What Was The Original Price Of An Argus C3 Rangefinder Camera? – All You Need to Know

People often ask, what was the original price of an Argus C3 rangefinder camera?

Let’s find out!

What Was the Original Price of an Argus C3 Rangefinder Camera?

The Argus C3 rangefinder was first released in 1982 at a price of $35 (equivalent to $682 today). It was the world’s first fully automatic rangefinder. The Argus c3 is still one of the most popular and affordable rangefinders on the market, with over 1 million sold worldwide.

Argus C3

The C3 was released in October 1939 as an improvement on the C (1938), which itself was an improvement on the C2 (1938-42). All three cars were built using the same brick design, but the C3 proved to be the most popular.

The original Argus camera had an uncoupled rangefinder which required the photographer to manually turn the camera body to align the rangefinder reading, while the C3 coupled the rangefinders to the lenses to allow for one-step focus.

The C3 had an improved flash sync mode but otherwise remained similar to its predecessor. It originally sold for $35, the equivalent today to $682.

Despite its ugly exterior, the C3 sold well, selling approximately two million units during its 27 years of production. Customers liked the scientific look of the camera because of its numerous controls and dials.

The C3 was known for its rugged durability and sharp, quality images. It was so popular among photographers that they affectionately called it “The Brick”. Its lasting popularity allowed it to outlive most of its American rivals, including the Canon EOS 1s.

Many C3s are still used today, even though they were designed back in the 1930s. They’re cheap on the used market and they’re fairly easy to fix.


The C3 was designed primarily out of Bakelite plastic and steel castings. It had an unusual but simple diagrammatic lens cover built into the body of the cameras, so they could be used with interchangeable lenses without the need for complicated focal plate shutters.

The rangefinder was separated from the viewfinders and was connected to the lenses through a series of gear mechanisms located on the exterior of the camera’s body. The cameras were provided with 50mm f/3.5 Carl Zeiss Trioplan anastigmat triplet lenses.

The lenses were manufactured under contract by Bausen & Lomb, Alcon, Ilex, and Carl Zeiss AG (now known as Carl Zeiss Vision), which was acquired by Allergan in 1999, with various qualities. [1]


The Argus C camera was introduced in 1938, equipped with a rangefinder that wasn’t coupled to the lenses. To focus a C, you first need to use its rangefinding feature to determine the distance between you and the subject, then rotate the focusing ring until the scale on the side matches that distance.

Early production C cameras had high/low-shutter speed ranges marked on the camera’s dials, with a separate button to control them. The high/low shutter speed selector was soon deleted from the camera’s design, and speeds were now set using the camera’s rotary dial with ten different settings.

The C was replaced by the C2, which had a geared connection between the rangefinder and lens, greatly speeding up focusing and making the camera easier to operate.

Finally, in 1939, the C3 was introduced with an electrical plug on its left-hand corner for a battery-powered flashlight, which could be used to trigger the shutter release.

The basic C3 camera went through only minor changes from its original release until it was replaced by the C4 in 1967. For example, the number of shutter speed settings was reduced from 10 to 7 to 5, an accessory foot was added, and the rear exposure reminder dial was eliminated.

There were two variants of the camera, one with colored filters (known as the “Colormatic”) and another without them (the “Standard”). Both had similar features but differed slightly in their design.

There were three variants of the C3: the Matchmatics, Golden Shields, and C33s. The first two, made from 1958 to 1966, had a selenium light metering attachment but were otherwise similar to the Standard C3s.

Both models were distinguished by their unique finishes: two-toned tan leather for the Matchmatic and a metallic finish for the Golden Shield. The original C33 was a major departure from the basic design but still retained its iconic “bricked” look.

It offered numerous enhancements over the older model, which included an integrated rangefinder and a coupled light meter.

What Was The Original Price Of An Argus C3 Rangefinder Camera?

What Was The Original Price Of An Argus C3 Rangefinder Camera?

Operating the Camera

Despite its lack of similarity to modern ergonomic design, the C3’s heavy feel makes for an enjoyable experience when holding it in the hand.

On the blacktop surface, there are metal dial controls for the camera’s exposure settings, including aperture, speed, and ISO. A simple frame count sits atop the camera, which has a small hexagonal film holder.

On the back of the camera body, there are two buttons marked B (bulbs) and I (instantaneous). The top of the camera is threadable so that you can add a remote control.

On the left side of the body, near the shutter release button, there are two small gears called the rangefinder gears. These allow the photographer to rotate the rangefinder ring with their shutter finger, engaging the idler gears to focus the lens.

On the left side of the camera body, there are two rectangular openings for the viewfinders: one for composing pictures and another for focusing.

With the camera set to manual mode, adjust the shutter speed until the top and bottom halves of the viewfinder align with your chosen focal point. Your subjects will then be in focus.

You can also use the zoom feature to adjust for different distances between the camera and the subject.

On some cameras, there is an option for a shutter speed dial on the top right-hand side of the viewfinder. It allows you to choose from 5, 7, or 10 different shutter speed options ranging from 1/10 to 1 / 300 seconds.

To tie everything together, the lens is interchangeable because the leaf shutters are located within the body of the device, not between the lenses themselves.

An adjustable screw mount allows for three different lenses, the 50mm f/3,5 anastigmat tripletset, the Argus Coating Cintar.

Calibrating the Lens for Proper Rangefinder Focusing

To ensure proper focusing, it’s important to carefully follow outlined steps whenever changing lenses. If you forget to do so, the resulting images may be blurry.

The following text was copied directly from the Argus C2 user manual, which proved to us that it would provide good results. However, if that didn’t work, more advanced steps about adjusting the rangefinder setting by removing a small circular knob on top of the lens could be found online.

To Remove the Lens

First set the rangefinder to the 3-foot mark, then remove the idler wheel from the camera body, before removing the lens by turning to its left.

To Replace the Lens

Screw the lens back onto the body of the lens using the screw threads on the front of the lens. Once the lens has been screwed in place, rotate the lens so that the gears on the Idler Wheel face the direction of travel.

Drop the Idler gear into the slot on its metal post, then turn the camera body until the viewfinder shows an image of the horizon. Replace the idler gear without disturbing the positions of either the camera body or the viewfinder. Turn the range finder dial to the left until it stops. Then replace the idler gear again.

Put the rangefinder dial at the three-foot mark, then tighten the idler gear cap. Now the lens is ready for photos.


We hope that this article was helpful. If you have any queries feel free to reach out in the comments section below.


  • Herman Riggs

    Herman is a writer, researcher, and product reviewer here at The Outdoor Stores. His knowledge and expertise in firearms are immense. He knows well which gun is suitable for which purpose and how to handle it correctly. You can benefit from his passion by reading his posts on this website.

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