5 Frames in Crested Butte, Colorado With an Argus Model A and Ilford Delta 3200

I’ve been following this fine blog for many years now and look forward, (like most of you I’m sure), to reading each day’s article in my email. For some time, I’ve wanted to contribute but just wasn’t sure what to write about. Finally, I came up with an idea and I’m taking the plunge! Sooo… Here goes!

A very short biography. I’ve been in love with photography for over 50 years. I started with an old, hand-me-down Kodak Brownie and was off. My first REAL camera though, was a Canon TLb bought in late 1974 when I was 15, with summer earnings cutting neighborhood lawns. To this day, I can still see my dad’s mouth dropping open and his head shaking in complete disbelief when I announced I was spending $279, (a princely sum for middle income folks like us in 1975 and equal to ~$1500 today!), on a camera!

I never looked back.

As the years followed, I had to have more modern cameras and lenses! I turned my nose up at older gear. I wouldn’t have been caught dead shooting with a 30’s-40’s Zeiss folder! A Barnack Leica with a collapsible lens?? Pffft! I had to have new, new, N.E.W. NEW!! Newest Model F1. New T90. New EOS with L-Series lenses! When digital arrived. I embraced it for the instant gratification provided and ability to manipulate shots and achieve the results I desired.

I still shoot digital. But over the last few years, my pretentiousness, impatience, and days of shunning old, classic equipment have thankfully – I’m humble enough to admit – passed and are behind me forever. I’ve gone back to my roots. I have re-discovered the joy, beauty, and artistry of shooting film, but shooting with older, simpler and classic equipment. Now, I have to wait in anticipation… will the end result be the same as that which I’ve envisioned in my head when I pressed the shutter release?

So my idea is to start submitting 5 Frame articles to 35mmc with shots made using period and classic equipment, slow speed and/or manipulated films, all while trying to achieve a look that may have been typical had the pictures been snapped at an earlier time.

For my first instalment, please enjoy the following from my wife’s and my summer vacation last year to Crested Butte and the surrounding Colorado Mountains. Along with my mirrorless digital and a modified Full Spectrum IR P/S camera, (Thank you 35mmc for inspiring me!), I brought along a 1936 Argus Model A 35mm loaded with Ilford Delta 3200 pulled back to ISO400.

The Argus Model A is a 1936 Art Deco masterpiece made by I.R.C, the International Radio Corporation. It is referred to by many, as the second most significant 35mm camera of all time, (https://www.cameraquest.com/arg2.htm), behind only the original Barnack Leicas. At a time when a car could be purchased for the price of a new Leica, at $12.50 the Argus A made 35mm photography available to the masses. Model A derivatives were produced until 1951. It was simple to use, durable, and looked similar to a Leica Standard, (purely coincidental I’m sure!).

My Model A is the first version with an IRC 50mm/f4.5 Anastigmatic lens. Shutter speeds are 1/40 – 1/200 plus B and T. Shutter speeds are surprising accurate, but the aperture range ofF4.5-F11 is closer to the old value ranges than today’s. Wide open is probably closer to F6.3. Mine is s/n 27691 and is one of the earliest made in 1936. For some context, over 500,000 Model A’s were built! I bought mine on the ‘Bay for $20.00

Crested Butte, Colorado is incredibly beautiful with towering mountains and scenery that is awe inspiring. You cannot help but say, “WOW!” Best known for it’s snow and skiing, I believe that Colorado is even more breathtaking in the summer. Days in late July and August at 10,000ft are cool and nights can be chilly, sometimes near or even below freezing. Summer snow is not unusual above the tree line at 12,000ft+. We go to escape from the Texas heat, where temperatures are regularly above 100 deg F / 38 deg C in July and August. To say that Crested Butte is refreshing in July/August is an understatement!

With that I hope you’ll please enjoy!

Aspens at 10,000 feet
One of many creeks fed by snow melt
My wife Cheryl
Snow filled valley from a one lane logging trail at about 12,000 feet
Coffee break in the ghost town of Gothic

And finally, a couple of bonus shots ‘cause I just couldn’t resist….

A stormy day and a very cold creek!
I wonder whose parlor or saloon this piano was in and the history behind it

Exposure on all shots was determined using the Sunny 16 Rule and are straight scans with no cleanup or enhancements. I wanted to maintain that grainy look befitting the 1936 camera I was using.

I hope you’ve liked my vintage look shots taken with the humble Argus A. Stay tuned for future articles as I continue my sojourn with classic gear, slow film, and hopefully, vintage results.

Thanks, y’all!

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12 thoughts on “5 Frames in Crested Butte, Colorado With an Argus Model A and Ilford Delta 3200”

  1. What a lovely little gallery! I especially like that last shot of the old saloon piano overgrown with grass. Really sells the ghost town feeling.
    I think a lot of photographers probably go through that phase you describe of needing the latest and greatest everything when they first start out. At some point though you reach a maturity within your craft where you’ve figured out what works for you and that desire (mostly) goes away.

    1. Alasdair J Mackintosh

      What a great little camera. I love the last shot, and the Argus was clearly the right camera to use for it 😉

      There’s not a huge amount of contrast here. Is that the lens, or did you choose to set a fairly low contrast when you scanned them? Have you tried a more traditional emulsion such as HP5?

      1. Daniel Mountin

        Hi Alasdair!
        Nothing fancy on the scans. It’s the lens. The optics are pretty basic with a 3 element, non coated lens, listed at f/4.5. Aperture is actually closer to f/6.3. Combine this with 2 focus choices…… 6-18ft and 18ft to infinity. Pulling the film back 3 stops probably had some effect on contrast too!

        I was trying to get a certain “vintage look” too. I think I pulled it off

  2. Hi,
    I would like to echo the sentiments above. The ghost town effect is really evocative in generating a series of questioning narratives and the subsequent feelings.
    Re the Box Brownie, I want to add the excitement ’bout the same period I’m my life from a hand-me-down Box Brownie, mixing up chemicals from the yellow and red or yellow and black Kodak packets, hand developing the 620 film and doing contact prints in kitchenware. Heady stuff for a kid interested in things scientific! Brings it all back.

  3. Hi Dan,

    I love this project, your camera choice, and the results! Just curious, do you have an Argus C3? I used to, and the images from one of “America’s most popular cameras” were shockingly good. If you have one, it would be great to see what you do with it!

    1. Daniel Mountin

      Thank you for your kind words Dave!

      While I’m familiar with the C3, I’ve never used one. I have thought about getting one though, (I’m a victim of GAS).

      My next project will likely involve photos taken from one of four vintage cameras that I already own. A 1928 Leica 1A, a 1936 Rolleiflex Old Standard, and 1934 Contax 1, (currently in Slovakia for repairs to the shutter speed selector), or a pre-war Retina, (See a pattern to my madness?!?!)


      1. You’re welcome Dan! I definitely see a pattern there. I did once have an older Retinette, and especially liked its “soft” night shots. (Perhaps because their “look” matched the “feel” of the locations.)

        Since I too love older cameras, I’ll be intrigued to see your results from the Leica 1A and Contax 1. Maybe even a comparison of them, since the Contax was apparently hoped to best Leica at the time?


        1. Daniel Mountin

          Good idea Dave, Thanks! A comparison between the Leica 1A and the Contax 1 will definitely be in my future, in addition to the individual 5-Frame articles


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