About six months ago, I was cleaning out an old filing cabinet and found a familiar looking camera case. I generally keep all of my cameras in one area, so I was curious what was in this case that was in such an unusual place. As I unzipped the brown pleather, silver knobs and a black rectangular shape became visible, I reached in and unveiled a beautiful Argus C3 camera. As soon as I looked at it, I remembered my step father giving it to me many years ago. I had simply shoved it away and forgotten about it, only to discover it about 7 or 8 years later.
Known as “The Brick” due to it’s brickly and rectangular appearance, it is fairly easy to operate. I was lucky, because my camera came with a nearly mint 128 page reference guide that describes in detail the function of each knob. Now, I could have probably figured out how to operate this little beast on my own, but it was fun to see pictures and graphs from a camera manual that was published in 1952.
Loading 35mm film is easy and quick. The C3 was the third model that Argus produced, but it was the first with a rangefinder focusing mechanism. I found the rangefinder system to be quite accurate and simple to operate. The most peculiar thing about operating this camera, is that after exposing an image, to advance the film the photographer has to gently push the small, silver bolt-like pin (located on the top of the camera by the frame counter) to the left then turn the camera winding knob a few times until it stops and it is ready to go again! The manual goes on to talk about accessories, processing film, subject composition, portraiture and even medical and scientific photography!
What I really love about this camera, is that it is well made and solid. It was produced between 1939-1966 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The dials give it a mechanical and high-tech look that would have engaged any photographer of that time period. There is no way of knowing how many rolls of Kodachrome 64 were put through this camera! It has a nice weight to it, but not too heavy to carry around for the day to do some exploring. I did get asked a few times “what kind of camera is that?”, so it will attract attention if you are photographing around people.
There are a lot of Argus C3’s out there! You can find a good one for a reasonable price if you are in the market. There just might be one stashed away in your parents house somewhere. Wherever you find one, I highly suggest adding it to your collection and doing some shooting with it. It is a nostalgic, fun to use camera that takes excellent photographs. I shot a variety of film with mine: slide film, black and white, and color negative. Enjoy the images!
Film photographer Barbara Justice lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin. She is very passionate about film cameras, film and all photographic processes. In her free time she can be found at thrift stores hunting for old cameras!