Restoring an Argoflex EM TLR Later Variant
Modifying it for 120 film spool
David E. Gaon
8 Feb 2007
1. Condition of the camera
The camera was a 1948/49 Argoflex EM Later Variant and was the property of US-CE-C (United States Corps of Engineers, Civil).
I received it, the camera had a slow shutter, dirty optics, the viewing
and taking lenses were not meshing properly, and it had spool carriers
for only 620 films.
It also had scuffs and loss of paint here and there, but overall, the camera was sound and the leatherette was all in one piece.
In my opinion, it was worth bringing it back to a useful life.
addition, since the spools wells were large enough to accept the 120
spools and since the 120 and 620 films have the same frame
registration, I modified the camera to accept the 120-film spool.
2. Tools required
2.1 General tools
- 1/16, 1/8, 3/16 straight screw drivers
- #00, #0, #1, #2 Philips screwdrivers
- Fine nosed pliers and cutters
- Tweezers, sturdy and fine nosed
- Old toothbrush for dusting and cleaning
- Manual air pump
- A small amount of rodico putty from S. Larose
2.2 Tools for leatherette work
- Retractable and flexible utility knife used for prying leatherette off
- Flexible grapefruit or paring kitchen knife used for prying leatherette off
- Painter’s palette knife used for prying leatherette off
- 0.010 inch steel feeler gauge
2.3 Tools for lens work
- Lens cleaning fluid from any camera store
- Cotton swabs
lint free cloth – old thin cotton or linen under-shirt that has been
washed 100 times will do fine. DO NOT USE towels – they are rough and
not lint free. DO NOT USE paper, even Kleenex – paper is abrasive.
- Spring loaded wrench used for removing C rings from automotive parts store used as lens wrench
- Home made lens wrenches
- Machinist dividers used as lens wrenches
- Grommets from local garage used as friction wrenches for unscrewing lenses
with curved recess in the nose – grind the serrations off and cover
with rubber gloves fingers – put 2 ply on to save any metal from
scratches used for freeing stubborn lenses
2.4 Cleaning and solvent fluids
- Portable stove gasoline fuel (I use Coleman which is much cleaner than regular gas)
- Naphtha from your local hardware store for cleaning and dissolving gunk and glue
- Acetone from local hardware store for cleaning and dissolving glue
- Gluing material such as Pliobond or liquid shellac (dry shellac dissolved in a little alcohol) to glue mirrors and leatherette
methyl from hardware store or isopropyl from pharmacy (more potent
90%), for cleaning lenses and dissolving gunk and glue
2.5 Shutter oils and grease
- Watchmaker’s oil and oiling needles
or other sticky gear grease (it stays in place and does not dry).
Obtain from S. Larose, Greensboro, NC (watch material supply house)
- Dry carbon dust lubrication from any auto part store
2.6 Focusing tools
8x11 sheet with a back cross (6x9 and 1 ½ thick sides) drawn with black
ink marker used for adjusting rangefinder and lens focus
- 1”x4” and 4”x4” frosted glass from local window repair shop
2.7 Tools for making camera parts
- Watchmakers lathe for fine turning, drilling, and boring camera parts
- Atlas 13” lathe with milling attachment for turning, drilling, boring, slitting camera parts
3. Getting to the shutter mechanism
“”Putting things in containers”” directive will not be repeated in the
text but it is highly recommended that you have enough separate
containers to keep items from the same area together for later easy
3.1 Disengaging the lens meshing
get to the shutter, the taking lens has to be removed and since the
taking and viewing lenses are meshed and the viewing lens interferes
with removing the taking lens rings , I find it more convenient to
disengage them. This will give more freedom and makes the repair job
HALT: before you disengage the lens meshing, rotate them
to focus at infinity and with a magic marker mark 1 tooth on the taking
lens and 2 teeth on the taking lens where the meshing takes place.
Also, measure the height of each lens from the top of its casing to the
facia surface and make a note of these measurements.
This will be useful during assembly.
the back of the camera, and using a stepped out lens wrench, release
the taking lens holding-nut just enough (about 45 to 60 degrees) so you
can shift the taking lens down a bit and disengage it from the viewing
You can use a handgrip or a rubber grip/wrench to hold the front lens secure.
Now we can proceed with the repairs to the shutter.
3.2 Removing the front facia of the lenses
START WITH THE VIEWING LENS
The picture is for the Taking lens, but the principle is the same.
Use a sharp pointed utility knife or an Xacto and carefully pry the facia ring around the viewing lens mounting.
unfortunately is not a pretty job but if you are careful, you can do it
with minimal damage to the facia ring. These rings are glued on but the
glue, after so many years, is pretty dried up and once you get under
the facia, it will lift off.
I like to make a small notch or flatten
the outer circle of the facia where the prying took place to make it
easier for the next repairman. Also, clean the prying marks with a fine
Repeat for the taking lens.
Place the facia rings in separate containers.
3.3 Removing the lenses
HALT: did you take the height measurements of the lenses at infinity focus ??
the lenses are held together like a sandwich between a top ring
(blackish) and a bottom aluminum ring that has screw holes in it. This
arrangement secures them in place in their toothed carriers once their
focus has been aligned.
START WITH THE VIEWING LENS
Taking lens is already out in the picture, (i.e. I was not following my
own procedure) but, trust me, it is much easier to take the Viewing
lens out first since its focusing ring is over the speed adjustment
ring of the taking lens and therefore interferes with its removal (as
can be seen is later pictures).
So, under the facias, you will see 3 screws each holding down the back ring and screw into the bottom aluminum ring.
Unscrew the 3 screws and place them in their respective container.
Lift off the retaining black rings.
Unscrew the viewing lens.
The viewing lens if left-handed (so turn clockwise)
There is yet a 3rd aluminum ring under the lens carriers with screw holes in it.
a magic marker to align one screw hole in the bottom ring with the lens
carrier while the lens carrier is still aligned to infinity.
the bottom aluminum rings (the one for the viewing lens has the
distance markings while the one for the taking lens is blank)
Removing the taking lens is basically the same operation and is much easier now that the viewing lens is out of the way.
Unscrew the 3 screws and place them in their respective container.
Lift off the retaining black rings.
Unscrew the taking lens.
The taking lens if right-handed (so turn anti-clockwise)
There is yet a 3rd aluminum ring under the lens carriers with screw holes in it.
MAKE SURE YOU NOTE WHERE THE INFINITY STOP PIN OF THE TAKING LENS IS.
IT SHOULD BE AT THE BOTTOM STOP SCREW.
a magic marker to align one screw hole in the bottom ring with the lens
carrier while the lens carrier is still aligned to infinity.
this point, I like to clean the facia rings using naphtha and polish
the aluminum rings using a fine steel brush. 400-grit papers may
first be used if the rings are pitted but finish with the polish.
Also clean and polish the toothed ring of the lens carriers.
3.4 Getting to the shutter and cleaning it
Two screws hold the speed/aperture indicator ring down (see last picture above) – unscrew them and remove that ring.
Remove the brass ring under it
the speed selector ring and disengage it from the aperture selector
pointer – it takes a bit of wriggling and it helps to twist the
aperture pointer up and out of the way.
Use a sharp straight blade screwdriver to lift the brass cover plate of the shutter assembly.
Unscrew the 1 screw holding the top plate of the shutter slow timer.
CAREFUL: there is a spring tensioning the timing charge lever off – unhook it from its post.
Remove all timer parts and place in a small jar with some Coleman gasoline
Unhook other lever springs, remove levers and place in another jar of gasoline.
Use a swab dampened with gasoline and clean the shutter case from oil and old grease.
Use a swab with gasoline to clean the posts of the timer assembly
Remove items from gasoline jars and clean with brush if need be and blow dry.
Replace levers and grease contact points between levers and levers and shutter case.
a watchmakers oiler to place a tiny drop of watch oil on the timer
pivots – make sure the oil is well spread over the pivot surface.
Use tiny amount of grease at the timer rocker and its wheel interface.
Replace timer parts and engage tensioning spring of timer charger.
Replace timer top cover.
Exercise the timer charger to make sure the timer parts are free and rocker will provide slow time.
Exercise the shutter to make sure all is well.
The brass cover plate is made up of 2 rings held together by 2 screws working on small tensioning brass pieces.
to brass cover plate from oil and old grease – a wipe with a
gasoline-dampened cloth is enough or you can dunk it in a gasoline jar.
Lightly grease the surface between the brass rings and the top and bottom surfaces of the larger ring.
Re-assemble the brass cover plate and replace it over the shutter case.
Exercise the shutter at all speeds to check correct operations at slow and fast speeds.
Replace the speeds selector ring.
Replace the brass ring and the speed/aperture indicator ring.
Replace the 2 holding screws.
3.5 Shutter and aperture blades
this camera, the shutter and aperture blades were fine (no oil,
no rust, and they were snappy) so I did not need to go further in
repairing the shutter.
There are several techniques for cleaning oily blades:
- use swabs and paper strips to work over and between the blades to remove the oil (work it all the way to the hinges)
the whole assembly from the camera and dunk it whole in cleaning
liquids such as naphtha, Coleman gasoline, Ronsonol after removing all
lenses (front and back)
- remove the whole assembly from the
camera, completely disassemble it, and dunk the parts in cleaning
liquids. I prefer this method since there is less likelihood of
gunk or dirt particles getting wedged in the mechanism.
- blow dry it
If rusted, they will have to be disassembled and each blade rubbed with 600 or 800 grit sand paper then blued.
THIS APPLIES ONLY TO STEEL BLADES NOT - NOT - NOT
TO HARD RUBBER BLADES (which wouldn’t rust anyway).
3.6 Cleaning the lenses
Brush the lens surfaces with a soft brush (ladies rouge brush is excellent for this) to remove dirt and grit.
Use a soft well-washed cotton undershirt with alcohol to gently wipe the glass surfaces.
Repeat with lens cleaner and finally breath vapor.
the threads of the lens carriers using a swab with gasoline or naphtha
and re-grease lightly with KT22 grease or a good sticky and medium
bodied automotive axle grease.
Also, clean the threads of the lens receptacles and re-grease.
set shutter to T and aperture to f4.5 (largest), cock shutter, clean
the front surface of the stationary rear taking lens and blow it clean.
Open the back and clean the rear lens of the taking lens.
View a light through the taking stationary lens to ensure it is clean.
Clean front surface of stationary viewing lens.
3.7 Cleaning the viewfinder
Remove the strap holders (2 screws each side)
Unscrew 2 screws each side of the viewfinder assembly and lift whole assembly off the camera.
Lift the ground focus glass and its metal frame off.
Clean ground glass using soap and water, alcohol, and lens cleaning liquid. Dry and blow it.
front-silvered mirror using a brush first and then lens cleaning liquid
– do not rub heavily but sufficiently to clean the surface. Dry and
Clean the rear surfaces of the viewing stationary lens.
View a light through the viewing stationary lens to ensure it is clean.
Clean the metal viewfinder assembly using a brush.
Replace the ground glass, replace the viewfinder assembly, replace screws, and replace strap holders and screws.
3.8 Replacing the lenses
Since the lenses are not meshed, replacing the lenses is easy.
Replace the aluminum distance ring on the viewing lens making sure the infinity marks coincide.
the viewing lens in (anti-clockwise) till the lens height is returned
to about what was measure earlier in the disassembly.
Aim at an infinity object and focus the viewing lens.
Use a magnifier lens for sharper viewing if this helps.
the black ring of the viewing lens, replace the 3 screws loosely,
re-check for infinity focus, make sure distance ring is still set at
infinity (you can juggle it in place using a small screwdriver),
tighten the screws.
Replace the aluminum ring of the taking lens making sure the infinity stop pin is hard against the bottom stop screw.
Screw the taking lens in (clockwise) till the lens height is returned to about what was measure earlier in the disassembly.
Use a ground glass or strips of matte scotch tape across the film plane and focus the taking lens.
Make sure the infinity stops is hard against its infinity stops (fully clockwise).
Replace the black ring and 3 screws loosely, re-check focus, and tighten screws.
the camera focus was originally adjusted correctly, the focus marks on
the toothed rings should match or be not too far off – but it does not
matter as this procedure establishes correct focus.
MESHING THE LENSES AND FINAL CHECKS
Without rotating the lenses, tap the taking lens up till it meshes with the viewing lens.
Rotate lenses from infinity to close distance to ensure meshing is easy and does not slip, else re-adjust and re-check.
Re-check focus at infinity
Check focus to an object at measured distances of 5 and 20 feet – focus should be OK.
all is well, tighten the rear holding nut of the taking lens assembly
while firmly holding its front lens with a hand or a rubber grip/wrench.
the facias by simply pushing them in – some will fit tight, else a drop
of liquid shellac at the screw heads will suffice to secure them.
4. Modifying to accept 120-film spool
For a short history of the Argus TLR market introduction and their use of the 120 and 620 film formats see the Appendix below.
cannot confirm this definitively as I do not have all models, but I
believe that of all the Argus TLR cameras, only the Argoflex E Pre-War
Variant was designed for 620 and 120 spools. According to Harry
Gambino’s Argomania, the Pre-War E’s are characterized by the left-side
(viewed from the back) pull out knob – but this is now questioned (see
All others: Argoflex E Post-War Variant; Argoflex EM
Early Variant; Argoflex EM Late Variant; Argoflex EF,
Argoflex/Argus 75; and Argoflex/Argus 40 were designed for 620 spools
However, the spool wells of the E Post-War, EM’s and EF
are large enough to accommodate the 120 spool and thus can be modified
as shown in this report.
Here is a summary table showing the film compatibility of the Argus TLRs
|Model||Spool size designed for||Well size large enough for|
|Argoflex E Pre-War early||620 and 120||620 and 120|
|Argoflex E Pre-War late||620 and 120||620 and 120|
|Argoflex E Post-War||620||620 and 120|
|Argoflex EM Early||620||620 and 120|
|Argoflex EM Late||620||620 and 120|
|Argoflex EF||620||620 and 120|
|Argoflex/Argus 75||620||620 only|
|Argoflex/Argus 40||620||620 only|
Now, regarding the Argoflex EM’s and EF
Argoflex EM (Early and Later Variants) and Argoflex EF came designed to
accept 620 spools only and were fitted with 620 film spool carriers at
the supply and take-up sides. The
supply carrier is just too small for a 120 spool and the take-up
carrier has a cylindrical pin (too thin for the 120 end hole) and with
a 1mm shoulder that prevents the 120 spool from fitting in.
However, the spool wells without the carriers are deep enough to accept 120 film spools.
Thus, the Argoflex EM’s and EF can be modified for 120 spools as shown below.
Mr. Charles Spickard suggested that I use parts of an old E (the wind
knob and the opposing pull out pressure knob) to modify the EM.
I decided against this approach because:
- Yes, the wind knob can be removed from the E and used in the EM
opposing pull out pressure knob appears to be press fitted and glued
into the body of the E which then entailed breaking that body and
trying to fit it into the body of the EM with the possibility of
breaking that body as well
- I prefer to do reversible modifications when possible
- It is easier to do the modifications outlined below
4.1 Removing the 620 carriers
The supply side carrier is hinged on 2 pins driven into the body.
You only need to remove the pin in the right side of the body looking from the back.
Unscrew the wind knob and remove it.
Lift the leatherette covering the right side of the camera looking from the back.
the flat side of a broad screwdriver and a hammer; drive the pin on the
right side out of the body; remove carrier; and replace the pin back in.
The take-up carrier is hinged on the top film roller.
The film rollers are held in a metal frame and the whole thing is secured to the body by springs in groves.
Looking at the top roller and into the spool well, you will see a flat spring in a grove.
With a screwdriver, lift its end off the grove and pry the rollers frame off the camera.
Now lightly expand the 620-spool carrier and pry it off the top roller.
Replace the roller frame on the body.
That was the easy part.
4.2 Making a new drive support for the 120 spool
120 film spool needs a support to counter balance the support provided
by the wind knob and keep the spool even and parallel while winding.
I made such a support using 25 thou thick sheet metal – pattern given in picture.
support pin is 0.200 inch in diameter steel, brass, or aluminum rod and
is riveted onto the sheet metal. Height is 0.300 inch.
Metal shears and a Dremmel fitted with thin cut-off wheel were used to cut and shape the support.
A broad nosed plier was used to make the bends.
The offset bend is essential to allow the 120-spool length to fit and so the support will not slip off the roller pin.
the new support onto the left side of the top roller and test that door
closes else reshape the 90 degree bend for better fit and make sure the
spool is free to turn when the door is closed.
4.3 Modifying the drive pin for 120 spool
drive pin of the wind knob for the 620-film spool has a flat piece of
sheet metal pinned into a slot (this is the film wind key). That piece
is too short to drive the 120-film spool specially the plastic variety
which is soft and gets torn.
While it seems to hold the metal 120 spools, it is safer to make a larger key to fit the 120 spools.
I made this piece using 40 thou steel band metal – dimensions are 0.190x0.285x0.040
the pin holding this piece into the drive is tight and you may not be
able to hammer it out, and since the leatherette on that side is
already off, it is safer to take the drive pin off the camera and work
Unscrew the 5 screws holding the right side metal plate and lift it off.
the drive pin; drill out the holding pin or carefully drive it out
using an appropriate sized punch while holding the drive pin on a hard
surface, else it will break; remove the metal piece.
Make the new metal piece using steel band – measurements are 0.200x0.287x 0.050 inch
Push it in the drive pin slot; center it; drill the metal piece for a new holding taper pin.
Secure with a new taper pin.
the right-side metal plate there is a thin aluminum plate. The hole
needs to be slightly enlarged to allow the metal piece to go through it
when the wind knob is pulled out to fit a 120 spool.
Use a fine round file to enlarge it – not too much.
Replace the thin aluminum plate and the right-side metal plate.
the modified drive pin from the inside into its hole; replace the wind
knob and screw it on; test that it can be pulled out; test that it can
drive a 120 spool.
If all is well, remove wind knob to repair body and re-glue the leatherette.
5. The body
I use Bonds fabric glue for the leatherette – seems to be pliable and holds pretty well.
Do not over glue – just at the edges and a few lines of glue on the inside areas is enough.
Hold down using stiff foam and clamp over wood shims till set.
Pliobond and contact cement can be used for a more permanent glue – but it makes it hard to lift the leatherette later.
I use black crayon to fill scratches, pinholes, etc
Apply thinly and wipe excess using paper towels till surface is even.
use Rustoleum oil based black in combinations of shiny, satin and matte
to match the body paint and paint the areas that need it with a ¼ inch
semi stiff painter’s brush.
Wet the brush well but don’t overload
it and don’t overwork the paint (i.e. don’t go over it several times as
it dries quickly and you will see the brush marks) – a nice easy stroke
over the whole area should do it. Sometimes an extra drop of paint
thinner will make the paint easier to work with.
aluminum parts (usually tarnished with gray or black spots), I use 600
grit paper held over a flat surface and rub the parts if I can remove
them. Else, hold the paper over finger and rub till the tarnish is
I then finish by polishing with fine steel polishing wheel.
Comes out like new with no indication of grit marks.
Same procedure for rusted steel parts.
can even do that on rusted STEEL shutter and aperture leaves (not the
hard rubber types), but here they need to be blued afterwards (either
by heat or with gun instant blacking).
I use black stove polish or shoe polish for an overall polish (metal and leatherette)
Apply thinly with cloth or brush and polish using a brush and cloth
6. Camera operation
This is really a simple camera.
Use a light meter or the Sunny 16 rule to set shutter speed and aperture.
Focus on the object of interest.
Depress shutter – the shutter is self-cocking.
VOILA another picture for posterity.
7. Comments, corrigendum and additions
All comments, corrigendum and additions to make report more complete are appreciated.
Please address these to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
A short history of Argus TLRs and the 120/620 saga
A good general reference to Argus is Henry Gambino’s “Argomania, a look at Argus cameras and the company that made them”.
The following are excerpts from a lively discussion the ACG members had on the subject.
am indebted to all who contributed to the discussion for allowing me to
use the material here, in particular: Mr. Dan Cluley, Mr. Ed Kowalski,
Mr. Ron Norwood, and
Mr. Charles Spickard.
I shall quote the relevant messages here rather than write excerpts.
I have taken the liberty to correct and highlight the important information.
A1. On the 120 and 620 film
From Mr. Ed Kowalski
The film counting numbers are exactly the same position on 120 and 620 films.
They are essentially the same film, exactly the same width across, but
loaded onto spools with different diameter shafts and different thickness and
diameter of end discs.
The keyholes at the ends of 120 spools are somewhat larger.
A2. A short history of Argus TLRs
From Mr. Dan Cluley:
>1. I did not know the Es came with different view lenses - do they, what
>difference, why, and when ?
Well, this is probably more than anyone needs to know. ;) but here is
what I've put together from the survey cameras. (Additional date info from
Henry Gambino's book "Argomania"
The Argus E has a plastic body. It was originally introduced in 1940 and
the Phase 1 and 2 versions were made before the war (possibly some Phase 2
after the war)Phase 1
has an uncoated lens and secondary wind knob on the right hand side
(viewed from the front). Phase1 production seems to have been around
also has an uncoated lens, but only has the main wind knob on the
left side. Production around 23,000
In 1941 (towards the end of Phase 2 production (based on serial numbers))
Argus made a small batch of E’s for Montgomery-Ward. They had the Phase 1
body with two knobs, a cheaper lens/shutter unit, and were labeled
“Wardflex” rather than “Argoflex”Phase 3
is the same as Phase 2 but with coated optics. Production was around
77,000 making this the most common version.
All of these have the same f4.5 viewing lens and all of them except the
Wardflex have an f4.5 taking lens as well.
The Phase 4
has a larger (f3.5?) viewing lens. The serial number range
indicates production around 14,000, however we have a gap in the middle of
the survey of almost 12,000 so production may have been much smaller.
The last E’s were made in 1948, a year after the Argoflex II was introduced.
This was to be a “Super” E
. It introduced the metal body casting used for
the EM and EF, had the larger view lens, and an automatic indexing for the
wind mechanism. Unfortunately the winder apparently didn’t work properly,
and the handful that were made were recalled quickly.
Later in 1948 they began to sell the EM. This used the new metal body, but
retained the same basic mechanism as the Plastic E. Most EM’s have the
large view lens like the Phase 4 E’s and the Argoflex II.
The Phase 1 EM
has the raised trim on the camera front/side shiny metal (as
did the Argoflex II ) Production seems to be around 3000.
The Phase 2 EM
has the entire body black. Production around 9,000.
Still in 1948, the EM was replaced by the EF
which was basically a Phase 2
EM with a hot shoe added to the right side. The all seem to have had the
smaller (f4.5) view lens. The serial numbers have some odd discrepancies,
so I really don’t have a good idea on total production. They were made into
Based on the cameras (and lacking any written data ) this is my best guess
When the Argoflex II didn’t pan out, the Phase 4 E’s and the EM were a
stopgap, quickly put into production to fill the shelves. They got the
larger view lenses that were made for the Argoflex II and then went back to
the cheaper small view lens for the EF.
The second group of Argus TLRs are the 75 series
. They started out in 1949
as a cheaper alternative to the EF. They share a slightly smaller
streamlined black plastic body and are mostly fixed focus, no adjustment box
cameras. They do not have serial numbers, but many of them have a date
stamped somewhere inside.
First is the Argoflex Seventy-Five
(name all spelled out like that on the
front) which seem to have been made from 1949 to sometime in 1952 or 53.
In 1950 Argus introduced a fancier version (but not as nice as the EF) that
used the Seventy Five body but with shutter/f-stop adjustments and a
focusing lens. The view lens was still fixed like the Seventy Five. There
seems to have been confusion over the name of this camera initially. It was
apparently originally known as the “Argoflex Model”
but the lettering on the
camera can variously say “Argoflex”, “Argoflex Argoflex”, or “Argoflex
The “Argoflex Forty” name is what stuck, and all of the survey examples from
mid-1950 until 1952-53 are that version. Argoflex is printed on the metal
front trim, while forty is engraved letters painted white on the bezel above
the viewing lens.
Sometime (probably the end of 1952, or beginning of 1953) the prefix on the
two cameras changed from Argoflex to just Argus
In 1954 they dropped the Argus Forty, and replaced it with the cheaper Argus Super Seventy Five
. This was a standard Seventy-Five with the addition of a
focusing lens and a lever for selecting f8, f11, or f16. They were probably
made until 1957 or 58.
The last Argus TLR was made from 1958 to 1963 or 64. This was the Argus 75
The Argus 75 was the same as the Seventy Five, but with a brown plastic body,
different front trim and the name in red numbers rather than spelled out in
Feb 4 2007
Ok, to summarize the summary ;)
Every Argus TLR should take 620 spools at both ends.
The 75 series (smaller streamlined plastic bodies) will not take 120 at the
take-up, may be modified to take 120 for supply.
The EM and EF (large metal bodies) are not designed for 120, but can be
fairly easily modified to take 120.
The E (large square plastic body) comes both ways.
Rule of thumb (until we prove otherwise) is that if view and taking lenses
are the same it will probably take 120 at both ends, if the view lens is larger
diameter then it probably will need to be modified to take 120 take-up.
From Mr. Ron Norwood:
Just a few additions to Dan's chronicle of the Argus TLRs.
Probably more than you want to know.
The Wardflex, a prewar E with Montgomery Wards logos, and
probably the Model A-2 taking lens, was promoted as a 120 film camera
while the Argus was listed in the same catalog as a 620 camera.
The 620-film stock was thinner and could be rolled onto a
smaller spool core than can 120. This film size probably should be
looked at as a marketing tool in the mid-1930s when introduced by Kodak
along with a series of 620 using "Junior" cameras. People used their
few dollars to get the latest. Recall one of the most interesting
automatic cameras in history was Kodak's Super 620 from that era.
At the time (late 30s) my parents had to choose between steak or a
roll of film to photograph their new son with their 620 camera.
In any case, 620 was a film of choice for the masses by Kodak and Argus
had to follow their lead.
Kodak's 620 plastic bodies cameras are around in force today at flea
The earliest EMs used, as Dan said, the f3.5 viewing lens of the
By the way, in 2004 we had all known (to ACGers) copies of the
Argoflex II in Martinsville for the Gathering.
Five of them--- one major pre-production model and 3 slightly
Apparently as a stop gap measure to have something on the sales floor
Argus, a consummate user of spare parts, made Model Es with serial numbers
above 900,000 using the Argoflex II f3.5/f4.5 lens combinations. They had
them, why not use them on something? And, I say consummate user if you
consider the fate of the Model D and the resulting three versions of a Model
Alexander Rawles has an Argus f3.5 taking lens/shutter in his
collection which was found in the Wollensak sample room collection.
So other ideas were present. Close examination of a number of
early polished trim EMs indicates Argus ground off the Roman numeral
"II" to salvage the bodies for the EM. It's safe to credit Alexander
Rawles first bringing this to ACG group's attention about 4 years ago.
In addition to Dan's outline, I feel there are three major divisions
of the EMs. The two Dan mentions plus a final version which is the same
as an EF sans the flash shoe.
An interesting though: Argus, in the 1947-48 period, was producing
and/or marketing and developing the Argoflex E, Argoflex II, the
EM and EF, and the Seventy Five. Things were moving along to make a
Dan omits the Jack Hanes produced Argoflex Seventy-Fives
marketed by Hanimex in Australia. This story was researched for the
first time by Aussie ACGer Ken Anderson prior to Jack's death in early 2006.
Dan mentions briefly one of the great challenges in Argoflex
collecting, the "Model," which became the Forty. Apparently produced only
from March to June 1950, it makes an interesting collectable and hunt.
Now, to the cameras which could have been.
A display of special cameras by Argus was made at the 1978
Photographic Manufacturers Association (PMA) show in Chicago.
Included was an external focusing TLR prototype as well as an
Argoflex II, a black C-4, a black A-3 or CC and other now rare
cameras. Metal bodied Argoflex TLR, serial number 1590010860,
is focused by a right side knob (which appears to have come from
the C-4 parts bins). A focusing knob was a desirable addition to
the camera. It works by racking (focusing) the viewing lens which
in turn focuses the taking lens. Using an early EM body with
polished raised trim lines and name, it has the lens/shutter combination of a
Model EF and a hot shoe. The serial number is from late EF production;
however, the back may have come from the parts bin and the number be of little
or no significance. It is unknown whether this was an evolution intended for
a next generation modification of the EM-EF line.
The only known published reference to this camera at the time is a
blurb from LaHue in Popular Photography following the show.
It was purchased from Argus by Dick Kinsey in 1985
when he bought out the Service Dept and all its spare parts.
The camera now rests in my collection.
In the mid to late 1940s, Harley Earl’s industrial design studio
came up with a fresh design nicknamed the “Big Argoflex.”
(Same Harley Earl designed those special concept cars for GM in the
How far camera development progressed is uncertain. A design rendering
The taking and viewing lens are coupled and unlike the previous Argus
TLRs, the gearing is covered. What appears to be a manual focusing device
is beside the lenses. Without this device on the front, the camera could
easily be mistaken as having a lens board and bellows similar to a Mamiya 220
Ah, what might have been.
Ansco couldn't sell an expensive TLR so why would Argus
They were able to make a mint off the Seventy-Five plastic body design
(also by Harley Earl) and all the subsequent varieties from those molds.
Bob Kelly discovered what he thought was an unusual box with an EF a
year or so ago. Since then we bought several with/without cameras.
Following the Name Argoflex on the old style dark blue box there
appears to be a silver square--at least that's how it appears on ebay.
This is actually the Roman Numeral "II" made into a square. Someone
using a very small brush and silver ink/paint made the number into a
square. I took one and scraped the paint /ink off and found the
Like I said, Argus used up its stocks.
A3. On the Argoflex E
The Argoflex E came in 2 versions:
Pre-War Variant was designed to accept the 120 and 620 spools at the
supply and take-up sides. At the take-up side, it has a wind drive pin
is stepped to positively drive either a 620 or a 120 spool and has a
re-tractable conical support pin opposite the wind knob that fits the
620 and 120 spools.
- Post-War Variant had spool carriers that accepted 620 spools only.However, there are now questions regarding variations of the E Pre-War Variant depending on their Early or Late production date.
From Mr. Charles Spickard regarding the Argoflex E:David, Upon further investigation, I find that a plastic 120 spool fits and functions properly with the take-up "cradle" left in place in the E. I did have to do a little "relief bending" to make it fit. This was done with fingers only, no pliers. The wind knob has a two step shaft which fits either 120 or 620 snugly with no slip. I believe the plastic spool would break before the keyhole would tear out. Now as for the EM, Unless you can find a junk "E" and adapt the film wind knob assembly to your "EM", I would advise you to just use a 620 take up spool. The EM take-up knob slips in the 120 spool.Charles
Spickard was kind enough to send me an E (to cannibalize and play with)
and upon examination I found that it was indeed a Pre-War Variant which
was designed to accept both the 620 and 120 spools.
Mr. Spickard confirms this:
> Yes, I believe that it is the earliest version of the E Pre-War. The later Pre-War E’s did not have the "pull out" knob on the left side.
From Mr. Dan Cluley:
>>2. I understood all Post-War Variants were designed for 620 spool ONLY
>Dan, your question seems to indicate that the Post-War Variant came in 2
>versions of carriers - accepting and not-accepting 120 spools. It is
that Argus used some leftover carriers from the Pre-War production for
>the Post-War cameras, thus Charles example, BUT I wonder, if Argus
>a carrier for the E accepting 120/620 spools, why they changed it to accept
>620 spools only ??? The conical pin could not have been that much more
>expensive to produce than the straight pin with a shoulder !!
Excellent question. :)
I wish I had an answer. ;)
I think that it is actually both more and less complicated than that.
Look at all the Argus TLR models:Most of the E's are designed to take 120 and 620 spools.The very late E's, the EM, and the EF, have body castings with plenty of room for 120 spools, but cradle inserts to limit them to 620.
The 75 series cameras have a supply side cradle that only takes 620 spools,
and I don't believe that a 120 spool would fit the take up side at all.
This suggests to me that about 1948, a corporate decision was made to sell
620 cameras only, but I have no idea why.
Could it have something to do with the speed ratings of 120 vs 620?
Comparing my E to my EF, it looks like Rick Oleson's tip for removing the
supply side cradle should work.
On the takeup side a 120 spool will fit into the EF without modification,
BUT it is off center (towards the wind knob) but about 1mm.
I'm not sure whether this will cause any problems or not?
Note from David Gaon: The 1mm shoulder makes it impossible for the 120 spool to fit in the take-up carrier.
The E and the EF seem to have the same take-up cradle, but the centering pins
(opposite the wind knob) are different. The EF (620 only) has a cylindrical
pin with a shoulder that holds the spool away from the end of the cradle.
The E (120/620) has a cone shaped pin, that allows the 120 spool (with
larger hole) tight against the cradle, while the 620 spool (small hole) is
held slightly away.
I suspect that either replacing the EF cradle with one from an E or making a
new cone shaped pin would make 120 film work more smoothly in the EF.
The discussion of 120 conversions brings up another topic.
I have read several references to the "fact" that postwar E cameras will
not take 120 film.
I have never seen an E that wouldn't take 120 and that includes my example
which is relatively late production (definitely post-war)
Does anyone have an E that will NOT take 120? Any other thoughts or
From Mr. Charles Spickard:
I have a post-war E number 898433 (with coated lens) that will accept
a 120 supply spool, but a 120 spool will NOT fit in the take-up chamber. It
does have the "combination" (fits both 120 and 620) tip on the take up wind knob
shaft, but a 120 spool will not fit into the swing-out cradle that holds
the take-up spool.
Note from David Gaon: the 120 spool does not fit in the take-up carrier because of the 1mm shoulder.