The Argus C3 was my first 35mm camera. There were Kodak box cameras and a Brownie around the house, but in about 1962 I was given a used C3 by my Uncle Dave (who had earlier set me up with his old darkroom equipment).
I used the C3 off and on for a number of years. Neither the camera nor I had a light meter, but I got pretty good shooting by estimating light values and using the description of normal exposure ranges in the printed insert with the film. Well, ‘pretty good’ may be an exaggeration, but some of them turned out. I was shooting black and white, mostly Kodak Tri-X (ASA 400) or Kodak Pan X (ASA 40). (ASA was replaced by the ISO standard for film speed in the 1980’s) Sometime after I got my Minolta SR-T 101 in the early ’70’s (with a build in light meter!) I let my Argus go.
In the image above you can see the Film Speed dial … running from 10 up to 200 ASA. Since the dial was just a reminder for the photographer and not connected with the exposure system, shooting ASA 400 film was not an issue. You just set the shutter speed and the aperture for the film you were shooting.
The image below shows how you focused by turning the ‘range finder knob’, which turned another dial, which adjusted the lens. There is a split screen viewfinder where you match the top and bottom for a visual indication of focus. The lever below the range finder dial is the shutter cocking lever. The shutter release is the knob in the upper left.
The Argus C3 was made from 1939 until 1966 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. About 2 million of them were sold. It was lovingly referred to as “The Brick”. It had a reputation for being relatively indestructible. Jimmy Carter carried one in World War II.
I got a really good deal on this camera … and I was thrilled to get one to sit on the shelf. While the exterior of the camera is in pretty good shape, there is a lot of crud build up and the shutter speed adjustment is obviously inoperable. (I have a couple of operational film cameras that I use occasionally.)