Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Argus A2B

Most people who are interested in cameras know that the Argus A was the first successful 35mm camera intended for the masses. The Argus A2B is almost exactly the same as the A with the addition of a early type of exposure meter called an extinction meter.  There also is a different shutter in later models.  And the lens is coated in the models made after WWII.  The A2B was made from 1939 to 1950.  The model here was one of the later ones since it has a coated lens.

One thing that has always interested me with Argus is how they came to make cameras.  I think it is fairly well known that they started out making radios.  So why did they decide to get into cameras?  It turns out that back in the 1930's that radio sales were very slow in the summer. Demand for radios was very low in the summer because people were not interested in sitting in their hot houses during the evening listening to radio.  Back in those days people sat out on their porches in the evening waiting for their house to cool down enough to go inside to sleep.  That was before air conditioning.  So the Argus A was thought to be a good product to make in the summer when people would be out taking pictures.  And the Argus A and the later C3 succeeded beyond the companies wildest dreams.

The Argus A2B is capable of taking fairly sharp images.  I think the main difficultly is in avoiding camera shake.  I at least find it difficult to keep this small camera steady while pressing the shutter.  The original instructions suggested holding the camera upside down pressed against your forehead to keep it steady.  I don't think this caught on.  Still I imagine even these sometimes somewhat shaky images looked good to a lot of people. I remember reading somewhere that while these old cameras didn't always yield a totally faithful reproduction, they still could record the essence of a memory.  And that essence was probably good enough for most people.

It certainly was a different time when the Argus cameras were conceived.  In a way it might be said that a lack of AC had something to do with it.  I am old enough to remember the last few years of when people sat on the porch at night.  I remember us kids playing in the street and the adults going from porch to porch for a visit. Once AC came in all that stopped and I don't think that I am that only one who thinks the effect on our culture was profound.  At least it seems to me that there are a lot of people now who spend too much time wondering what kind of threats are outside their climate controlled cocoons.

Well back to the Argus A2B. My main opinion of the camera is that if I was willing to take the time to master it than it is capable of taking good images. However for that to happen I would have to be limited to a lot fewer camera options than I now have.  Still just for that connection to an earlier time in photography I think the Argus A2B or any of its brother Argus A's are worth a go.