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Not a Proper Argus

Submitted by on April 29, 2011 – 8:56 amNo Comment

Argus CR 1- by Rick Drawbridge-

It has the word “Argus” emblazoned across the pentaprism, but I’ll hastily assure you Argus devotees that I know it’s not a proper Argus. This curious SLR was produced in 1975 under several badges, including GAFL-CM, Chinon CM and, in the US, Argus CR-1.


Argus CR-1

It seems to owe some of it’s styling to the venerable Zenit 3M, and there’s just not much information regarding this camera available. It was apparently constructed by Chinon in 1975, and re-badged Argus for US distribution, Argus being just a marketing company by this juncture.The Argus Auto-Cintar lens is another mystery, but more of that in a minute…I had a film in this camera for about a month, an unusually long time for me. I played with it in the garden, took it along at Christmas to one of our off-shore islands, came home and played with it in the garden again.

When I looked at the scans I was somewhat astounded, the quality of the pictures from this rather ugly little beast were at least as good as I get from the Yashicas and Pentaxes I’d rate high on my list of fine old SLR’s. Perfectly exposed negatives, extraordinary definition, very crisp colour…what more could one ask of a 1970′s camera? And all that from a very heavy and well-made machine with no frills, other than a quick and accurate stop-down TTL meter powered by a Wein cell I’d substituted for the unavailable 1.35v.mercury battery.

It handles very well, with crisp focusing through a fresnel-centered viewfinder, 180 degree wind, speeds from B to 1000th, and a shutter that sounds like a Praktica. One definitely knows when

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it’s gone off…It’s just a pity about all the ugly black plastic.But the lens was the greatest surprise. 55mm f/2, branded “Argus Auto-Cintar”, I can’t find any details of its manufacture. In build it’s rather like a couple of Chinon lens in my collection, but there are some suggestions I’ve read that it was supplied by the Tomioka glassworks, home of the Yashinon lenses, amongst others.

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It’s a superb performer; I’d have to rate it among the best M42 prime lenses I’ve used. I hope the pics I append speak for themselves; I include a picture of the old garden lantern I use as an informal test for a newly-acquired lens, and I think this lens possibly leads the bunch. The film is the usual Superia 200; the “White Cammelia” pic I cheated and desaturated until only the bright yellow stamens remained.

Click on pictures to enlarge!
White Cammelia

White Cammelia

Stormbirds

Stormbirds
Ferry Red

Ferry Red
Tiny Dancer

Tiny Dancer
Lenstest Lantern

Lenstest Lantern
Gladiolus

Gladiolus

All text and images © 2011 Rick Drawbridge

About the author:

Rick is a New Zealand photographer who spends his spare time researching, restoring and reviewing old film cameras.
He will share his adventures in re-exploring the joy of using film cameras used by amateurs and professional photographers alike. His articles are not meant to be pixel peeping and nerdy technical reviews. They just should inspire you to explore the world of analog imaging and encourage the usage of analog equipment.

Have a look to all articles in his series The Joy of Film Cameras.

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