Let’s get the details out of the way first, because few are available anyway. The Argus Camera Company of Ann Arbor, Michigan produced the Argus A-Four (or, as the camera proudly declares across its face, argus a-four) from 1953 to 1956. The A-Four takes good old 35mm film. Its plastic and aluminum body holds a coated f/3.5 Argus Cintar lens stoppable to f/22. Its three-leaf Gauthier shutter fires only at 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/200 sec. You have to manually cock the shutter before you can take a photograph. I cocked the shutter before making the photo at right; notice the lever sticking out over the lens barrel.
All of the controls are on the lens barrel: aperture, shutter speed, and focus; the shutter-cocking lever; even the shutter button. I’m sure this simple design kept costs down.
I had an A-Four in my first camera collection and liked it. I shot a couple rolls with it, and even developed one roll myself and made contact prints (with the help of an experienced friend). It was the first camera I owned that let me set aperture, shutter speed, and focus, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was fortunate any of those photos turned out. Here’s one of those photos, of the elementary school I attended in South Bend. The film is probably Kodak Plus-X.
I spooled some color film, probably Kodacolor II, into it for another go. After I set all the settings for him, my brother made this one of me leaning against Dad’s work van.
While I owned maybe a dozen old cameras when I bought that A-Four, I didn’t really think of myself as a collector. Shooting that first roll with the A-Four changed that. I was hooked.
This A-Four competed directly with Kodak’s Pony line, by the way. I’ve reviewed three of them: the Pony 135 (here), the Pony 135 Model B (here), and the Pony 135 Model C (here). You might also check out my reviews of the Kodak 35 (here) and the Kodak Automatic 35F (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
When I restarted my collection I went looking for another A-Four and was happy to come across this one for ten bucks on eBay. When it arrived, I loaded some Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, armed myself with the Sunny 16 rule, and started making photographs. This is my neighbor’s front yard with its extensive garden.
My neighbor specializes in hostas. He’s well enough known in hosta circles that a couple times every summer a tour bus pulls up and people get out and wander around his yard.
The A-Four and I went to a giant car auction with more Acros aboard. I was quite a sight with the A-Four and two point-and-shoot digital cameras in my hands. I am simply delighted by this photo of a 1967 Ford LTD headlight.
Here’s a 1972 MGB GT. I’m super impressed with the Cintar lens’s resolving power and the Acros’s tonal range here.
Finally, here’s a photo of a 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396. I’ve always loved this body style.
On a later outing with the A-Four I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and went out exploring old bridges in the country.
These aren’t bad, but I think I prefer the A-Four with black-and-white film. These colors are just a little off to me. I also got a lot of flare on this outing.
So I returned to black-and-white film the next time I shot the A-Four. This is Arista Premium 400. Faster film was a good choice for a gray day like this one.
I drove up the old Lafayette Road from northwest Indianapolis to Lafayette. The Co-Op building is in Indy, and the Frozen Custard stand is in Lafayette.
I returned to Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros for another outing with the A-Four. I’d shifted from Sunny 16 to using a light-meter app on my phone.
The A-Four is a nice companion. I brought it along everywhere with me for a couple weeks while I moved through this roll.
To see more from this camera, check out my Argus A-Four gallery.
You might be surprised to know that I no longer own this A-Four. My outings with it satisfied my nostalgia. But more importantly, I had come to own more cameras than I could store. The A-Four is a fine camera of its type — but the competing Kodak Pony 135, Model C, worked just enough better for me that it was the one I decided to keep.
Don’t let that deter you, however. You can still pick up an Argus A-Four for very little money, have a very nice time with it, and get plenty of lovely images.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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