Sunday, August 30, 2009

The People's Cameras

In the Soviet Union, they were built by Fed and Zorki. Here, Kodak and Argus were the companies that made photography accessible to ordinary folks. Kodak can certainly take credit for getting the ball rolling, but Argus overtook the juggernaut of Rochester in regard to style and popularity.

I haven't done much with any of my Argus family members. As generations of photographers discovered, it is hard to take a bad picture with the C3. The Argus twin-lens reflexes are more challenging. The lenses are quite good, but the features - or lack thereof - require more focus than I've been able to muster so far.

The main issue with the first model Argoflex is the dim viewing screen which inspires little confidence during the shooting process. The camera also has a lens that is very subject to flare. The brilliant viewfinder of the Super 75 is a vast improvement, but the non-coupled focus screen and the shutter limited to Time and Instant settings limits possiblities.

So, those are my excuses, though they aren't very good ones. I've had better results with much simpler cameras. I thought I might look for some further inspiration by acquiring one more example from the Argus A line, which was the company's first big success that really revolutionized photography in the U.S. I've been prowling around ebay recently in search of a good, affordable specimen, so hope to have something new to show soon.



u.v.ray said...

I only tinker about with photography a little bit. I like the cameras more than anything else. I recently had a Fed 4 Rangefinder given to me. I had to calibrate the focusing mechanism but apart from that it looks to have hardly been used. I'm looking forward to taking a few pictures with it. It's circa 1965 - makes me feel like a KGB agent. Also recently acquired a little Bencini Comet from 1948. All aluminium mirror polished. Cheap as chips - but a lovely little thing, and 127 film still available from just one supplier I'm told. I can't take photos as good as yours but I've had it apart and cleaned it all up and I will enjoy using it.

Julio F said...

That's a nice, sharp shot. I fear that with the Argoflexes you must have the sun in your back and that's it.

Hope you can get a nice A!

Mike said...

I've seen some pretty nice photos from the Argoflex, including some fine portraits made by Craig Nelson. I may give it another chance one of these days.

Regarding the Fed cameras, they are a huge bargain still, even with the price you have to pay these days to ship from Ukraine. The glass is unbeatable.

The Bencini has a big following too, though for somewhat different reasons. I was just looking through some of the threads on that camera at nelsonfoto. It produces rather unique images, and I believe some people have pushed that idea a bit further by flipping the lens.