Argus A-Four photographs through the years

Argus A-Four

The shots I shared with you on Monday from my Argus A-Four, a bakelite-and-aluminum 35mm viewfinder camera made from 1953-56, led me to look at photos I’ve taken with this camera in the past.

The A-Four and I go way back — to 1982, as that’s when I shot my first roll of film in one. I was 14. I’ll share some shots from that roll later, but first, let’s look at what this camera can do.

I was surprised and disappointed that the shots I shared with you on Monday were so grainy and lacked sharpness and detail. This photo of a 1967 Ford LTD tail light, which I took in 2010, is creamy smooth with rich blacks and solid sharpness and detail. This is what this simple camera can do.

67 Ford LTD

Maybe I got better results because I was shooting Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, a modern tabular-grain film. The Arista Premium 400 I used for the shots I shared on Monday is an old-style cubic-grain film. Perhaps the modern films make the A-Four sing. Here’s an Avanti II from that 2010 roll, which I shot at that year’s Mecum muscle-car auction.


Just one more old car, a 1972 MGB GT, just because these results are so good. I used the Sunny 16 rule to take all of these car photos.


I also took the A-Four along on my tour of Putnam County’s old bridges in 2010. (Trip report part 1 here and part 2 here.) This is the Hibbs Ford Bridge. As you can see, the lens is subject to flare when shooting toward the sun.

Putnam County bridges

I forget which bridge this is, but its massive truss is taller than my car.

Putnam County bridges

When I toured US 50 in 2010, I found this curious (formerly) neon sign in Seymour.

Paris Style

Now let’s step into the Wayback Machine and look at a couple photos from 1984, from the only roll of film I’ve ever developed myself. This is the elementary school I attended in South Bend, shot on probably Kodak Plus-X.

James Monroe School

I shot the A-Four wide open from my childhood bedroom door. That’s my brother’s room there, and the round mirror was rescued from the Oliver Hotel in South Bend before it was demolished in the late 1960s.

Hallway at home

And now, the promised photos from 1982. I’d picked up my first A-Four at a yard sale a year or two earlier, and finally loaded some Kodacolor II into it. This is Missy, the Labrador retriever we had then, relaxing in our side yard. I was deeply attached to this dog! I had an 8×10 made of this image then, and my dad made a frame for it. It still hangs in my home.


Here’s my brother in midair at my grandparents’ palatial retirement estate in southwest Michigan. He would probably kill me if he knew I published this, so let’s not tell him, OK?


I opened the A-Four wide to get this indoors shot of my grandfather. I took few photos of him (and my grandmother, for that matter), and I regret it. My favorite photo of him is this one of him holding me as a baby.


Finally, here’s me leaning on our family car at the time, a big old cargo van my dad bought for the cabinetmaking business he started. I shared this photo once before with a little more story behind it. (I took my first driving lesson in this beast; story here.) Hey, there’s a little more of that into-the-sun flare.

Me, Van, July, 1982

By the way, I scanned these 1980s shots with my cheap, plastic Wolverine Super F2D, which did a good enough job.

As you can see, the Argus A-Four is a fairly capable lump of plastic.

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8 responses to “Argus A-Four photographs through the years”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    You get some premium work out of a value-market camera! I’m surprised at the quality…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes! Me too! And that puzzles me all the more over why I got such meh results from the roll I shared on Monday.

  2. Mike Avatar

    You got some great results from that camera. Nice to see the Cintar get some respect.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Mike! I’ve got the itch to shoot this camera again, so I’ll buy some T-Max 100 or Neopan 100 Acros sooner or later and give ‘er another go.

  3. hmunro Avatar

    Like your other readers, I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality of the images you eked out of this little camera, Jim! But maybe more importantly, I’m touched by the sentimental weight of so many of the images. They’re beautiful. Thank you for sharing them.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks so much Heather! I’m glad they reached you today.

  4. Sam Avatar

    Wow Jim, awesome shots in this post!! I have an Argus C3 that I’ve never used. I think Argus got a bad rap from sites like CameraQuest, the author of which I have great respect for, but he might have gotten it wrong. I’ll probably be looking for an A-Four based on your post, thanks!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Sam! Argus was never going to be another Nikon, but some of their cameras were quite capable in the right hands.

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