I never thought I’d find such a wonderful assortment of strange old cameras, or add a new one to my collection when I walked into a small camera shop one summer day! I happened to come across a tiny camera shop while vacationing. This shop turned out to be a haven for vintage cameras, including the legendary Argus C3, affectionately dubbed “the brick,” a sturdy rangefinder made between 1939 and 1966.
During the summer of 2010 I was on vacation in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Since Newport is a big tourist destination during the summer, there are lots of specialty shops and novelties for sale on the wharves. I was shooting with my Holga 135 that day and had run out of film, so I wandered into a small camera shop looking to buy a few rolls. When I got to the register to purchase my film, I noticed that there was a shelf high up on the back wall holding a large assortment of very old cameras!
I was instantly quite excited and I asked the older man working there if I could take a look at some of these odd and ancient cameras. Many of them were very old large-format cameras; there was even a Brownie camera with the accordion housing around the lens! Then I spotted the Argus C3, one of the only 35mm cameras in the bunch. I instantly knew it was an Argus because of its telltale “brick” construction and scientific-looking dials and buttons. I fell in love with the camera and asked the man if he was willing to sell it. He was, and I left the shop with a new camera that day!
The Argus C3 is a legendary camera. It was one of the first mass-produced American cameras, manufactured between 1939 and 1966. The one I purchased was manufactured between 1939 and 1957, which I estimated after doing some research online into different model years’ features. It came with the original handle mount flash, complete with a real flashbulb.
The Argus is a rangefinder, meaning that you turn the focus ring as you look through a special viewfinder to find the correct lens settings for your photos. You can then look through a normal viewfinder to frame your subject. There are more settings on the Argus than a toy camera; however, I can’t use it to shoot at night because there is no hot shoe flash mount! So the use of my Argus is limited to daytime shooting. The photos I have taken with it look like lovely old family photos from the 50’s. The lens takes sharp, beautiful photos, and both portraits and scenery look amazing. Another perk of this camera is that it is virtually indestructible. I have dropped it and it’s done more damage to the ground than the ground did to the camera!
I am amazed that a camera that is much older than my 23 short years works so well and continues to produce such beautiful photos. The day that I found my Argus C3 was a lucky one indeed! Fortunately, there are still many working C3s in existence today, so it would not be hard to find one for yourself! Do you already own an Argus? Leave a comment and tell us how you like it!