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Argus A

Argus Model A

The Argus A was the camera that really made 35mm cameras popular in America. It launched in 1936 and in many ways tried to copy the Leica, which was the first camera to popularize 35mm film, but was too expensive for most amateurs.

Leica IA converted to Leica Standard

The Argus A sold for $12.50 and was about one tenth the cost of a Leica. If I compare my 1930 Leica I model A (left) to my 1937 Argus A (above), I see they both used 35mm film, both had a fixed 50mm lens which could collapse into the body to promote portability and both had a fixed viewfinder.

The Argus A was engineered to produce more cheaply. As compared to the Leica IA, they have a Bakelite body instead of metal, a slower lens (f/4.5 vs 3.5), a more limited range of shutter speeds (25-200 vs 20-500), no cold shoe for accessories, no tripod socket (early models) and are more klutzy to advance the film. The lens is certainly not as good as the standard Leica Elmar and the Leica lens features continuous focusing versus the Argus only has two fixed focal distances.

On the plus side, the Argus viewfinder was centered over the lens. The film is easier to load due to the fact that the entire back is removable versus only the bottom is removable on the Leica. The Leica uses a focal plane shutter versus a between the lens shutter for the Argus.

Most model A cameras and the later variants came in black with chrome parts. This brown version is relatively rare as is an olive drab version which some sellers on eBay mistakenly say is a military version. The rarest versions are said to be a gun metal gray and an ivory version.

The Argus A was followed by many adaptations of basically the same design, adding a tripod socket (2nd variant of A), more precise focusing capabilities (AF, B), an extinction type exposure meter (A2, A2B) and a proprietary two prong flash socket (A2F, AA).

The A can take some decent pictures as shown below. The trickiest thing is getting used to the two position lens extension and remembering that fully extended is close up and partially extended is infinity.


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