The Argus C3, a range finder camera affectionately known by its many lovers as “the
Brick”, is an artifact right out of the early mid-19th century machine age. The front of
the camera is covered in gears, and it could easily pass for a highly specialized
scientific measuring device at first glance. It is constructed of heavy Bakelite and
metal, so you can guess that it’s about as heavy as a brick…hence the nickname.
When I found this beauty, I had been looking for a fully manual camera to force myself to
learn a little bit more about photography. Well this camera is as fully manual as it
gets. The rangefinder focuses from 3 ft. to infinity, the aperture can be adjusted
continuously from f3.5 to f16. The shutter, which is cocked manually, can be set anywhere from 1/300 to 1/10 with a B option as well. The frame counter is a unique system with a numbered dial that turns in a complete revolution for every frame. The lens comes off, so could be replaced with a different option.
When I saw this camera in a camera repair shop, I was so attracted by it’s rugged good
looks that I had to get to the internet as soon as I could to learn whatever I could find out about it.
Here’s what I learned:
-It was mass produced from 1939 – 1966 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
-So many were made that they remain fairly inexpensive even 40 – 70 years later.
-It was cheap and durable, so it outlasted much of its competition, and the same design, only slightly modified was popular for three decades
-many people credit this camera with making 35mm popular in North America
One note for those of you who want to try one out: once you’ve cocked the shutter, get your fingers out of the way. Many times I have snapped only to find that I’ve obstructed the shutter cock, and exposed the film for longer than I wanted.
Even though this is not a Russian camera, or a lovely Lomography legend, I certainly feel
like a lomographer when I’m carrying it in it’s original leather case around my neck.
When I am snapping with this gem, bystanders know that something interesting is
Oh yeah, and when I dropped it on my living room floor, it took a chunk out of the
hardwood and the next shot turned out just fine.