A few years ago, my father gave me an Argus C3 camera. It was given to him by a neighbor. My Dad is in his late 70′s, and working a 35mm rangefinder camera is likely something he could have done 20-30 years ago, not today. We both had a great chuckle at what a hideous piece of crap this thing looked like, despite being in beautiful condition, and in the original leather “never-ready” case. At the time, I was into photography, but not in the rabid manner of today.
Fast forward to this past weekend. While at the bi-annual Photographica show, which is held by The Photographic Historical Society of New England, a dealer, after finding out I had one of these, showed me the Argus 35mm wide-angle, and 100mm telephoto lenses, both West German-made (thank goodness-if they had been American made, they would likely not be working today). He asked me if I had taken the Argus out, which I have not. He encouraged me to do so, as it is a camera capable of taking some amazingly sharp, contrasty images. Turns out that the Cintar 50mm lens is somewhat of a legend with rangefinder photographers. A rangefinder? My perception was that they are a nightmare to focus, and to use. That misperception could be nothing further from the truth.
Taking the camera out for the first time this weekend, I had a realization. Wait, I already have extensive rangefinder experience, with the Polaroid Land Cameras. The same concept. In use, the Argus is much slower to focus, yet instills a lot of confidence that you got the shot. The rangefinder window is tiny, and hard to use. The look of the camera is that of a science project gone bad. Gears and levers all over the place, with strange markings everywhere. The fastest shutter speed is 1/300th of a second, so outdoors, 100 or 200 speed films are what you are feeding it.
The Argus is a joy to use. It’s performance has dubbed it “The American Leica” amongst vintage camera photographers. Argus, out of Ann Harbor, Michigan, made a ton of these. Legend is that your parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles, have at least one of these hanging around, collecting dust. It single-handedly made 35mm the format of choice worldwide. A variation of it, the LC3 Matchmatic, has a non coupled lightmeter on the accessory shoe, and an olive colored skin. This camera uses proprietary EV values, and the meter can be used on a C3, with an exposure chart, easily available online, which translates the EV values to the more traditional f/stops and shutter speeds of the C3. The camera, I am told, made a nice appearance in one of the Harry Potter films. I guess it is used by Colin Creevey in The Chamber of Secrets. I have yet to see a Harry Potter film- I may have to do so. Already have a bid in on a Matchmatic. The Argus is just too fun of a camera to resist. The most fun I have had with a camera in a long, long time.
The C41 processing should be complete today- can’t wait to see the results.