Argus C3 Rangefinder (“The Brick”)

Argus C3I honestly don’t remember where or when I purchased The Brick, but it was probably at an antique mall or garage sale sometime within the last few years. I finally loaded it up and ran a test roll this past April.

[Taken 24 April 2015 | f/11 @ 1/250 sec | ISO 200]

The notes that I made at the time stated:

Loaded with 200 speed BW (color process).

Didn’t realize I needed to manually reset the film counter, so having to count photos taken. Also, there is a learning curve with where to put my hands when I advance the film — I popped the back cover off twice while advancing. My finger also gets in the way of the shutter cock lever when I take a picture.

This is not a snapshot camera. This is a camera for deliberate, methodical photography.

I downloaded a Light Meter app for my phone — not only to take readings, but also to record exposure data about each photo. I preferred that to slinging an antique meter around my neck and scribbling exposure data into a notebook (or, more likely, typing exposure data into the Notes on my phone).

I think everything came out a little underexposed? Or maybe I didn’t choose subjects with a wide enough dynamic range to work well in black and white.

[Taken 20 April 2015 | 1/200 sec @ f/4]

The focus is also not the sharpest. I used a variety of distances and exposures, so it’s not camera shake. It’s also not film grain from using 200 speed, I don’t think. Other Argus C3 photos I’ve found online are much sharper than I got from this test roll, so I’m guessing that my particular camera needs cleaned and calibrated. Maybe I’ve got some lens fungus, too. I’m not sure at this point. That might contribute to the overall “muddy” look of the images.

[Taken 24 April 2015 | 1/300 sec @ f/16]

[Taken 20 April 2015 | 1/200 sec @ f/8]

If I feel saucy, maybe I’ll buy a different lens for it and see if I can manage to put it on. Or, at the very least, maybe I’ll recalibrate the lens I’ve got (although I’m not confident that will fix the problem, since nothing was sharply in focus for the entire roll — it’s not like the focus was just off by a few inches).

Something else to note regarding this particular camera and test roll: I apparently had some sort of major mechanical malfunction when rewinding the film. Part of the film (near the very beginning of the roll) was entirely torn away, and the sprocket holes were ripped through.

Not only that, but I got several blank exposures, most likely from me not properly advancing the film. I’m unaccustomed to having multiple steps of cocking the shutter, then firing, then releasing the film, then advancing. I obviously screwed something up.

I’ll chalk both of those up to user error.

In its current state, my Argus C3 rangefinder is an attractive, intriguing, almost steampunk, valuable worthwhile part of my collection. It represents a new era in photographic history wherein regular people could create good photography without owning a huge and expensive professional camera. (This was just one camera of many that helped usher in that era, of course.)

Will I clean it, recalibrate it, and retest it — perhaps with either true black and white film or with color — to see if I can get it to deliver better results? Maybe someday… but not anytime in the near future. At its best (and with me at my best), the C3 still requires more fiddling and adjusting than I’m willing to entertain for the sake of a good image.

In the meantime, I have other cameras to test.

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