opinion · Vintage Camera Reviews

The Anscoflex

The Anscoflex was created in 1954 by Ansco, but designed by an industrial designer named Raymond Loewy. You may know him as the designer of the Shell gas station logo, among others. He had a very impressive design career.

Ansco wanted a camera that looked like no other at the time. Raymond was the right man for the job. It has a very industrial look with its metal body and the raised matting around the lenses. It has a rugged, rubber-like, strap that is built into the camera body. The front lens cover, made of aluminum, slides up to reveal both lenses as well as acting as a light shield, blocking glare from the viewfinder. The red button to release the back door is also located next to the viewfinder and the aluminum door has to be raised to reach it.

It is a pseudo Twin Lens Reflex camera, because the two lenses do not connect like a true TLR. It is more like a box camera, because it doesn’t have any controls. Just the basics. The shutter is about 1/60th of a second with an aperture of around f/11. The lens is fixed focus and you must be 5ft or more away from your subject to stay in focus.

The waist level viewfinder is big and bright but has reverse viewing so when you move to the left it appears to be moving to the right and vice versa. This can take a little getting used to.

The wind on lever is a ratcheting design, so to go on to the next frame you essentially make a ratchet-like motion, turning it forward a short ways and then back and forth again until the next frame number appears in the back window. This motion also cocks the shutter button, popping it back out into position after you move on to the next frame. This also prevents double exposures.

It takes 12 square (6 x 6cm) pictures on the now obsolete 620 film, and unlike some cameras, you cannot use 120 film in it with a 620 spool for the take up. I tried this and it was a horrible experience. You have to use 620 spools in both bays. You can do this by either buying some re-spooled 120 film on a 620 spool, or by doing it yourself in a darkroom or changing bag.

Instructions on loading film from the manual

I’ve seen many articles saying how much they love this camera, some even say it’s their favorite. I on the other hand found it to be my least favorite vintage camera I have used yet.

My Experience

I have shot with a similar camera before, which I loved. That was the Argus Argoflex Seventy Five. I loved that camera because it was easy to use. I was able to cut down a 120 spool and use 120 film in the camera, and I got results that I loved. My experience with this camera was different.

Ilford Pan F Plus 50

On my first try I did what I had done with the Argoflex. I cut down the lip of a 120 spool and I loaded some 120 film tightly into the camera just to see if it would work. It didn’t. It got stuck after a few shots. I had to open the back and start over with some 620 film and a 620 take up spool. Luckily, I didn’t lose many frames from opening the back.

Kodak Tri-X 400

So, with some expensive re-spooled 620 film from Film Photography Project loaded up, I took some shots around my yard to test it out.

Kodak Tri-X 400

It wasn’t a bad experience. Like I mentioned before, the viewfinder is nice and big and bright. It makes you think you’re taking big beautiful pictures. But you have to remind yourself it has a shutter speed thats slow and an aperture thats small. You need sunny conditions for this camera, as with any box-like camera.

Kodak Tmax 100

The shutter isn’t very satisfying like an SLR of course. The racket winding lever is a little annoying in my opinion, and the front door doesn’t slide up very easily on my camera. These are my cons. These things may not bother you. For me, these things stood out because I do enjoy shooting with the Argoflex, so in a way I was comparing it to that. I even tried taking a close up shot with the Kodak Portrait Lens attachment that goes with my Argoflex since it fit over the taking lens. That pic is below. I’m not sure if it worked, but I was less than 5ft from the light and it seems to be in focus.

Kodak Tmax 100
Another close shot trying the Kodak lens
Ilford Pan F Plus 50

I did get some nice shots, but I tried several different rolls and stocks, and just wasn’t crazy about them. What do you think?

Kodak Tmax 100
Kodak Tri-X 400
Ilford Pan F Plus 50
Kodak Tmax 100

Final Thoughts

In the end, I like some of the pics I got, which I posted above. It’s a fun little camera for its time. I don’t like to be too negative about a camera because really, these fun type cameras are all up to your individual opinion. In my opinion, there are many other cameras in this genre that I’d rather use.

If you’re looking for a fun, vintage camera to shoot with, that is simple, usually you’re going to go by the look and display value of the camera because they all have the same features. If this camera appeals to you, keep in mind you will have to pay more for the re-spooled 620 film or learn to re-spool it yourself. For me, the results weren’t good enough to go through the trouble.

Let me know in the comments if you have an Anscoflex and your thoughts. I will be reviewing the Anscoflex II soon. This one has more controls, so I am looking forward to giving it a try. Stay tuned.

Until the next one, Stay Motivated and Keep Shooting.

8 thoughts on “The Anscoflex

  1. I’ve had both the Anscoflex I & II models. The design is the thing with these: as cameras they are merely adequate amateur level performers. But then they were never meant to be anything more. The model II included built-in close up lens and yellow filter (for contrast enhancement on B&W film).
    It’s amusing to think Ansco was competing with Kodak when the former was primarily a camera company and the latter a film company. Kodak made cameras to sell film, and Ansco made film to go with their cameras.

    1. Yes that’s all very true. I’m trying out the Anscoflex 2 now. It does seem to make a difference having the two filters to play with. I’m not really sure why I just didn’t like the Anscoflex as I have used other primitive cameras and really enjoyed my results. But I guess that’s the answer. If a camera gives you good results then you will probably like it.

  2. Great review as always. I tried to use one of these years ago, this is the sort of camera that gives American cameras a bad name.

      1. Yes, it was designed by a sadist, I don’t care what else he did. I only shot one roll of film with it, and was trying to think of something nice to say about it, but nothing comes to mind. I gave it to someone to use as decoration.

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