The Argus C3 was a low-priced rangefinder camera mass-produced from 1939 to 1966 by Argus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. The camera sold about 2 million units, making it one of the most popular cameras in history. Due to its shape, size, and weight, it is commonly referred to as “The Brick” by photographers (in Japan its nickname translates as “The Lunchbox”). The most famous 20th-century photographer who used it was Tony Vaccaro, who employed this model during World War II.
The C3 was introduced in October 1939 as an improved version of the C (1938–9) and C2 (1938–42). All three models shared the same “brick” design, attributed to Gustave Fassin, but the C3 was by far the most successful. The original Argus C was equipped with an uncoupled rangefinder which required the user to manually rotate the lens barrel to match the rangefinder reading, while the C2 coupled the rangefinder to the lens to allow one-step focusing. The C3 added built-in flash synchronization but was otherwise identical to the C2. It originally retailed for $35, equivalent to $630 in current dollars.
The C3 proved hugely successful, selling approximately 2 million units during its 27-year production run. Although the boxy design was neither stylish nor ergonomic, customers were reportedly drawn to the camera’s “scientific” appearance with its many gears, knobs, and dials. The C3 also developed a reputation for rugged durability and sharp, high-quality images.Photographers affectionately nicknamed it “the brick”. The C3’s enduring popularity allowed it to outlast nearly all of its American competitors, including the Kodak 35 Rangefinder, but it was not able to compete with the flood of inexpensive Japanese single lens reflex cameras entering the market in the 1960s and was finally discontinued in 1966.
Although the design is over 75 years old, many C3s are still in use. The cameras are inexpensive on the used market and their simple construction makes them relatively easy to repair.
The C3 was constructed primarily of Bakelite plastic and metal castings. The design featured an unusual but simple diaphragm shutter built into the camera body, so the camera could make use of interchangeable lenses without the need for a complex focal plane shutter. The rangefinder was separate from the viewfinder and was coupled to the lens through a series of gears located on the outside of the camera body. The camera came equipped with a 50mm f/3.5 Cintar anastigmat triplet lens. The lenses were made under contract by Bausch & Lomb, Ilex, and Graf Optical, which was taken over by Argus in 1939, with varying quality.
This camera, based in shutter speed dial (Seven, marked 10 through 300) was made in 1941/2