The Argus Argoflex E is a medium format TLR camera built in the 1940’s.
TLR stands for Twin Lens Reflex. TLR film cameras have two lenses, one on top of the other.
The top lens is the viewing lens, which is what you look through when you look through the viewfinder, and the bottom lens is the taking lens. The taking lens has the shutter and film behind it, and it is the lens used to take the image.
The Argus Argoflex E shoots 6×6 squares with a coated Varex 75mm lens. For such an old camera, it’s actually pretty lightweight – weighing less than 1.5 lbs.
If you’ve never shot with a TLR camera, it can take a minute to get used to. Everything you see in your viewfinder is mirrored. But after shooting a few frames, you can get the hang of it.
The top lens is the viewing lens, the bottom lens is the taking lens.
The top lens is where you’ll focus your subject. To focus the Argoflex E, open the focusing hood and move the focus ring. There are distance markers to help you focus from 3.5 feet to infinity.
To obtain sharper focus, you can use the magnifier by flipping it open when the focusing hood is open.
On the bottom lens is the shutter release, aperture ring, and shutter speed.
The aperture ring has marked settings for 4.5, 6.3, 9, 12.7, and 18. The shutter speed ring has marked times for 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200, B, and T.
120 vs 620 Film and Spools
So, I mentioned that this was a medium format camera. But what I didn’t mention is that, technically, this calls for 620 film.
620 film is no longer produced, so you have two options when shooting this camera: you can purchase a respooled roll of 120 film that uses a 620 spool (you can also try to do it yourself in a darkroom/bag). OR you can simply shoot a roll of 120 as is.
One seems way easier than the other, right? Is it too good to be true? Nope.
As mentioned, you can use 120 film in the Argoflex E – even though the inside of the camera will say something along the lines of “certain death to anyone who tries to use anything other than 620 film.”
Maybe not that dramatic, but they definitely try to scare you into only using 620 film. Trust me, it’s ok. You’ll be ok.
You’ll put your 620 take-up spool in the upper film compartment. Just pull the knob out gently and pop the spool in. Push the knob back in and turn, making sure the take-up spool also turns.
Boom – step one complete.
Now, you’ll take your 120 roll of film and put it in the bottom film compartment. Make sure the film backing with the text on it is facing you.
Now, pull on the leader backing gently until you are able to thread it in the 620 take-up spool at the top. Turn the knob about 3 times to ensure it’s taking up ok.
Now, close the back.
You can watch the whole process in the IGTV video below.
If you don’t develop your film at home, make sure you let your lab know that you need the 620 take-up spool back. Better yet, ask if they have extras you can have.
If you are shooting out in the field using several rolls of film, make sure you have a 620 take-up spool for each roll you plan to shoot.
Ok, But Does the Argus Argoflex E Shoot Doubles?
Oh, yes, you knew I’d go here. The answer is “yes!”
You can shoot multiple exposures until your heart’s content.
Just keep shooting on the same frame until you’re ready to advance it.
The Joy of Vintage
There are really so many reasons to shoot vintage film cameras.
Unlike technology nowadays it seems, things built 40, 50, 60 years ago were built to last. It’s why you can pick up a 60 year old camera, pop some film in it, and get amazing images.
Hearing the shutter click and even the film wind – it’s special. It’s classic.
Not only that, but think of all the memories that were photographed with a vintage camera. Birthdays, weddings, first days of school, vacations – probably thousands of memories have been exposed through the vintage lens. Might sound silly, but I’m drawn to the stories these cameras have shared over the years.
One of the reasons I was originally drawn to film was that it required me to slow down. I only have 8, 12, 24, or 36 images on a roll. It required me to stop and think.
With a vintage TLR, that’s amplified. Shooting with the Argus Argoflex E is as dreamy as it looks. The Argoflex rewards the methodical shooter. It asks you to slow down and gifts you with dreamy images.