Cameras, Photography

Taking the Argus A-Four out for a little exercise

I don’t completely understand why I’m so charmed by my Argus A-Four. Perhaps it’s because one was my first 35mm camera, purchased at a yard sale when I was a teenager. I’m a sucker for nostalgia.

Argus A-Four

Late last year I loaded one of my last rolls of discontinued Arista Premium 400, which is said to have been relabeled Kodak Tri-X, into the A-Four. Then I took it out with me all winter. One of my stops was at Bethel United Methodist Church. I think this building was built in about 1905. The church built a more modern sanctuary on this property years ago, and this building sat unused for a long time. When I was an elder at North Liberty Christian Church, after shrinking membership forced us to sell our building, Bethel rented us this sanctuary at a nominal rate so we’d have a place to meet. I shared some interior photos here.

Bethel UMC

It’s been an unusually warm winter, giving me plenty of opportunity to take the A-Four out. I went for a drive in northwest Indianapolis one Saturday afternoon and found myself on 79th Street west of the I-465 beltway. It’s a remarkably rural corner of the city, where I found this old house.

Old house

This old barn was pretty much right across the street. I wished I could zoom in a little to get just the barn. I considered just walking up to it, but since that one run-in with the cops while inadvertently trespassing, I just stay on the public roadway for my photos.

Barn

Not far away, along Moore Road, is Pleasant Hill Cemetery. It’s been here almost as long as Indiana has been a state.

Stones

Here’s a wider view of the cemetery. I love walking through cemeteries with a camera in my hand.

Pleasant View Cemetery

And here’s Moore Road in front of the cemetery.

Moore Road

Finally, I took the A-Four along on the Lafayette Road trip and snapped the frozen custard stand on Main Street in Lafayette.

Frozen custard

Despite my infatuation with this simple camera, I was disappointed with its performance on this roll. Sharpness and detail were poor, and grain was pronounced. I’ve gotten better from it. Click any of these photos to see them on Flickr, where you can inspect them more closely.

On Wednesday, I’ll show you photos that better highlight this camera’s capabilities — some dating to 1982!

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15 thoughts on “Taking the Argus A-Four out for a little exercise

  1. Dan Cluley says:

    One of my favorites as well. Some (but not all) A-fours have a month/year stamp on the inside that will date it. The colormatic settings (the red, yellow & green exposure marks) were introduced early in 1954, so that narrows yours down to ’54-’56.

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  2. Crazy looking camera, but I don’t consider that a bad thing! I really like the pictures, but looking at the large sizes on flickr I would say that it’s not film grain but rather digital noise; probably over-sharpening done when scanning at the lab.

    And if it wasn’t for you blog I wouldn’t know that frozen custard is a thing! It’s not something we have over here as far as I’m aware. But maybe it’s not actually custard? Is this perhaps another example of the ‘Jam / Jelly two counties separated by a common language’ thing? I’m off to consult The Google…

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    • Hm, you might be right about the oversharpening. I haven’t got the negatives back yet to inspect them. Maybe my shutter has gone wonky with disuse and they “enhanced” the scans to get usable images.

      Frozen custard is much like soft-serve ice cream but has egg in it!

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  3. ambaker49 says:

    Nothing better than old buildings and old cameras. I followed your link to the private property adventure. It reminded me of a trip to Joplin, Missouri a few months after the tornado. The devastation was beyond imagination. We drove to the top of a now bare hill to get a good vantage point. As I was taking pictures a police car rolled up as asked us what we were doing. I told him we were from across the state and I wanted to show friends back home the magnitude of what had happened. Over the next 15 minutes I got a minute by minute account of what he and the city went through; as well as a few places in the city I needed to see.

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  4. roykarlsvik says:

    Great snaps from the A-four Jim! Reminds me that I got a half roll left inside an old Kodak Colorsnap 35 (UK made, early model 1959-1964) that I would need to finish off soon. I love these old and simple cameras for some reason, and I totally see your affection for this particular one, as it was your first camera. I still got my first camera as well, the Minolta Hi-matic G given to me as a christmas present from my parents back in 1974 or 75.

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  5. zoran vaskic says:

    Hello…..regarding being charmed by this camera, well, not ever having seen or handled one in the real the first thing for me is I think that lens assembly looks very cool. I like it. The rest of it is also interesting enough and likeable enough at first glance. If I saw it anywhere knowing nothing about it I would pick it up for sure. I’ve picked cameras up just because I like their look. In fact I have to like the look, of course if it has a reputation and the look is not incredible the rep will make it look better for some reason! I find commentary on different sites or blogs where sometimes comments are made about a camera being ugly, heavy etc. My personal feeling when it comes to these things is that they are non-issues for me. I’ve seen only one camera I would say was not attractive to me, and the trait I dislike most in cameras is when I find their appearance boring. They
    are not ugly but neither are they interesting. Shooting ability would be another story. Hopefully you figure out where the poor performance was coming from on this one. Thought the 2nd last picture was not half bad for detail / sharpness, but yes like you say it wasn’t there in these shots. Am interested now and will check out the other pictures you have that show better. By the way Jim, I discovered your site a couple of months ago, it’s one of my favourites, and I enjoy the pictures, the camera stuff as I enjoy talk about that, along with some of the more reflective stuff. I’m up in northeast B.C. in Canada in a town called Fort St. John. About 23,000. Got into the camera thing about 7 months ago and seemed to be doing it backwards by purchasing a bunch of film point and shoots, a few rangefinders, and then some film slr’s, but wasn’t shooting any of them, I just collected. Did buy a Fuji x100, which has been used a decent amount, and that’s been interesting, but want to shoot the film cams. Have shot an expired roll in a yashica t4 recently, but it’s not developed yet. Looking forward to seeing the image quality that’s hyped about this camera. The roadblock has been my green-ness to photography, no place in town to develop, and thus the cost of film plus sending away to develop and the inconvenience. First camera I ever shot was an Olympus slr about 16 yrs ago, not sure if it was an om1. Only thing to do is start self developing and get a decent scanner. Of course then there’s the finding time factor to make it all happen. It takes time. Anyway, sorry for the long comment, seemed time though to throw one in having read your site for a while now.

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    • Thanks for lurking and finally chiming in! The great things about cameras like the A-Four is that they can be had for less than $20. They’re essentially considered junk cameras.

      Given where you’re located, I can well imagine that film photography has some challenges, esp. when it comes to having the film processed. Where do you send your film out to?

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  6. zoran vaskic says:

    Actually it was the 3rd lady picture I thought had some half decent sharpness/detail, not the second last. Or maybe I just liked the shot more than the other ones, which is likely the case

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  7. zoran vaskic says:

    Well, here’s the thing, I’m not sure where stuff would get sent since I have never taken a roll to the photo store in town that does the sending. I’d be surprised if it’s anywhere but 125 miles away to a place called Grande Prairie in the province of Alberta across the border from British Columbia, my province. Essentially it’s close to a week and a half to two weeks turn around mail wise though it’s not that far. But too far too drive on any regular basis except once in a while and you would want to load up on the rolls when you do go. It’s the London Drugs, which curiously continues to develop film in their stores and all the other name outlets have stopped for some time now. So self developing is the route to get on to learning with no time to waste! And as I said Jim my green-ness in this whole thing is a factor in how fast all this has been moving for me. I have learned a
    lot from reading and enjoy that, but shooting lots of photos and handling cameras in the real, especially film, is lacking. No worries though, it’s still fun, and still shall be down the road. By the way, night and day difference in the two sets of photos from Monday to today. Very decent photos for sure this last batch. God bless Jim, and in the future I’ll try to shorten the comments if and when I do jump into the fracas

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    • Well, if you’re in for a dime, you might as well be in for a dollar! I don’t process my own film, but many of my commenters keep encouraging me to try, because it’s not all that hard. Seems like the most challenging part, actually, is scanning the negatives.

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