Yet another Keeble $5 box purchase. This camera was obviously broken when I got it but, since it has a 620 spool inside, I grabbed it so I can use the spool with my Brownie Hawkeye Flash. Nerd/geek that I am, I couldn’t help taking the Argoflex apart anyway. There’s nothing even on the internet about how this guy works mechanically (user manuals, yes. teardowns, no). Took me a couple nights to figure it out. I’m mainly posting this because it may be of use to someone else who runs into one of these. And I apologize for the lack of photos. I wasn’t planning on doing a guide. It was only once I figured out how badly it was designed that I felt I had to post something.
The Argoflex appears to suffer from a standard problem where the shutter gets sticky. The culprit is the lousy design of the bulb mode on/off switch. In short, the switch is an integral part of the shutter assembly but is designed so that when it fails or is removed, the shutter only works in bulb mode. That most photos I found of the Argoflex showed the switch in the long-exposure mode suggests that this problem is pretty common.
The shutter mechanism is accessed through the front of the camera. This is nice since it also allows you to clean the lenses and mirror.
- Remove the four screws around the viewfinder
- Remove the four screws on the faceplate
- The entire faceplate, lens assembly, bulb switch, and viewfinder assembly can now be lifted off. Viewfinder lens will probably fall out. As will a thin brass strip.
- Separate the faceplate from the lens assembly
You can now see the shutter assembly. This is probably working fine. You can test this by cocking the shutter using the film winding knob and then pushing the shutter button. Camera will function in bulb mode. When you push the shutter button you will notice a triangular flap of metal moving. This flap lifts up. If you hold it down (using a pocket knife), the camera will function in “instant” mode.
The part which normally holds that flap down is the actual bulb on/off switch. The sticky shutter is caused by this switch not holding down the metal flap—leaving the camera stuck between bulb and instant modes. If you never wanted to use the bulb mode, you could do something drastic and just hold that flap down all the time. I just bent my switch so that it sticks down a little more into the camera.
I also bent the switch so that the part that slides along the faceplate is a little more crooked (there’s already a bump, I just made it slightly more pronounced). Besides the switch being kind of weak in terms of how it holds the flap down, it’s only held in place by friction provided by the brass strip which fell out of the lens assembly. Yes, that strip is sandwiched between the faceplate and the lens assembly.
Now it’s time to reassemble. This is a pain in the ass. You have to seat the viewfinder at the same time you seat the lens assembly + brass strip + faceplate sandwich. Thankfully, if you screw the faceplate in first (start with the screw holding the brass strip in place), the viewfinder assembly won’t fall apart.
But yeah, having taken this guy apart now. What the hell was Argus thinking?
- The shutter is designed with the bulb on/off as an integral component of the mechanism.
- If that component breaks, the camera should lose bulb functionality, not normal functionality.
- That component relies on friction provided by the cosmetic portions of the camera in order to stay in place.
- Normal wear and tear plus gravity will cause that component to shift so that it’s in bulb mode. This is the state of most images of the Argoflex I found online.
- Assembly/disassembly requires more than two hands and cannot be done on a flat surface.
I’m glad I only bought this for the 620 spool. And my sister should have fun playing with through-the-viewfinder photography with it.