Argus - Arguses, Argi, etc.

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by JDMvW, Nov 29, 2020.

  1. This is another tease. It's a project I started several years ago before I, like most social scientists, was broken down by age and sex.

    I even posted some of these images in NO WORDS, and had intended to shoot with them. I still do, but in the midst of all the other troubles we are facing, it may take a while.

    Built by Argus of Ann Arbor, MI. You can't beat that for AMERICAN GREATNESS. Some of my best friends are at or from the University of Michigan there.

    I actually kind of like the early Arguses (there are differences among connoisseurs about the plural form).

    I have a copy of the Argus A, but the foam that passed for guides in the little gem has hardened and broke into powder when I tried to load film. It's made overall of plastic and tin. This camera and its successors, probably much more so than even the Leicas, were critical to creating a market for 35mm (24x36mm image) film.

    Argus A

    After considerable evolution and increases in sophistication in mechanical form, finally came the standard, the VW of 35mm cameras, the Argus C3. It was in production and being sold from 1939 to 1966!
    It is not exactly ergonomic, but it works, the lens is very decent, and the viewfinder/rangefinder is no worse than most of its contemporaries. It is fondly known as "the brick".

    01 Argus C3 front.jpg
    Argus C3

    One of the factors that helped its longevity was WWII. After the war, many camera-producing countries were in ruins, and it was almost as difficult to get cameras as to get a new 1948 Oldsmobile (my father's first post-war car). Argus had been involved in defense work, of course, but had this camera ready to restart without any of the false starts such as Perfex and all.
    Popular Photography 1943, December

    The company also made TLR cameras, and had started to introduce improvements of the C3 even before the war, but the pressures of the seller's market after the war meant they continued many products longer than they might otherwise have done. (My personal first car was a 1946 Chevrolet that was identical to the few 1942 models)

    The C4 was a non-interchangeable lens (there are fine points here(Geiss), but..) camera that was much more modern looking, at least, than the C3. It was very popular in the 1950s and Argus sold over 300,000 of them (Wiki).

    Argus C4

    There are other variants and cameras made by Argus, but the main-line of the evolution, in my opinion. added interchangeable lenses to create the Argus C-44, here shown with its lenses, made by Steinheil, but branded Cintagon


    C44 and Steinheil-made lenses

    Someday, perhaps over the rainbow, I will shoot these and show examples, along with even more gearhead data.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2020
  2. The reference above to Geiss is to a modification offered for the C4 by that company:
    Popular Photography 1954, November
  3. The Cintars and Cintagons certainly are capable lenses and the C-44 I've shot has one of the smoothest shutter releases I've ever had the pleasure to witness.

    I still need to test my Argus K again after I replaced the light seals under the top cover. One of the rarer Argusses...Arga....Argi...
  4. The asked prices in the old add look quite expensive to me. - What was asked for the Leica counterparts at that time? - Thanks for sharing and much fun with your camera!
  5. I have and still occasionally exercise a C-3 I bought as a junior in high school at the end of 1957. I did a lot of work with that learning photography principles the hard way!

    There is the Argus Collectors Group that encourages restoring and using the Argus cameras which organizes Argus Day every year. Argus Day began on the first of the month in August 2001 -- Argust 1st! -- and advances one day each year, so in 2021 it will be on Argust 21st.

    I first caught up with the idea in 2006 and have a bunch of results online. One has to like a camera that can be given a CLA with little more than needle-nosed pliers and a screwdriver. :) The early Argus cameras were made of Bakelite which makers of Argus used in producing radio gear way back when before diversifying into cameras. I've not been there but there is a museum in the original factory building in Ann Arbor.
  6. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    To keep it simple, the plural form of Argus would be Argus cameras like the plural form of computer mouse would be mouse devices.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  7. What's the fun in that??:rolleyes:

    Where I come from, a common plural for roof is rooves. Like Tolkien (dwarves vs. dwarfs), some of us love to play with language

    The "correct" plural of octopus, by the way, is octapodes.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2020
  8. Here's yet another popular Argus

    argus a-four (Argus was never very consistent with capitals and such-like)

    (somebody had better stop me, I could go on like this for days....)
    James Bryant likes this.
  9. SCL


    The C3 was the 1st 35mm camera I was aware of as a kid, as my father had the one which had belonged to his father in the late 1930s. I still have Kodachrome slides they took in the 1930s-50s, and with a scan and slight touch up, the results match anything on today's market. I inherited it in the early 1990s, tried it out, but it was too clunky so I sold it. Glad to see others still using this camera, and thanks JDM for the memories.
  10. The C4 was my dream camera back in the day. I have one now and still get a kick out of using it.
  11. tgh


    Not often mentioned in reviews of Argus cameras is the extremely close focusing ability of a few very early ones. The original A had a two position, collapsible lens. One position for 6 feet, the other for infinity. The AF, introduced a year after the A, had a full, scale focusing ring on its collapsible lens. Focus ranged from infinity to 1.25 feet (measured from the front of the camera body). So that'd be 16 inches from the film plane. Few SLR lenses focused quite that close, even 30 years later. The more futuristic styled Argus A3 from about 1940 had this same 1.25 feet to infinity focusing range.

    But my favorite model from the Argus family is the Argus 21 Markfinder. Introduced about 1948 (mine dates to 1949) it had a screw mount, non-collapsible 50/3.5 triplet lens that focused down to an unmarked 2.1 feet. Not sure if that's where the model name came from. But the real bonus is the viewfinder which is, I believe, the first 35mm camera with a floating frame, several years before the Leica M3 was introduced. The viewfinder was huge compared to all other 35mm cameras of that day. Barnack Leicas and Kodak Retinas had pretty squinty viewfinders by comparison. But Argus never managed to combine the frames with an actual rangefinder. The 21's viewfinder, besides the frames around the edge, has only a + in the middle.
    gary green likes this.
  12. and not Argi? :D
  13. That C-44 looks really cool. I actually have an Argus C-3 I got a few weeks back after a run thru my local F@c3b00k Marketplace. Haven't shot it, not sure its functional.
  14. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Definition of OCTOPUS

    The plural of "octopod" is octopods.
  15. Great American story behind the Argus cameras to include an interesting back story regarding International Radio of Ann Arbor, MI.

    Both were able to carve out niches against better established firms, with products that essentially were "hit them where they ain't" - in this affordable compact radios that fit well with apartment dwellers and in 1933 a $10.00 35mm camera. I'm sure that someone at both the established brands, Ansco and Kodak took notice.
  16. A lot of variation over the years from the 30s to the 60s, but here is a 1947 post-war Leica ad:

    Popular Photography
    Remember that these are pre-inflation prices, and must be multipllied by 6 to 10X for 2020 equivalents.
    Camera prices, at that time, also included a 10% excise tax., almost always in the quoted price.
    Pre-WWII prices for models G. etc., were over $125 1938 $.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
    James Bryant and Jochen like this.
  17. JDMvW, I enjoyed the write up on Argus. I have a C-4, and was looking for a Geiss modified one. I happened upon a C-44 at an estate sale and was able to negotiate a deal for it. So now I am Argus x 2.

    I have seen a few Argus C3 Bricks. There was one for sale in an antique store around here, but the price was ridiculously high. Most likely they considered it a decor item.
  18. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    I sold a C4 this past summer. Nice looking and handling camera with a good lens, though unfortunately it takes scarce 30mm threaded accessories. I tried using my Series 5 screw-in filters and hoods with an adapter ring, but they vignetted. Will post some test photos in the weekly thread sometime.

  19. Good news. There are a number of 30mm filters on eBay now.

Share This Page