Victor Wiebe

The Argus C3

This Argus C3 is a new addition to my growing fleet of older film cameras. The Argus camera itself was produced in Michigan in the 1930’s to 1960’s and sold over 2 million units (according to the Source of All Knowledge, Wikipedia). It uses 35mm film and as, perhaps, can be seen by all the knobs, is a very manual camera.

One of the things I do like about this camera, in fact, are all the knobs; it gives the camera a very steampunk look.

The Argus C3

I do not have the instruction manual that came with the camera, though I did discover it on the internet. Unfortunately, I discovered it after I started using it, so it was almost a little too late, though I do have some hints for how I might use it in the future.

What I have discovered, both through using the camera and (finally) reading the manual, is that it is full of interesting features. We photographers are spoiled today with automatic this and no-need-to-think-about that; this camera, like most cameras of the time, made you work for your photos, but this one did so with style.

First up, there are what appear to be two viewfinders in the middle of the camera. In fact, one is a viewfinder and is used to frame the photo. The window to the right (from the photographers perspective behind the camera) is the rangefinder which, itself, is split into a split-image. When focusing, the two images will begin to align where the photographer desires the focal point to be.

Advancing the film was a little tricky at first; after taking the photo, there is a knob at the top of the camera which needs to be pushed to the left before the film can be advanced; after it is pressed the wind knob must be turned until it will turn no more, at which point the photographer knows that the film has advanced far enough for the next photo. This same contraption also advances the the counter to let the photographer know how many photos have been taken.

Focus can be achieved by one of two methods: the first is perhaps the ‘standard’ method of turning the focal ring on the lens. The second is to turn the rangefinger dial on the top left of the camera (from the front). These two – the dial and the lens – are connected via a gear between them so either can be used and both will be updated simultaneously. Really, everything about this camera is a wonderful feat of engineering.

The rangefinger focal dial also has printed on it the focal distance, from 3 feet to infinity.

On the opposite side of the camera is yet another dial to control shutter speed, ranging from 1/10 to 1/300.

The shutter itself must first be cocked by depressing the tear drop looking knob on the front of the camera. The shutter release itself is placed for easy access to the right index feature. The camera’s shutter will not open unless it has first been cocked.

This camera is a rectangular piece of incredible engineering which feels really good in your hands; it has the nickname “the brick”, and it is well deserved. If ever there was a camera that felt like a camera, this is it. It’s heavy and feels good, and all the knobs and dials and Things just work; it is truly an amazing contraption.

The day after getting the camera I put some black and white film in it and took it out on a photoshoot. In hindsight I should have read the manual first, but I didn’t.

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