Kodak Retinette Type 147 1939

Tomei Collection

The first Retinette introduced in 1939 is curious differing from all subsequent Retinette models. It had the falling hinged door and was a bit larger than those that followed.  This example is documented as one of the two earliest Type 147's known to exist and is number 296417K. Also, it has the earliest focusing lens mount which is chrome with engraved markings. Within a few months Kodak used black painted lens mounts on the 147's.


This first Retinette model was produced only for a few months being discontinued that same year, replaced by the more conventional Type 160.  None the less, approximately 20,000 Type 147 Retinettes were made according to Brian Coe.

It is thought that this design was destined to fill a market niche created by the fact that the Retina models were more expensive with higher quality shutters and lenses.  However, this is debatable since it was quickly abandoned in favor of the popular Retina body design.  The Type 147 had nickel plated knobs and counter in the upper housing and ribbed polished aluminum shutter/lens mount.  The rewind had six milled rows as did to earlier Type 119 Retina.

It is likely that the drop-door design and different shaped body reflected the preferences of the Kodak AG engineers dating back to the days of the Nagel Werks and the Vollenda designs.  In fact, Kodak AG introduced the Suprema just a few months before the first Retinette which also incorporated the drop-door design.  None the less, within a few months of the Type 147 introduction, Kodak reverted to the side-door design that had proved popular in the Retina line.  Alternatively, it is possible that speculation regarding the pre-war Retinette line being a means of using a backlog of spare Retina parts is accurate. 

By 1939 it was becoming increasingly evident to Kodak that shipping of cameras and parts was hazardous given the advent of war.  Lahue and Bailey mention that a final shipment of Compur shutters never reached the USA as a consequence of the sinking of the merchant vessel by a German submarine while en route to New York.  This event occurred about the time of the introduction of the the 147 Retinette and was critical to Kodak's decision to terminate use of German produced shutters and lenses shortly thereafter.

The Type 147 could have been a prototype of a new inexpensive Retinette line or a camera that was intended to test the market.  Though the change to the conventional Retina body design may have been an evolutionary step, this is unlikely having come from a company that did not often market designs that were not well thought out with clear markets in view.  It is more likely that the Type 160 that quickly followed this design was in fact a camera intended to recoup the cost of producing a back log of Retina parts in Germany.  In 1939, Kodak AG launched three Retina designs that never reached the USA market, the Types 143, 149, and (rare) 167.