Chris's camera pages

Retina IIIc or IIIC?

I get asked sometimes what exactly the difference is between a Retina IIIc and a Retina IIIC, and how to tell them apart.

The Retina IIIc (small c) is the earlier model, this was made from 1954 through to 1957. The Retina IIIC (big C) is the updated model and was made from 1957 through to 1960. Collectors tend to fixate on the IIIC since it was the last of the Retina folders.

So first the similarities, the IIIC has the same basic body as the IIIc, and the film advance mechanism, the lens, and the shutter are the same.

The main difference between the cameras is the design of the top cover, and the parts it contains.

The IIIc viewfinder has frame lines for only the standard lens, while the IIIC has a different viewfinder system, with frame lines visible for the 35mm, 50mm, and 80mm lenses.

From the outside, the visible difference with the top covers is that the IIIC has two equal-sized large windows at the front, where the IIIc has one small and one large window instead.

The other main difference between the more common IIIc examples and the IIIC is the exposure meter. The vast majority of IIIc cameras have a dual-range exposure meter which has a metal flap with a small hole in the centre covering the selenium cell. All of the IIIC cameras have a single-range exposure meter which lacks a flap and which has a black plastic frame surrounding the selenium cell.

Other differences are minor and cosmetic.

Traps for the unwary?

Sellers on Ebay and the like often don’t know their arse from their elbow, and will label anything vaguely similar as the more-valuable IIIC, so look closely at the photos.

Many IIIc cameras, with their dual-range meter, have had the flap broken off, so at first glance you might think they were a single-range meter. The meters will still obviously have a metal frame surrounding the selenium cell though, and the viewfinder windows will obviously be those of a IIIc.

There is also an uncommon model of the Retina IIIc, a sort of transition model between the more common IIIc and the IIIC, this is known as the type 021 Ausf. II. This camera has the viewfinder system of the IIIc and the single-range exposure meter of the IIIC.

Finally, another thing that will certainly bring on lots of weeping and gnashing of teeth, is where the seller has a IIIc camera and the instruction book for a IIIC, and so confidently lists the camera as a IIIC.

Which one to buy?

Your choice will probably be guided by how deep your pockets are, the IIIC is usually much more expensive.

Will the IIIC return better photos than the IIIc? The simple answer is no, all the important bits are the same.

Will the IIIC be better because it is newer? Not really, they are all very old now. It mostly depends on how the individual camera has spent the last fifty to sixty years. A pretty example has probably seen little use, a well-used example will probably show all that wear in the cosmetic details.

What about the frame lines in the finder? If you are a masochist you might get a kick out of using the wide and tele lenses on a IIIc or IIIC. With a IIIc you need an accessory finder, with the IIIC you don’t, but the rest of the pain using the lenses will be exactly the same.

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