Collecting vintage cameras has become an obsession for me. The allure of owning a piece of history and capturing images with a camera that is decades old can be both exciting and rewarding. Recently, I had the opportunity to shoot with the Argoflex 75, a vintage camera from the 1950s, during a photo walk in Montreal.
The Argoflex 75 is a twin-lens reflex camera that was manufactured by Argus in the United States between 1949 and 1964. It features a fixed 75mm, f/11 lens, a waist-level viewfinder, and a simple shutter mechanism. The camera uses 620 film, which is no longer manufactured, but can be easily converted from 120 film. Let me know if you want to know how to hack a roll of 120mm to fit this camera..
As a collector of vintage cameras, I was immediately drawn to the Argoflex 75's classic design and simple functionality. I recently found one in good condition on a trip to Brooklyn New York, where I picked one up from an antique store for $20.00. I couldn't wait to try it out. Montreal is the perfect place to test the camera's capabilities, with its unique architecture and European aesthetics, providing plenty of interesting subjects.
Using the Argoflex 75 was a different experience compared to shooting with modern digital cameras. I had to really slow down and think more carefully about my shots, as there was no instant feedback to review my images. Instead, I had to trust my instincts and rely on my understanding of exposure and composition to capture the shots I wanted. I basically used the Sunny 16 rule to figure out my calculations. I have used several waist-level viewfinder cameras including the iconic Hasselblad 500cm, Mamiya 645, Yashica Mat 124g and more. The Argoflex 75 was different though. This thing has no control over shutter speed or aperture. According to the official Argus 75 instruction manual, it shoots at approximately 1/50th of a second and at f/11. This camera also doesn't need to be focused and all subjects from 7.5 feet to infinity will be in focus. It's literally a point and shoot camera that's as simple as it gets.
One of the main challenges with this camera, like other 6x6 medium format cameras, is the waist-level viewfinder takes some getting used to, as everything is reversed and inverted. I found myself taking a few extra seconds to ensure that my composition was locked in before I pressed the shutter. The slower and unchangeable shutter speed of the camera also resulted in some blur and shake while hand-holding it. I'll probably mount it on a tripod next time. As challenging as it may have been shooting with this camera, it was also an extremely satisfying experience that forced me to be more deliberate with my photography and pay closer attention to details.
The results from shooting with the Argoflex 75 were impressive. The images had a unique vintage and dreamy look that you can't really replicate with digital editing. It was exciting to see the final images after they had been developed, and I was impressed with the camera's ability to capture detailed images. I actually found the lens to be rather sharp, given the camera is 74 years old. I used a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 Black and White film. It was a super bright day and I was a bit worried with shooting at box speed of 400. When I went to get get the film developed, I almost asked them to pull it to ISO 100. Despite of my worry with it being a bright day, I think the photographs actually came out out better than I imaged. I guess that shows you how forgiving and flexible film can be! If you're looking for a great place to develop film in Montreal, check out the great team at Camtec Photo in Old Port.
Overall, shooting with the Argoflex 75 in Montreal was a memorable experience. It was a great reminder of the joys of film photography and the importance of slowing down and taking the time to capture a moment. If you're a collector of vintage cameras or are interested in trying film photography, I highly recommend giving the Argoflex 75 a try.
Here is a look at some of the photographs I made with the Argoflex 75. The pictures are untouched and are as is from the lab. Enjoy.