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.
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.
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!
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!