Camera Reviews

Argus Instant Load 270

Argus Instant Load 270

Sometimes I troll eBay’s vintage cameras category looking for bargains. I sort by Ending Soonest and see what’s available. My rule of thumb is that if a camera is interesting to me and my bid, if successful, would deliver it to me for under $20 shipped, I’ll give it a whirl.

That’s how I came to own this Argus Instant Load 270. I’d never heard of this camera before, so I tried to research it in the few minutes I had before the auction ended. Google yielded no details of substance, but I could see that it had a 40mm f/2.8 lens and some sort of autoexposure system governed by a CdS light meter. In other words, it looked to be right up my alley. Nobody had bid on this lonely little guy, which had a minimum bid of 99 cents, as the final seconds ticked away. I couldn’t resist. 99 cents! I love a bargain. That shipping added $9 to the cost didn’t faze me in the slightest as I was already dreaming about shooting with this camera.

Argus Instant Load 270

It wasn’t until the camera arrived that I figured out that “Instant Load” was Argus’s way of saying “this camera takes 126 film.” Silly me; I assumed this camera took good old 35mm film. Whoops! As bad luck would have it, Kodak discontinued 126 film in 1999. I know there are some hardy souls who load 35mm film into spent 126 cartridges, but I am not that hardy.

Argus Instant Load 270

But that’s all right; it’s still an interesting camera. Apparently, Argus sold an entire line of 126 cameras under the Instant Load banner. The 270 appears to be one of the nicest of the series. Normally this is where I tell you all of the camera’s fine details, such as what kind of shutter it has and whether the automatic exposure system is shutter priority or aperture priority. Unfortunately, the only information extensive Googling revealed is that this camera may have been produced in 1966 and 1967. That’s it!

Argus Instant Load 270

I can tell just by looking that this camera was made in Japan; it says so on the bottom. I can also tell that the camera gives the photographer no help in focusing beyond marking portrait, group, and landscape on the focus barrel. I can further tell that the camera takes a banned mercury-based PX-13 button battery. I removed the one my camera contained, cleaned the corroded contacts, and then dropped in a Wein cell PX-13 equivalent I had lying around. The light meter wouldn’t budge. But otherwise the camera seems to function fine. The winder winds, the shutter fires, the apertures all seem to set properly. The camera is also pretty heavy. I’d say it weighs a full pound.

With that, this post probably just became the most informative page about the Argus Instant Load 270 on the entire Internet. If you own one and know some things I don’t, please share with me in the comments!

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33 thoughts on “Argus Instant Load 270

    • I shoot mostly digital, but I do love my old cameras and put film through them from time to time. In the past couple months, I got a Kodak Monitor, a Kodak Signet 40, an Argus A2B, and a Zeiss-Ikon Contessa LK. I’ll be shooting with them all in the coming weeks and will be posting here about the experience!

    • I’m about to impulse-buy a Rollei Prego 90, if I have the successful bid! Not my usual cup of tea, but some quick Googling revealed that people really like its lens, and the price is right (currently $3.99). Like I need another old camera right now — my desk at home is covered in cameras I haven’t used yet. It’s a sickness, I tell you!

    • Heh! I’m sure you can have one of your own if you really want… they do pop up on eBay from time to time! As for me, I prefer to have cameras for which I can buy (or easily adapt) film!

  1. Elisa says:

    I just bought one of these very excited to use it but i am not sure what film and if they quit making them film what do you use sorry i am new with the film thing i am i have been using digital since i was able too..

    • Hi Elisa — Sadly, this camera takes 126 cartridge film, which has been out of production in the United States for a long time. If you search eBay, you might be able to find some expired 126 to use in your camera. Dwayne’s Photo ( still develops 126, via mail order. Good luck!

  2. o k saar says:

    Ii think you are selling this little argie a bit short, jim… for instance for the focus aids the barrel has not only the pictograms but also distance markings in feet; moreover the pictograms are repeated in the viewfinder and there is a little travelling bar linked internally to let you see where you are focussed to without having to peer over at the lens – pretty spiffy for a cartridge loader
    then, lookie at the top deck… a hot shoe, real hot shoe where most such critters would sport one of those wretched flashcube sockets
    for me the crowning glory is the manual control [notice the aperture settings on the barrel’s inner ring] and – yay! – a ‘bulb’ setting
    will be able to tell you more when i look inside my shelf queen someday [latch is jammed so i’m not quite there yet…]
    as to who made it, cosina were in bed with argus there for a time, so they’d be my prime suspect; would someone have another tip?
    as baby-step into film, elisa, this format is tough…not just that stock is hard to find and its quality hard to guess, but all costs added up processing is pricey [it’s now a custom job, really] and sometimes – sad to say – also unreliable [there, dwayne’s does sound like a good bet] if i may suggest, before even starting do look up a thing or two on the format, stuff like how the film speed is indexed through the cassette
    on the other hand, for some really geeky weirdo gear, 126 is waving ‘come on over!’

  3. Perhaps I could have spent an extra few minutes studying the camera before I wrote about it! I was just disappointed that it wasn’t a 35 mm camera, like I assumed after not reading the eBay listing closely enough.

    126 film cartridges do have a method that allow cameras to detect film speed. There’s a little notch on the cartridge that cameras so equipped can “read.” This page explains:

  4. Wendy says:

    I just bought one of these and made sure the basics worked got it at an estate ale in Huntsville Alabama. Came from the house of one of the old rocket scientist. I loved the look. Once I opened up th inside I see where it had been been into to get cleaned and serviced on 5/27/1970. so. how old are these babies!!! They are definitly heavy for a camera let alone the killer looking mod design. Any help would be greatful.

  5. Sandy says:

    I have 3 cameras that I know nothing about and this one is one of them. I have the instructions for the camera and the flash but don’t have the flash. I also have a Kodak Signet 35 with filters, lens hood, adapter ring, flash bulbs, optipod, and a black tube that has black and white pictures only. The last camera is a Polaroid Electric Eye Land Camera Model J66 with case and you think the Argus is heavy, this camera weighs two ton. So thank you for dates on one of my cameras, now I have two more.

      • Sandy says:

        My husband would like to sell them but we have no idea of how they work or if they do. His parents passed away and he got them. He is the oldest and he doesn’t remember them using the cameras. If you are interested I could send you pics of everything we have. We have checked ebay but I don’t know enough about them to post them.

  6. macinport says:

    Jim, Have you tried the meter by cocking the shutter? My 270 just arrived today and it works perfectly. The meter turns on and stays on when shutter is cocked and turns off when shutter is fired. very cool, no extra switches to fail or otherwise clutter up the lovely lines of this beauty. 126 cassettes can be reloaded with a variety of film, so there is really no limits on using this beautiful classic.

    • Thanks for the tip. Mine has a corroded battery compartment, so I’ll need to clean that up first and see if the old girl still takes a current.

  7. eliss says:

    What film did you use in the argus? I also own one and a Kodak eastman baby brownie special.

  8. Hallie says:

    Ughhh I just bought this exact camera for a mere $10.00 and thought I’d give it a shot! As I love vintage finds, and was up to the opportunity…..But as I tried 35mm I found (just like you did), that something was indeed missing and that it wouldn’t work:/ It’s a shame;(

  9. Casey June says:

    I have the same camera! My grandfather left it to me when he died but I’ve never used it just displayed it as a beautiful little thing, I’m just as oblivious to what it can do and would love to know more!

    • Unfortunately, it takes film that’s no longer manufactured. So you’ll find it challenging to shoot with it! I imagine you could find some expired film for it on eBay.

      Mine was not working when I got it so I’m not entirely sure how capable it was, but it looked to be among the better cameras for 126 film.

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