James's Camera Collection: Argoflex EM

Argoflex EM USA Twin Lens Reflex cameras
Argus Argoflex
Film type: Roll film size 620 (2¼ inches square)
Approx. dates of manufacture: 1948
Approx. original price: $60
Approx. street value: low

I was trying to show a friend once how to judge the quality of a camera by just looking at it, and then by feeling it, even if you've never heard of the brand or model before. Obviously there's a lot of leeway, but cheap cameras are always very, very light —they have a lot of plastic, shiny fakey metal, few controls and settings, etc. Better cameras tend to be heavier, they're more robustly made, they have a lot more metal or metalized surfaces. And so on.

click for larger adBased on that, you would think my Ricohflex VIIs is a toy and my Argoflex EM is better. The former is small and light, the latter is bigger, heavier and more stubstantial-looking. But forget it, the Ricoh won me over when I had to disassemble it. The Argoflex is just bigger and heavier.

Anyway, the Argoflex was Argus's entry into the TLR field. They're most famous for their 35mm cameras, namely the C3, but they also made a number of TLRs as well. Their first few were pretty decent: supposedly my Argoflex EM was designed by the legendary Harley Earl, General Motors's chief of automotive design during the 40s and 50s. Sometime in the early 50s Argus went with cheap plastic junkers as they competed with Kodak to scrape the bottom of the market.

But the EM was still pretty decent. Besides being made of metal, its viewing lens was geared with the taking lens, so that the image could be focused in the viewfinder (cheap TLRs had a fixed-focus viewing lens, so you couldn't focus). It had a full range of shutter speeds from 1/10 through 200 (plus Bulb and Time), and apertures (albiet nonstandard: ƒ/4.5, ƒ/6.3, ƒ/9, ƒ/12.7 and ƒ/18). You have to be on good terms with your light meter if you want to set the aperture on this.

Other than that, it was no frills. Argus tried to put a frame counter on the side on their Argoflex II model but couldn't get it to work properly, so it was back to the red window and knob advance. The Ricohflex is a far better camera.

Camera manual: Orphan Cameras.com

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