Argus Argoflex E TLR Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps

The Argus Argoflex E medium format TLR film camera
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Written by Jennifer Stamps

Are you new to the world of twin lens reflex (TLR) film cameras?

Curious about their unique double lenses but a little intimidated and don’t want to drop a lot of money on a camera you might not love?

I feel you.

I love the world of medium format. Something about those large negatives and getting 8-12 images on a roll makes me happy. Each frame is somehow even more sacred.

I have been wanting to get a TLR camera, but the prices of some of the well-known brands scared me away. Until an Argus fell into my hands.

Don’t you just love when your friends tag you in posts of people wanting to give away their old cameras that have been sitting in boxes?

Enter the world of TLR cameras. The Argus Argoflex E can be found for an insanely affordable price and is relatively cheap for a medium format camera. 

Find the Argus Argoflex E on eBay.

Argus Argoflex E Film Camera Review
Argus Argoflex E Film Camera Review
The Argus Argoflex E medium format TLR film camera

About the Argus Argoflex E

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. 

Medium format black and white film image of a door - Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford Delta 3200
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Stats and Details

Years Made: 1940-1948

Original Cost: $35 USD (with inflation, about $515 USD)

Shutter Speeds: 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200, B, T

Tripod mount: yes

Aperture: 4.5-18

Cost Nowadays: You can find it on eBay for around $50.

Medium format black and white film image of a camper - Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford HP5
Medium format black and white film image of trees - Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Kodak TMax 400

How to Shoot with the Argus Argoflex E

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. 

The viewfinder on the Argus Argoflex E medium format TLR film camera
Left: The open focusing hood
Right: The open focusing hood with the magnifier

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.

The Argus Argoflex E medium format TLR film camera
On the bottom lens, you can adjust the aperture and shutter speed. You also have the shutter release.

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.

All you need is a 620 take-up spool and a roll of regular 120 film. You can find 620 spools on eBay here

A 620 film spool and a 120 film spool -Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
The 620 spool is on the left, and the 120 spool is on the right.

Loading, Advancing, and Removing the Film

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. 

The side of the Argus Argoflex E medium format TLR film camera
The film compartment is located on the back of the camera.

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.

The film advance window has a cover. To make sure you line up your frames properly, just flip the window cover release as you advance your film.

Once you see the number in the window, you’re ready to shoot your first frame. The cover is just an added protection to allow the least amount of light in the back as possible.  

The window cover opening and closing.

Once you have shot your last frame, just keep winding the knob until you see there is no more film backing paper.

It’s now safe to open up the back of your camera.

On the left side of the upper film compartment, you’ll see a little lever to pull the film cradle. Pull that gently and take your exposed roll of film out. 

Medium format black and white film image of a truck - Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford HP5

620 Spool Tips 

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. 

Medium format black and white film image of a shrub - Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford HP5
Medium format black and white film image of a young girl with a camera - Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Kodak TMax 400

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. 

Medium format black and white film image of clouds - Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
A double exposure on the Argoflex E with Ilford HP5

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.

Medium format black and white film image of trees - Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford HP5

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.

Medium format black and white film image of a shrub - Argus Argoflex E Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford Delta 3200

Thank you so much, Jen! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and be sure to check out her other articles, like 5 Film Cameras Under $50 and Develop B&W Film with Coffee! A Caffenol Developing Tutorial.

You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.

Leave your questions about the Argus Argoflex E TLR film camera below in the comments, and you can pick one up for yourself on eBay.

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Jennifer Stamps

Jennifer Stamps is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review and 5 Film Cameras Under $50.

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Blog Comments

JEN! You made me want one of these sooo badly! Wish I would have bought this instead of my Autocord, which I promptly broke (ish). I might need to save some pennies for this cutie.

One of the best review on internet. Love this.

Hello Jen, I’ve been taking photos since mid seventys. Sure, i’ve got 2 digitals, barely touch. I’ve been given an Argoflex e series in remarkable condition, but would like to have it checked out. the lens adjustments are gummy, can I lube them safely? Also where does one get film developed?

Hi Van! I don’t know about cleaning the camera – I was lucky in that mine is in excellent condition. As for film – you should be able to develop the film at any lab that develops medium format film. Best of luck!!

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