Logotype Argus C, C2, C3                        Feb. 2018

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Early Argus C3 in VH Black leatherette

A brutally functional solution to picture taking, with lots of charm

The Argus C3 is associated with images of American life in the decades after World War II, especially those preserved on Kodachrome. The impact of seeing one's life in brilliant, wall-sized color -- coming from a world of little grey drugstore prints -- is hard to appreciate today.

They take great pictures. Not much more skill is needed to get one working, than to recover it. Original coverings were a glazed paper or (rarely) resin-on-cloth. The textures varied some over the course of production. We can't match any exactly, but among the "VH Black", the "#7 Black", the "Seal Grain Black"; (coarse) and the "Restoration Black" leather you should find a good approximation, if you want to retain the original appearance. We can't replicate the Match-Matic 2-tone colors, but there are lots of possibilities to be creative here.

To specify the right covering parts for your version, refer to the illustrations below.

Early C3 with VH Black leatherette

Front plates
Back plates
Each plate takes its own uniquely cut leather part(s).

There were lots of different castings for front and back plates and each is a little different. For the sole purpose of recovering (with apologies to Argus scholars!) we've distilled them down to 5 each. There's no implied pairing of side-by-side plates. For example, the type 5 front is found with various backs.

Types 4 and 5 front plates are by far the most common. Outside corners are sharp and can be hard on your fingers and palms!

For backs with 3 or 4 sections, ignore the hinge screws and look at the chrome clasp. It can be narrow (A & B) or wider (C & D). The guides to the right are self-explanatory. On types B and D, we're measuring from the clasp to the closest point of the dial. (Measurements are approximate to the nearest millimeter.)

The early C3 shares the type 3 plate with the C2, which has no side flash ports. Corners here, both outside and inside, are more rounded over. A chrome cocking lever on the C3 is not a reliable indicator of plate type. Photos below show a closer look.

Not sure about your C3? Try to slip the edge of a bank/credit card between the RF/focus wheel and the index tab directly under it. If it won't fit, you've got a type 3 plate.

Types 1 and 2 have rounded corners like the Type 3 front plate.

Throughout production, especially on earlier plates, there are lots of small variations in castings of the index tab below the rangefinder wheel. The matching scalloped section of your new leather may be slightly off here. It's usually not a problem, but if it is, we'll do our best to help you work around it!

The "C" rangefinder isn't coupled to the lens. Early C's have a front shutter range selector, and we don't have a pattern for the required hole. If you can cut the hole, leather for the type 2 plate should be OK.

Request your set by simple pairing; "5D", "4C", "3A", etc.

Argus C3 late

← Most C3's have type 4 or 5 front plates

The corners are sharply squared, inside and out. The rangefinder index mark can vary a bit even among examples of the same plate.

Type 3 plate of an early C3
  Corners are rounded, and the camera is a little easier on your hands. On the early C3, the index tab is closer to the focus wheel.
              C3 early

Installation notes

It's pretty easy to strip a "brick" and get the metal very clean. You should take off the lens, coupling gear and shutter speed dial before applying new leather parts. There are resources online for getting these back in sync again when you are done. While you're at it, go a little deeper and get it back into shooting condition.

Some hobbyists treat the chrome framework too much like a child's puzzle, quickly filling each void with the matching leather part. Working hastily like this can leave leather hanging or skewing at an edge. Examine your placement of each part critically, with a magnifier if needed. The "wet method" is a good idea on all sections, so you can correct any initial offset.

The thin, fragile leather around the front "windows" sits in an impression shaped more like a half-pipe, than something with a flat floor. Gently press the thin frames in place to improve the contact of the adhesive backing.

On types A and C back plates, make sure to orient the lower leather section to match the larger radius corners at the bottom.

More photos of the C3 coming soon!