Argus C3 vintage rangefinder

Argus C3 vintage rangefinder

Argus C3 vintage rangefinder

Argus C3 vintage rangefinder

Argus C3 vintage rangefinder

The only American camera in our collection is entirely manual and was built to “provide you with a lifetime of picture-making pleasure”. The shutter is more primitive than our other cameras but is reliable at faster speeds and the coated lens is sharp with good contrast. Unlike the rest of the cameras in our collection the lenses on the C3 are interchangeable. There is the chance of multiple exposure as the film winding knob isn’t coupled to the shutter cocking lever, so you have to remember to wind the film on after each shot. (American photographer Duane Michals used his C3 especially to make double exposures).

The Argus C3 is equipped with a built-in rangefinder which is coupled to the lens, but has two eye pieces where our other cameras have one. The eye piece on the right is used to focus the image, the eye piece on the left is for framing the image. They are both very small but the rangefinder is actually one of the easiest to focus with the focussing screen split horizontally rather than using a central patch. The viewfinder is free from framing lines and meter readings so gives the clearest view possible of the image you are making. Compared to other rangefinders the lens isn’t as fast at only f3.5 and shutter speeds are limited on a stepless scale from 1/10 to 1/300. The externally geared rangefinder is solid and stiff so it can be slow to turn, but once you have the image in focus it’s firmly set.

The beauty of this camera is its simplicity which is reflected equally in the aesthetic design, usability and mechanics. It was the best-selling 35mm camera in the world for nearly three decades, and is said is to be responsible for popularizing the use of 35mm film. Tony Vaccaro, soldier and photojournalist, took most of his images of World War II with his Argus C3.

Title Data
Lens: Cintar 50mm f3.5
Elements/groups: 3 elements
AOV: 50º
Aperture: f3.5-f16
Shutter: Diaphragm shutter built into the camera body
Shutter speeds: B, 1/10 - 1/300
Viewfinder: Separate with no frames or markings
Focusing: Externally geared coupled rangefinder with separate eyepiece
Focal range: 3ft-∞
Exposure modes: Manual
Exposure meter: N/A
Battery: N/A
ASA: N/A
Filter mount: 41mm threaded
Winding method: Winding knob with film catch
Winding distance: Quarter of a turn
Dimensions WxHxD: 133x70x51mm
Weight: 769g / 1.7lb
Year: 1939