|Camera Collecting and Restoration|
Kodak 35 RF
The Kodak 35 RF is an upgrade to Kodak's original 35mm camera and is one of the strangest looking cameras ever made. It seems Kodak needed a rangefinder to compete with the new Argus C3 and so, rather than redesigning and retooling they just stuck a rangefinder on top of the existing camera. The Kodak 35 series came with a variety of shutter and lens combinations. Early models have the Diomatic shutter while later ones have the Kodamatic or Flash Kodamatic. The Kodamatic has a self timer but no flash connector. The Flash Kodamatic replaces the self timer with a retard for flash synchronization. You have to independently cock the flash synchronizer just like it's a self timer. The Kodamatic is a well-built, accurate shutter and can usually be brought back to reliable operation with a simple cleaning. All of these shutters are scaled-down versions of the Supermatic shutter used on press and view cameras of the period. So if you can fix one of these shutters you can also fix a Supermatic!
Kodak also used several different lenses. You'll usually find the 35RF with one of two lenses, Anastigmat Special or Anastar. The Anastigmat Special is a high quality, coated four element Tessar type lens. When clean and free from damage, it will take excellent photographs. The Anastar is also very good. I've seen different claims about what type of lens the Anastar is. One book I have claims it is a triplet lens, however it is more likely simply a name change and is the same as the Anastigmat special. (The 80mm Anastar used on the Reflex seems to be a different design.) Brian Wallen has some good information here: Kodak Anastigmats and Their Successors. With either lens, you'll get your best images stopped down to f/5.6 -- f/11.
The back is removed by rotating the lever on the bottom of the camera and then pulling the back down slightly.
The shutter is cocked by turning the film sprockets. If there is no film in the camera, you can still cock and test the shutter by removing the back and turning the sprockets with your thumbs. You have to first press down on the button next to the film counter dial in order to release the winder.
The wind knob pulls up to release the film for rewind. Until the knob is pulled up, it won't turn backwards.
I have scanned the instruction manual and uploaded it in two parts. Each part is a ZIP file containing JPEG files. Part 1 contains basic operations of the camera. Part 2 contains additional information such as films available at that time, depth of field scale, exposure suggestions, etc. The original size of the manual is 3"x5". It was scanned at 300dpi.
Evaluation and Typical Problems
When buying one of these cameras, look for the following.
If you can get the shutter to operate, set the speed to "T" and fire the shutter. Then look through the lens from the back while pointed at a bright light. If you see any fungus damage, it's probably best to let this one go. Sometimes you can combine lens and shutter from two cameras to get a working camera.
Everything except lens fungus can usually be easily fixed. If the lens has fungus but isn't etched into the coating, you can clean the lens and it will still be usable. On the Anastigmat Special, the rear lens group is a cemented pair, so look for separation, too.
The rangefinder is a split-image type using two mirrors. These are front surface mirrors and must be cleaned carefully. To check the rangefinder, set the focus to infinity and look through the small window to see if the image lines up.
If the shutter blades have oil or grease on them, you will want to remove and clean them. To get to the blades you remove all the parts of the mechanism and then lift out the shutter base. It's a good idea to remove the shutter from the camera if you're going to go this far into the shutter. You have to make a special spanner wrench to remove the retaining ring on the rear of the shutter. Normal adjustable spanners will bump against the film gate and you won't be able to turn the ring.
The post at the top of the shutter next to the main cam will unscrew. Note how the blade closing spring sits around this post before you remove it. I've seen a Supermatic where this spring wasn't installed properly causing the shutter to hang.
When reinstalling the shutter cover make sure the pallet lever, sector gear pin and T/B tabs are all back in their slots.
There may be a light seal at the top of the film chamber. Like other cameras of this period, the seals are cotton yarn and will usually still be in good condition. This is a good reason to always replace light seals with yarn or velvet when you can. I've yet to see a 20 year old camera with good foam seals. But I have seen 50 year old cameras where the yarn and velvet are sill doing their job.
Before adjusting the RF be sure to check the lens focus at infinity. To adjust the focus, loosen the screws around the front lens and hold the lens in place while rotating the gear to infinity.