Lights! Action! Camera!

    LIFE Ad for the Argus M3 8mm movie camera (November 1959)

Toronto. Ahhh, amateur home movies. In the 1930s and 40s well heeled families could shoot 16mm movies of family life. Post war, 8mm  and Super 8mm became common allowing every family to capture family life in motion (my father-in-law used a Brownie movie camera to capture his holiday trips).

Home movies, indoor stills with flash and colour photos were pushed hard in the advertisements of the day. If a company had a popular still camera, the next step was movies. Argus had its popular C3 still camera, fondly called the brick, so it was logical to move on to… movies. In 1959, Argus advertised the M3 movie camera. The choice of M3 for its name may have been to imitate the fabulously popular Leica M3 of the day (and by far the most successful Leica ever) or M for movie and 3 for the 3 lenses. The movie camera matched competitors with a lens turret, three viewfinders (fixed focal length lenses before inexpensive and quality zooms), and even a selenium cell light meter, all in a “pocket size” compact camera.

The differentiating concept was a palmed winder replacing the more traditional crank or winder key. Like most fads, people lost interest in the poor quality of 8mm and the demands of editing and home movies disappeared until the age of the modern home computers, smartphones and digital cameras with their high quality videos.  My thanks to George Dunbar and his dedicated research of photographic advertisements in popular magazines of the last century. LIFE magazine for November 23, 1959 features the Argus M3 on page 4.

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