Sunday, August 23, 2015
Argus Day 2015 - A Markfinder vs the Argus A
This year, Argus Day was August 15. It amazes me that I have shot on nearly all of the Argus Days since 2002. Started in 2001, by a small group of Argus-lovers, Argus Day has endured and remains "an event." Usually, I use my most trust-worthy Argus - an Argus C-3 or a C-4 that I have shot with previously, and have gotten good results with. I mean, why would I want to risk lousy results on this one day? However, this year I tried something different. My daughter's Argus collection still remains in the house, so I borrowed what appeared to be a working Argus Markfinder, also known as the Argus 21. The shutter speeds seemed to work, and I figured I could live with the guestimated focusing, as the Markfinder (so named for the cross-hairs in the middle of the viewfinder) does not have a rangefinder like it's offspring, the C-4. One other difference from the C-4 is that the lens on the Markinder is removable to use as an enlarger lens. Those post-war Argus people though of everything, didn't they? The cameras have the same shutter mechanism (or at least sound like it!), and overall control placement. However, I have rarely seen a Markfinder in working condition, so the one pictured here got used for Argus Day. So did an Argus A I have held onto for some time. It's an plain-vanilla A, an early version with a single sprocket inside. The glass was clear, and the shutter speeds and aperture work. There is no focusing with this model.
I met up with Patti Smith and Christy Hoffman at Camera Mall, and Desmond took our photo. Then, Patti was off to shoot at an old-time baseball game. George Lavoie showed up right after, and he and I walked around Ann Arbor's downtown and did some shooting. It was a sunny day, so Sunny-16 was easy. Both cameras were loaded with Arista 100 Ultra, which is Fortepan 100. One thing I like about the film is the way it lies flat in the scanner's film holders. Rodinal 1:25 for 6 minutes is a good developer for this film.
One of the things I have not liked about the C-4 and now the Markfinder, is that the film winding is likely to pull the film off the spool if it is a reloaded cassette. There is little feedback from the tension in the film, as one might find with any SLR. So, I ended up shooting for a fair bit after the roll was fully wound onto the take-up spool. Once I realized this, I waited to open the camera until I got to the darkroom. The Argus A seemed a bit sloppy in film winding, and whether is is due to the single sprocket or the age of the camera, I could not tell. Using the camera is pretty simple. I was amused with George using a nice-looking Argus Matchmatic. It took him some time to get used to the quirky EV settings on the camera, as well as the very clunky (typical Brick) controls. These old cameras do force you to think about what you are doing, if you are used to the digital world, and modern controls -- while technologically complex, are easy to use.
So, what about the results from the day? After I developed the film (both rolls in one Jobo tank), it was obvious that the Markfinder had seriously overexposed the film. All the negatives were dense, so the shutter speed when set at 100, was more like 1/25. It was especially obvious when a a blurred motorcyclist appeared in one frame, which would have been fine at 1/100 sec. The negatives from the Argus A were pretty good, but there were spots where the sprockets had been torn. I know I was advancing the film properly, so I am puzzled about that. Anyway, with scanning, I was able to adjust the results from the Markfinder to a certain degree, but there is only so much one can do.
There is some vignetting in the Argus A, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I think Lomography should embrace the Argus A, so that they become more valuable. It certainly fits in with the Lomo aesthetic. One last Argus A comment -- when I opened the back to remove the film, the pressure plate fell off. That 75-year old glue just doesn't hold the way it used to.