Argus C4
5 frames with...

5 Frames with the Argus C4 in Michigan – by Sean Benham

January 14, 2021

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.

Shooting the C4 at midday. Boats docked in South Haven, MI.

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.

An afternoon with the C4. Michigan Theatre, South Haven, MI

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.

A day at the Farmer's Market with live music.

Farmer’s Market in South Haven

Along the coast of South Haven, MI looking at Lake Michigan.

Looking out toward Lake Michigan

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!

Low-light shooting with the C4. South Haven Lighthouse at sunset.

South Haven Lighthouse at sunset

So what could be more fitting than shooting a Michigan made Argus C4 in Michigan? A perfect pair.

Thank you. To see more of my work, please visit my Instagram page.

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Brian Nicholls
    January 14, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    $10 (£7.32) well spent Sean. Great compositions and choice of subject too. I bet you don’t need an instruction manual for this camera.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      January 14, 2021 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks! You are correct, it’s very minimal, and didn’t even need a CLA.

  • Reply
    Graham Line
    January 14, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    There are no strap lugs but users commonly had an “ever-ready” leather case or a half case to hold the camera. Given the loading system, it was awkward, but that’s how it was done. An old Sears photo catalog would show the set-up. Never had a C4 but got a fair amount of use out of a C3.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      January 14, 2021 at 2:12 pm

      My C4 did come with a nice looking leather case with straps, but I decided to nix the idea after an incident a few years back with my C3. The C3 had a leather case with it too and while riding my bike in the grass (thankfully!) the strap broke and the C3 tumbled to the ground. Of course it’s a C3 so it was completely fine but got me worried about aging leather! I should probably check out some of the ever-ready cases.

  • Reply
    Alex Vye
    January 14, 2021 at 2:06 pm

    Gorgeous photos, especially the last one.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      January 14, 2021 at 2:10 pm

      Thank you! I love the softness of the Cintar glass.

  • Reply
    armando arias
    January 14, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    Dudfruto usar tanto la C3 como la C4, la primera por los “trucos” que deben conocerse para darle uso; el encanto de la C4 es la sensación de estar trabajando una Leica con resortes de acero. Las ópticas vintage, me agradan porque agregan ambiente vintage a mis fotos en blanco y negro.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      January 14, 2021 at 8:55 pm

      Definitely. I think the optics for both C3 and C4 are my favorite thing about both cameras. I love the feel of the construction of the C4 along with the faster glass, prefer it over the C3.

      • Reply
        Bryan Costin
        January 19, 2021 at 12:27 pm

        I have a C44, the interchangeable lens version. It was one of my first ebay bargains back in the day. It’s a nice camera to use and the lenses, like the one on the C4, are all good performers and really well made.

        • Reply
          Sean Benham
          January 19, 2021 at 1:08 pm

          A totally affordable manual rangefinder with changeable lenses. Hard to even think of another camera like the C44 at that price.

  • Reply
    Tom Brayne
    January 14, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    Good to see pix from so close to home! Hopefully I’ll see more of the lakeshore this summer.

    Hunkered down in Kalamazoo,

    TB

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      January 14, 2021 at 9:44 pm

      Hit the Kal-Haven Trail! Love that whole area, and a good friend of mine just moved to Kalamazoo.

  • Reply
    AJ Allen
    January 14, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    Wow. I have one of these sitting on my shelf that I got for free and I never even bothered to try and use it. That all changes today!

  • Reply
    Gil Aegerter
    January 15, 2021 at 2:45 am

    That loghthpuse shot is great.

    • Reply
      Gil Aegerter
      January 15, 2021 at 2:46 am

      Lighthouse!

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