Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Olive Argus A

It is well-established that the Argus model A was the one camera that really made 35mm photography accessible and affordable to the average American.  Introduced in 1936, the International Radio Corp. sold an estimated 30,000 cameras in the first month for $12.50 each.  Later changing its name to the Argus Corp., the company improved upon the basic design of the A, with many iterations of the A series. Eventually, the Argus C3 became the top-seller, being the longest-lived camera produced in the USA with a production run of almost 30 years!

The Argus A is a pocket camera with a telescoping lens tube that springs out with a twist from the locking position.  The shutter and aperture are controlled from the front of the lens barrel.  Typically, the I.R.C.  Anastigmat lens had a modest maximum aperture of f/4.5.  Shutter speeds were controlled by the Argus Ilex shutter, with B,T, and 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/200 sec speeds.  The uncoated lens is definitely more than adequate, and stopped down it was fairly sharp.

The early Argus A cameras have a single brass sprocket wheel and no tripod mount.  While 99.9% of the Argus A cameras were produced with black Bakelite bodies, a small number were produced in different colors; olive, gray, red, and possibly white.  Probably only a few hundred examples of the color versions were made.  Less than that survived to the present.

In good condition, an Olive Argus A is worth about $175, the other colors slightly more.  If you find the holy grail white Model A, you are sitting on a treasure.

Its been many years since I have shot with any Argus A, and I suppose it is time to use one of the black models for that.  Maybe this year's Argus Day in August will be a good time to do that.

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