I don’t believe it!

Argus C3 Ad c1957

Toronto. This was the catch phrase the old curmudgeon Mr. Meldrew used in  the decade long British  sitcom “One Foot in the Grave“. Meldrew was played by the Scottish actor Richard Wilson.

When I saw this page 9 ad from the September 16, 1957 issue of LIFE magazine courtesy of George Dunbar, I immediately thought of Richard Wilson’s famous catch phrase. The “brick” as the Argus C3 was fondly known, was indeed cheap, but to describe it like this, even six decades ago, is false advertising in all its glory. The marketeers went wild to describe its virtues while invisibly suggesting it was as good as pricier German cameras,

The ad suggests it is as simple to use as a box camera but has “advanced camera features …   to match your skills as you become more expert”. In his 1986 book, Ivor Matanle describes, “The unbeautiful Argus C3 [was] produced in vast quantities in the USA, and, with coupled rangefinder, an adequate quality f/3.5 coated lens and ruggedness akin to a builder’s wheelbarrow, performed tolerably well in its youth. … they rarely perform well now… as a doorstop or a paperweight they have much to recommend them.”

Years ago I read that the C3’s rangefinder was prone to misalignment making accurate focussing difficult. To adjust it, the camera had to be disassembled. To test it, the camera had to be reassembled. Not right? disassemble, adjust, reassemble, test. Still not right? Repeat steps … Hence the likely source of the paperweight comment as few would take a cheap camera to be repaired.

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