Last week I stopped by my Grandma’s house, and what did she have sitting on the counter to show me? This medium-format Argus Super Seventy-Five! It was her trusty camera, that she used in the 70’s after they had moved to Montana. She had an album of gorgeous calendar-worthy landscape photos from around where they lived, too. It was so neat to get to flip through those and play with the boxy camera… I’ve always wondered how they work and never actually held one before. The little thing is pretty sturdy!
She said she was thinking of throwing it, since she had no use for it anymore. I jumped at the offer to keep it and try it out. If anything, it would be a great decoration… but of course I was hoping I would be able to find film and shoot with it. This camera is supposed to use 620 film, which is out of production. After a bit of research (and youtube self-help videos), I was convinced that with a little finagling I could try 120 film in it.
Our local photo supply store carries a pretty wide selection of 120 film, so I purchased a couple of rolls in case I screwed up loading the first time and exposed a whole roll of film. For my test, I used Ilford XP2 Super 400, a black and white film that can be developed locally with color solution. I cut approximately 8″ of the initial paper from the film roll off and discarded it. Then, I loaded the 120 film into the bottom and fed it onto the 620 spool that was left over in my Grandma’s camera (this spool is critical). Sure enough, as I wound the film, little circles and then a number appeared in the back red window. I was ready to shoot! Here are some of the photos from my test roll.
I’m so excited that the camera works! I still need to get used to holding it and pressing the shutter without moving… the shape of the camera and button location are so new to me, I had trouble holding it still (as you can kind of tell below). It’s also a challenge to focus, since the viewfinder doesn’t correspond with the actual lens taking the photo and always appears in focus. I’ll have to get better at guessing my distance to things. On this test roll, my hubby helped with distance so I could set the lens properly, but I want to be able to do it on my own.
As far as using the 120 film in the 620 camera, it worked pretty well. Winding becomes nearly impossible for the last couple of frames, but you can make it work. I actually went in a dark room, popped the back slightly, wound and then closed the camera and checked my progress in the light until I had my next frame lined up for the last shot. I’m guessing this is because of the different sizes of spools. You can purchase old 620 spools online, but B&H photo also sells 120 film that has been transferred to 620 spools. It’s a bit pricey ($15), but I may buy one or two of those and view it not only as a film purchase, but an investment in additional spools as well. If you try this, be sure to let the film developer know that you need the spool returned along with the film. I didn’t have any trouble getting mine back, and now I can re-use it for another photo adventure.