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repairing the brick - Argus C3 vintage camera (previous owner R. N. Winslow)  RSS feed

 
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This is the journey where I meet and possibly repair a vintage camera.  That's right, one of those cameras that take film.

Late last night, we drove into the dark bowels the city in search of an address.  1144 Suchandsuch street, ring the fourth floor, I'll come down and meet you in the lobby with the bags.

Bags and bags of camera equipment, all of them broken in one way or another.  Half a dozen cameras from different times in history currently clutter our kitchen table.  The SLR from Deutsche Demokratische Republik, was quickly snatched up by another member of the household as it only needs a new film winding knob to get it working again.  But me, I was instantly drawn to a much older camera.  Cumbersome and clunky, a seemingly solid chunk of bakelite with silver accessories weighs as much as a brick.  The more I looked at this camera, the more I knew I wanted to learn more about it.  As I fell slowly in love with it, I knew I wanted to make it work.





I don't know anything yet about cameras. The whole reason why we picked these up free on UsedAnywhere, was because I want to learn how to make my digital camera take better photos.  I want to use the manual function on my camera but when I read a book from the library my head gets filled up with green-grey fuzz and I can't take in the information.  The other day I tried talking to a sales rep at one of our last remaining camera shops in town.  As he prattled on in a very knowledgeable way about stops and apertures and depth of field, I suddenly understood that the only way my brain can comprehend something like this is mechanically.  I need to get my hands on a machine, take it apart, learn what each of these words and numbers physically changes, then put it back together again.  If I can do that, then I can learn what each of these fancy settings on my digital camera does and I can take better photos.


First step: discover the value and history of this Argus camera.

Ten minutes with Google tells me this is an Argus C-series, possibly an Argus C3 from just after WW2, but probably no later than 1948.  It seems to be the point and shoot camera of the day and was a lower-end camera, costing only about $30 USD in 1940 (about $525.00 USD today).  A quick search on ebay suggests that if this was in good condition, I could get about $30 for it.   This camera is NOT in good condition so I don't feel bad taking it apart and making it mine.

The camera case is also pretty shabby.  The leather dried out and has ripped in places and the lens cover has only three or four stitches holding it on.  The later I could fix pretty well, but I'm not sure how to go about repairing the tear.  But leather is something I am keen to learn about, so I'm excited!

One last thing about this camera:  It was owned by an R. N. Winslow.  There are at least three addresses on it.  The ones I can make out are in Florida and Chicago.  Winslow was also possibly dyslexic as there is a very early scratching of their name inside the camera but the word is spelt backwards and the L in Winslow is also backwards.  This is something someone with dyslexia often does - as I well know from my own experiences.  

I am curious about R. N. Winslow and have started a fiction about the life of Winslow in my imagination.  Maybe it was a coming of age present?  Maybe it was the most valued possession and Winslow was nervous about losing it.  Maybe that's why the name Winslow and "W" are scratched in so many places.  Maybe Winslow used it as part of their work?  Was Winslow a man?  Did Winslow fall in love?  Was the camera part of that love story or was it the cause of a broken heart?  What photos did this camera take?

 
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A video about the Argus C3

And some more.



 
raven ranson
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Oh, here's a video on how to take apart and relubricate the Argus C3



On closer examination, the video uses a lot of tools and techniques I'm not comfortable using when taking apart delicate equipment.  As a chronic disassembler, I know that the fastest way to break something beyond repair is to repair it.  Quite often the thing that is broken, isn't.  It's just dirty.  When repairing something complex like a typewriter, I like to clean it first, then make one small change.  Clean.  test.  Clean.  make another small change... ad infinitum.  

The comments for this video show some strong opinions on how the person could have done things differently.  This one is my favourite

Tom Heckhaus
5 months ago
Hi Rinoa,  I watched your video and it gave me shivers. LOL. I've been restoring these C, C2 and C3's for many years. That poor lens!  You've put it back together backwards, did you notice how far out the lens bezel is now sticking out? Also the lens has to be adjusted so the infinity markings on the lens actually match the lenses actual focal length. Another thing is getting the slot to line up properly so everything from the RF dial to the idler wheel with cover plate all line up. It take me at least 1/2 hour to get everything aligned then of course adjusting the rangefinder so it matches the lens. All in all for a camera designed in 1938 and sold through 1966 then design held up well. The ACG has members all over the world. Never use oil! A tiny drop on the inside of the RF dial is the exception to loosen up a sticky dial, there you did well! ... The Helicoid needs either helicoid grease or a very heavy lithium white grease. After  taking out the Rangefinder it should always be aligned properly. BUT HEY, learning by doing is the best way. The front panel has 5 screws that hold the front panel onto the camera. You have to remove the leatherette first and the shutter setting lever. Some unscrew counterclockwise, be careful. There may be a setscrew of a tiny locking nut.Here are a few websites that will help you a lot, also check out the Argus Collectors Group homepage. The annual gathering was this past week which I missed to do illness. Have FUN, as always I applaud any younger person who wants to learn to fix old cameras and shoot film with them. If I can help let me know. Tom, Try these..  http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/index-120.html  AND/OR http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/index-86.html  THE ARGUS GROUP http://www.arguscg.org/ AND FINALLY a great Youtube Friend SEARCH FOR  fix old cameras.  Have fun the ACG also has parts for old Argus Cameras.



emphasis in bold added by me.




I wonder if it would have been easier to take the lens off if she did it the way it's recommended in the manual?  Like in this video



Speaking about manuals.  Here's a site where we can download the manual for the Argus Camera

Argus C-3 Manual pdf download
 
raven ranson
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this is much more my style



Don't think I need to do any of this, but it's exciting to see how it works inside.
 
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Looking at When Was My Arugs Camera Made, it looks like my camera is from 1945.  

My serial number is 01211 which puts it early in the 1945-46 line.  This fits with the little details like the black cocking lever, Weston Film Speed disk, and the seven different shutter speed settings.

Today's adventure on the internet helped me understand that many of the things I thought were wrong with this camera are actually working fine.  Before I do anything 'fun' like take it to pieces, I think I'll clean it up.  Tomorrow's google adventure starts with the search phrase: "how to clean a vintage camera".



As for R. N. Winslow, I'm no closer to discovering who he or she was.  

The oldest marking on the case is hard to make out but as far as I can tell it says "R. N. WINSLOW - EVAN (O/A)(smudge)N"

The later address includes "La Salle" Chicago, and later still in an apartment on Sunset Drive "Fort Lauderdale, Florida".  

None of these addresses includes what country it is in - a habit still common in the USA that I never understood - so I'm imagining that, although Winslow changed cities many times during their life, Winslow did not travel much outside the US, unless he was in The War.

Edit: perhaps it is this: robert N Winslow Jr

 
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The little knob that adjusts the shutter speed had come unscrewed from its cam.  So I decided to take the brick apart and discover if I could fix it.



The first thing I noticed is that it doesn't have five screws holding the faceplate on.  It has six!  One very large one at the top.  

I blew out much of the dust with the air puffer and cleaned the mirrors and the viewfinder lens with a bit of lens cleaner.  Then I played with the different mechanisms to discover how they are supposed to work.  



At first, I thought the cam was supposed to sit in the body of the machine, but after watching the above videos a few times, I understood that it is supposed to stay with the faceplate.  But what way?  I found a spot in the video where he says to set the shutter speed to just before 300, then a little while later he shows us the backside.  Eureka!  



Probably not exact, but it will do well enough for now.  

Everything's back together and the glue is drying on the coating.  I suspect this will be my biggest mistake because I used the glue I had on hand.  I don't know what the proper glue I was supposed to use is.  But the shutter speed adjustment now works!  it goes faster at 300 and slower at 10.  
 
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Good idea to take an old camera apart (most likely breaking it in the process) to learn how it works. I actually started taking photos on an analog camera. Maybe that is why I still use the manual mode on the modern DLSR.

Aperture / F-Stop: It determines how much light gets through the lens to the film / sensor. light passing through is inversely proportional to the square of the F-number. (twice the F-number -> one quarter of the light)
ISO / Film sensitivity: How strong the sensor / film responds to light. Higher numbers give you a brighter picture, but also more noise / grain.
exposure time: usually specified as fractions of a second. more time (smaller number) -> more light to the film/sensor -> brighter image. (but you have to hold the camera still for that time!)
 
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The only part left to clean is the lens.  It's also the fussiest part to calibrate on this machine, so I'm not feeling motivated to take it apart at this time.

I used the air puffer to remove most of the dust and that seems to have done a good job on the inside of the lens (the part that screws into the camera).  The outside of the lens has a coating on it.  According to my time with google yesterday, this coating is not baked on like modern lenses so it's very easy to remove with the wrong lens cleaner.  I don't know what's in my lens cleaner or what the right lens cleaner is supposed to have in it, so I'm going to delay cleaning this part until I discover a) which cleaner to use and b) why having a coated lens is desireable.

The other thing left to clean is the outside of the lens.  There's some corrosion near the end of the lens that looks icky and makes reading the little notch for setting the f-stop difficult.  It seems to be some sort of pot-metal so I don't know yet what to use to clean it.  Further research is required.
IMG_5877-(2).JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_5877-(2).JPG]
 
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here's a lovely review of the Argus C3

But there’s a funny thing that happens with the Argus C3. It’s in no way a perfect camera, or a true shooter’s machine, but as one becomes more familiar with it, these ergonomic hiccups smooth away to a point where we’re barely noticing them. Our shooting style adapts, we begin to enjoy the mechanical-ness of the camera, and shooting becomes almost zen-like.

And it’s when this familiarity blossoms that the Argus becomes something truly special. The same antiquated methodology of shooting which at first causes one to stumble, eventually becomes the camera’s greatest strength. The way it slows everything down is just magical. We’re not shooting with abandon, but rather, we’re carefully observing our scene, examining our light, contemplating the settings of the machine, focusing with care, composing with attention, and shooting real photographs. For those who’ve not experienced this kind of slow, mechanical photography, it’s something that should be high on the priority list.

...

the real draw of the C3 is something else entirely. It’s a camera that, today, offers a way of seeing things differently. It offers today’s photographer a way of slowing down and experiencing the process of photography as it once was. The C3 is a camera for thinking men and women; shooters who enjoy the journey, and shooters who go about their craft in a more thoughtful way.



The biggest draw for me with this camera is that it is fully manual so I can use it to learn what the different settings do.

I like the idea of slow photography.  A bit like the slow cloth and slow food movement.  

I don't think this is the camera for taking pictures of wildlife, but it would be a lot of fun to discover if I can still get and have developed 35mm film.
 
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He repaced his skull with glass. So you can see his brain. Kinda like this tiny ad:
Wildlife Web Kickstarter: Participate in the Web of Life
https://permies.com/t/100598/Wildlife-Web-Kickstarter-Participate-Web
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