The American Leica, no. A tough and durable rangefinder camera that has survived the decades with an awesome lens, yes. The 1950s made Argus C4 (aka C-Four as is written on the lens barrel) has a faster Cintar lens at f/2.8 than its predecessor C3 and goes to f/22; shutter speeds B, 1/10-1/300 with a leaf type shutter. They did make a more rare version of the C4 with a changeable lens, but most people know about the C44 that was standard with that option.
The C4 was mechanical with no metering capability and completely manual. The back screws off and loading is similar to Leica cameras of that era. In 1955 you could get the C4 for $84.50 which today would be the equivalent of $820 (€673). Not exactly pocket change and was geared towards more serious photographers.
I first came across the C4 at a flea market for $5. I figured at that price why not take a chance. So I cleaned it up and started shooting. The camera had no rust and the shutter was firing perfectly. It had somewhat of a loud snap sound with each shot, but I loved the mechanics of it. While I was out shooting I noticed the gears on the C4 focusing wheel were worn, causing the lens to slip. Argh! I fiddled with it for a few days and eventually gave up on that roll of film.
As the days passed I really wanted to continue shooting it, but I didn’t want to invest the money into this $5 throwaway. I decided to get on eBay and look for a decent C4 replacement. To my surprise, this was one of the best purchases I have ever made, scoring a mint C4, with perfect leather case, flash, and filters for $10. I really don’t know how I did it. Next up, decide if this was all worth it!
And certainly it was! I had owned the C3 for a couple of years and although I didn’t shoot it a lot, I always loved the results and that Cintar glass. The colors just pop out on this camera and with an f/2.8 lens I can grab low light shots. They didn’t make strap rings for it, and I don’t understand why? So when I carry it around I screw in a hand strap lug into the tripod hole and carry it that way.
Western Michigan in the Summer has a wonderful sleepy vibe to it. The C4 was a perfect tool to walk around at my leisure and take scenic shots. I definitely could have used the Sunny 16 rule here but opted to meter light with my iPhone. All photos shot with Fujifilm Superia 200.
So why do I enjoy the C4 so much? It has the feel of a more expensive rangefinder. It’s great for those who love mechanical manual rangefinders. Argus cameras hold up to time. Finally, the glass!
So what could be more fitting than shooting a Michigan made Argus C4 in Michigan? A perfect pair.
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