The Argus 75, also marketed as the Argus Seventy-Five and the Argoflex Seventy-Five*, is a bakelite pseudo TLR made by the Argus company between 1949 and 1964. It’s a simple, inexpensive, yet reliable little box camera that you would hang around your neck, look down into the large, clear viewfinder, and snap photos at waist level, keeping the camera steady with your elbows at your side. They used 620 film, which is easily obtainable by using 120 film available today, and either modifying the take-up spool (clipping off about a millimeter from the edge all the way round), or by respooling the film onto a 620 spool. In complete darkness, of course.
It’s cheap and readily available – I have one of each, neither of which I expressly purchased, but they were thrown in with other cameras I was after on eBay. With a leather case and possibly even a flash attachment, you should be able to get one of these for between 5 and 10 bucks. At the time these were manufactured, twin-lens reflex cameras were all the rage, but they were pretty expensive. They all had dual lenses like the 75, and the focusing systems were linked, so that you could focus using the image coming through the top lens (and through the finder on top of the camera), and this would match the focus that the “picture-taking” lower lens would have. The “pseudo” twin lens reflex, on the other hand, didn’t really let you focus at all. You just looked through the lens and hoped for the best.
The camera takes 6 cm by 6 cm square photos, and most tend to be in focus despite the lack of a focusing mechanism because the manufacturers wisely made it about f/11 and 1/50-1/60 of a second or so – which works at most distances – from about 7 to 8 feet and beyond. There is a flash attachment, but if you want to leave the shutter open for a longer exposure, there is a “time” setting instead of the 1/60 “instant” setting that can be used.
I recently took this camera out on the streets of Chennai, and the photos that came out well are shown below. Admittedly some of them have been improved after scanning using Photoshop, but a decent photo would not have been possible had the original exposure not been in focus and with decent lighting. The first, despite (purposely) being crooked, is one of my favorite photos I’ve taken in Chennai. If you’d like to see additional photos taken by someone else using this camera, here are some unmodified Argus 75 photos; or you can also check out this blog. I am notorious for being unable to hold a camera straight, but I’m still not sure this explains why all the pictures lean in the same direction.
*it was called the “Argoflex Seventy-Five” from 1949 to 1952; the “Argus Seventy-Five” from 1952 to 1958; and the “Argus 75” from 1958 to 1964. They were all pretty much identical, except the last model came in black instead of brown.