance but not often.

Retina IIIc and related models

Retina I, IIc, IIIc, IB, IIC, and IIIC models often suffer from damaged shutter cocking racks. The main symptom when this has happened is that the shutter is not cocked by the film advance, and so does not open and close when the release is pressed, or in most cases, the shutter release button cannot be depressed at all. The film advance should be released using the film release button. If the problem is just that the shutter is in need of a CLA, then the movement of the film advance lever will be smooth and apparently normal. If the shutter cocking rack is damaged, then the action of the film advance lever will often be rough, and sometimes the advance lever may not return to the normal rest position snug against the camera body.

Retina Reflex

The Retina Reflex models have a very complicated mechanisms, and as a result they can suffer from a wide variety of problems.

The shutter cocking racks are a different design from the type used on the Retina IIIc. Where the IIIc racks most commonly tend to strip the teeth on the part of the rack that meshes with the gear on the top of the film advance shaft, with the Reflex models it is the teeth on the part of the rack that drives the shutter cocking/ mirror actuating cam that tend to get damaged instead.

All the Retina Reflex models lack an instant return mirror. This means that after taking a picture the shutter remains closed and you cannot see through the viewfinder until the shutter has been cocked again by the film advance lever. This isn't a bug it's a feature!

If your Retina Reflex is in fully working condition, when you swing the film advance lever, first the capping plate drops down to cover the film plane, the reflex mirror lowers into viewing position, and then finally the shutter and lens diaphragm open to allow you to focus and compose your picture.

When you release the shutter, first the shutter closes and the diaphragm closes down to the set aperture, then the mirror and capping plate swing up out of the way. After this the shutter opens and closes for the set exposure time.

A problem with adjustment in the mechanism may be indicated if the shutter opens when you swing the film advance lever, but then immediately closes and remains closed as the film advance lever returns to the rest position.

If the shutter fails to open at all when you swing the film advance lever then the camera most likely has a stripped shutter cocking rack, or one of three gears in the shutter cocking mechanism has broken teeth. If the action of the film advance lever feels rough or if it does not return to sit flush against the camera body, then the likelihood that the cocking rack is damaged is very high.

If the camera is otherwise working as expected, and the shutter will open for viewing as normal and when released the shutter closes, mirror and capping plate swing up out of the way, but the shutter fails to open again and close for the set exposure time then the shutter REALLY needs a CLA (clean, lube and adjust).

I would caution you against vigorously 'exercising' a Retina Reflex with obvious problems in the hope that this will free-up the shutter. The cameras are reasonably delicate, and it is very easy to turn a camera from one needing a service into one needing expensive and hard-to-find parts.

One other common problem with the Reflex S, III and IV models is that the cord that connects the exposure meter with the shutter speed and aperture controls breaks. This may leave the camera in an otherwise working condition or the loose cord may become entangled with other parts of the mechanism rendering the entire camera useless.

To replace the meter cord, or to do a CLA of the shutter on any of the reflex models, then the whole camera will need to be dismantled. This is a very time consuming process and for that reason, and because these models are also not very reliable in their old age, a lot of repairers will have nothing to do with these models.


The most common complaints with the Retinette 1A cameras is that the shutter needs a CLA. The camera makes a weak click sound when the release is pressed, but the shutter blades don't actually open.

The other common problem with Retinettes is that the plastic film advance lever (referred to in the parts list as "winding lever assembly") is often broken. These are reasonably brittle and replacements generally have to come from an "organ donor".

Repair manuals and parts lists.

I have a few duplicates of Retina service manuals and parts lists. Mostly original Kodak publications, for some cameras there were only ever parts lists available, other models had service manuals available. Check my swap page to see if there is one here to help you with your D.I.Y project. Note that with Retina Reflex models very little basic information is duplicated in manuals for later models. It was expected that you would have already had manuals covering the earlier models.

It's all too hard!

If you have decided you'd like to bail out now, and leave the work to a professional, check my repair service page.

Contact Chris Sherlock