Argus C3 serial number / mfg date

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by charles_webster|1, Jun 9, 2006.

  1. Is there a place where I can go to find when my C3 was manufactured? Many
    classic cameras have s/n - date pages, but I can't find one for the C3. I know
    mine was manufactured before '59 because it has no accessory shoe, but would
    like a closer date than that.

    I'm having a great time with it, just need to learn to advance the film after
    EVERY shot. You can see some of my C3 photos in my B&W Film folder.

  2. tgh


    I don't think there is, or maybe even could be such a list since they seem to have changed the serial number styles through the years. But you can get a vague idea from subtle feature changes. These are approximate, and could be off a couple of years either way, but a general list I've accumulated is:

    Pre-war - 10 shutter marked shutter speeds, changed to 7 about 1941. Earliest ones had a paper label inside for the serial number, before about 1939.

    1942-1943 - chrome wing shaped cocking lever changed to black (wartime material shortage?)

    1944-1945 - Old aperture series (3.5, 4.5, 6.3...) changed to modern series (3.5, 4, 5.6, 8)

    Around 1945, coated lenses.

    Around 1949-1950, Weston Film speed reminder dial changed to ASA.

    Around 1950 the lower half of the RF changed from blue to yellow, though earlier cameras may have been updated. Really early ones were clear on both top and bottom of the RF.

    Around 1950-1951, 10 hinge screws (5 on body, 5 on back door) changed to 8 (4 and 4).

    Around 1952, Argus nameplate first appeared on camera front. About this same time the frame counter changed from a chrome or silver painted metal one to a black plastic one.

    Around 1953, colormatic settings appeared on lens, shutter speed and focusing dial.

    Around 1954, first accessory shoe, held on with three mounting screws.

    By around 1955, the marked shutter speeds had been reduced from 7 to just 5 and the film speed reminder dial had disappeared.

    Around 1956, accessory shoe changed to one mounting screw in the middle.

    1958 until the end of production in 1966 or 1967, C3 Standard, with more modern styling. Shutter button changed from a stovepipe to a button shape, cocking lever changed to a teardrop shape, aperture ring changed to a funnel shape around the lens front instead of on the very front.

    The Matchmatic beginning about 1957 was the same, except it had tan leather and instead of conventional shutter speeds and apertures it had EV values for use with an accessory meter. The meter gave the light value in EV and you then set the exposure by whatever value added up to the EV. The lens was marked 3 1/2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and the shutter speed dial marked 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, which corresponded to the normal C3's markings of 10, 25, 50, 100, 300. So if your light meter read EV 12 you set the aperture and shutter to whatever added up to 12. 5 + 7 or 6 + 6 or whatever. The Matchmatic also reverted to a metal frame counter.

    Nice C3 shots in your gallery. C3's are pretty capable cameras. Certainly not outstanding compared to higher dollar cameras of the same vintage, but decent within their limitations.
  3. You cannot make blanket statements about the quality of the Argus C3 lens because the quality varies vastly from sample to sample. The lens is the same formula as the Leitz Elmar but quality control vastly inferior.
  4. OK, based on this, it looks like my camera is vintage circa 1952. It has a black plastic exposure counter, crome Argus name plate, 8 hinge screws, ASA film speed dial, and no accessory shoe.

    Thanks for your help. My Cintar 50mm lens seems to be a good one, based on the sharpness of my pictures, but I haven't shot any color, so can't evaluate CA.

  5. The Argus Collectors Group is a pretty active bunch. Their website is at There is a feature where you can pose a question that is e-mailed to all members of the group.

    There is also a Yahoo mailing list that you can join for the group.

    The website has quite a few reference photos of different models and variations, that may help you identify your camera.

    Hope this helps.

    Paul Noble
  6. Thanks Paul. It was the Argus Collectors site that prompted the question because it lacked the info I was seeking. I really like the site, and am looking forward to shooting on Argust day.

  7. Re: Lens quality. Remember that the Cintar is today considered to be a "soft-focus" lens. Great for snap-shooting but not super sharp for big enlargements. Nonetheless, My parents' C3 made many good Kodachromes - my mother had wanted a Leica.
    (Theirs was an Early 1952 model purchased second-hand about 1957)

    I used it in high school when I could't get a loaner from the photography department. That's when I discovered the focus was soft.

    Recently I was playing with a Late 1952 model when I realized it was OKAY to twist the lens to focus!
    I had always used the finger-wheel to focus - which was not easy -
    figuring it was a Control and you had to use the Control.
  8. "Re: Lens quality. Remember that the Cintar is today considered to be a "soft-focus" lens. "

    It is?And you base this upon what?As mentioned before sample variation was considerable.I've probably owned 20 of these in my lifetime.The very best of them (I still own it) is as sharp as anything I've seen in 35mm (at least it is stopped down to F8 or 11) and I mean sharp even when compared to Pentax SMC Takumar M42 lenses,Canon FD stuff too.Yashinon's etc.I've gone to 11x14 in my darkroom & scanned too (minolta scan dual IV).You can say a lot negative things about the Argus c3 but that the lens isn't 'sharp' isn't one of them!
    this link will give you a great idea when your argus c3 was made.
    the serial number on mine is inside below the film guides and is 77XXXX indicating that it was made in 1952, all
    the other features are relevant to that year, black dial with white numbers, 7 speeds on shutter dial, asa
    reminder wheel, three strips of leatherette and no cold shoe.
    when i first got mine the view finder and range finder where dim, i removed the back lenses by removing the
    circular clips with a pick and used a Q-tip to clean the inside front lenses. Nice and clear now. mine also
    takes very crisp pictures. found it at a second hand store in its case with broken straps for $4. That is also
    the same price that i found my Nikkormat w/1.4 nikkor lense, same store. its a nice store.

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