I thought about using this camera for today's blog however, I ended up taking pictures of it instead of with it.
The Argus C3 analog camera really is a very "different piece of photography equipment". It is called "The Brick" not only because of its shape but also because of its weight which is over 800 grams. Very heavy indeed.
The Argus C3 sold over 2 million units in its 27-year production history, making it the most successful rangefinder camera until the single-reflex cameras came on the market in the 1960's. *
While I was visiting relatives in Chicago about two months ago I inherited the camera because no one else wanted it. "Let's give it to Lee, she loves photography!" No one knew whether it even worked anymore, because it hadn't been used in decades, most likely not since the 1950's. That's 70 years ago. Perhaps it had a value to collectors?
It was difficult to find a shop which could assess it, and as it turns out, there is only one specialized camera repair shop in the Chicago area who could do it, located in downtown Chicago on Jeweler's Row.
The 70-year-old expert took his time and looked at it very carefully and finally said it would cost around $80 to clean and overhaul the entire camera as well as repair the broken rangefinder. The rangefinder is separate from the viewfinder and is coupled to the lens through a series of gears located on the outside of the camera body.
He said it would take pictures since shutter, film advance and other mechanical parts were working OK. When I use it, I would just have to adjust for the defective range finder manually. The sights wouldn't line up as they should but I could compensate for that by trial and error and by calculating in my head, he said.
"Oh boy. I don't want that hassle" I thought. I've gotten so spoilt with my new digital camera and I enjoy the ease of use so much. I would be thrown back to the stone age of cameras. Would using the Argus C3 be an enjoyable photographic experience or a frustrating nightmare?
What could I find as a motive to photograph with seven wierd shutter speeds and non-functioning range finder in order to fill up a roll of 36 exposures? I probably couldn't shoot the full 36 in one session either, which would mean multiple sessions without knowing whether I was doing anything right.
He was an honest man and he told me I could buy an Argus C3 in perfect working condition for around $20 on ebay. Mine had a Leica lens which made it slightly valuable if I sold it for parts. Obviously I could immediately forget the idea of selling it to a collector.
"What did I want to do?"
I still didn't know what I should do.
Spend $80 to repair a camera that I probably would not use, or if I did use it, it would only be used once out of curiosity? If I don't get it repaired right now at this special shop, the shopkeeper might be retired by the next time I go back to Chicago. There's certainly no one near where I live in rural Germany who would know how to fix this ancient American-made analog camera.
What should I do?
I left the shop with The Brick in my hand, and paused outside of the building on Jeweler's Row. There was a garbage bin conveniently located right in front of me. Should I just throw it away? It was awfully heavy to schlepp back to Germany, but on the other hand, it was an inheritance and … it has a full set of filters!
What would you do? What do you think I should do?