The only American camera in this collection is entirely manual and was built to “provide you with a lifetime of picture-making pleasure”. The shutter is more primitive than the ones found on the other cameras but is reliable at faster speeds. The coated Cintar lens has a distinguished character with good contrast, and 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 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.
|Cintar 50mm f3.5
|Diaphragm shutter built into the camera body
|B, 1/10 - 1/300
|Separate with no frames or markings
|Externally geared coupled rangefinder with separate eyepiece
|Winding knob with film catch
|Quarter of a turn
|769g / 1.7lb