Argus C4 35mm rangefinder camera

The Argus C4 is a 35mm rangefinder camera which was made in the United States in the 1950s and although not as popular in Europe as in the States, there were enough made that it is relatively easy to find a copy here.

Argus C4 Images

My Argus C4 Camera

I paid £5-50 for my non working copy hoping to be able to repair it and restore it to it’s former glory. When I received it I found that it was in a slightly sad and worn condition with a few marks and scratches to the top cover and some corrosion on the frame counter and rewind knob.

Mechanically there was a known problem because the seller was quite plain about the fact that the shutter didn’t work. When I tried turning the film advance knob it would turn but not stop and when I removed the back of the camera the shutter blades were open. I tried to find some lever or similar to close the blades, but most of the shutter mechanics are hidden by a metal shield so I couldn’t work out what was happening.

So I decided to take the camera apart and see if it would be possible to fix it.

It turns out the C4 is quite an easy camera to get apart. Basically it’s just a question of removing the rewind, film advance and frame counter controls, undoing the obvious screws that are revealed when they are taken off, and the top cover lifts away. The cover can’t be completely removed without un-soldering the flash hot shoe, but I found it reasonably easy to just keep it connected.

With the top cover was removed I found it still didn’t give me access to the shutter so I proceeded to the next level of strip-down which is to remove the shutter/lens assembly from the camera body. To do this you need to remove 4 screws which are under the covering, so that needs to be peeled back. On my camera it was quite brittle and flaky although it it did come off in one piece.

With the shutter out of the camera I could see what was wrong with it and why the shutter wouldn’t work. The pictures below show the relevant parts which are broken.

The picture on the left shows the shutter mechanism and you can see a long rod in the centre of the picture. This is the rod which controls the shutter opening/closing mechanism by moving an arm in a slot and transferring this left/right movement to a rotational movement which moves the blades. The second picture shows the slot that the bottom of this arm sits in but as you can see the bottom of the arm is missing. This is the first of the problems I found with the camera – the shutter blades are actually a bit sticky and need cleaning but the force of opening and closing the blades has sheared off the bottom off the arm.

As it happens, there is another problem because the rod itself is not turning. This is because the spring at the bottom of the rod has become disconnected from the moving part and therefore the top part is not held in tension. Now I suspect I could repair that part, but since the actual part that moves the blades is broken I’ve had to put the camera on the list of units which need a donor camera to get properly working.

So I’ve put a watch on eBay for another Argus C4 which has a shutter that works or at least has those parts in place and un-broken and ideally with good condition controls. In the meantime the camera is back together and waiting. If I can get a donor camera I’ll be interested in seeing how the lens performs with a film, since it has quite a good reputation.

Argus C4 Description

The Argus C4 is a coupled rangefinder camera with a somewhat limited set of shutter speeds and a 50mm f/2.8 cintar lens.

The camera has a rather distinctive design, with the focus coupling cogs visible on the front of the camera rather than being hidden away within the camera body. The distinctiveness continues with the shutter speed dial being fitted to the front panel rather than the more conventional location of the top plate. These features were actually a bit of a brand characteristic of Argus, having been also present on the earlier C series models. Although the focus ring is quite difficult to turn with the camera held to the eye, it doesn’t need to be the drive wheel for the focus – the camera works just as well being driven from the lens barrel.

The film rewind function is built into the film advance knob using quite a novel mechanism. When the knob is lifted up and turned so it stays in the upper position the camera is in rewind mode and the film can be rewound using the rewind knob. When it’s turned so it drops down to the lower position the film advance is enabled and the film can be advanced and the shutter cocked.

The construction of the camera body is mostly of aluminium which makes it lighter than it would be if made from steel, but it does make it more susceptible  to marks and scratches being quite a soft metal.

This is the first Argus camera I own, but I’ve seen enough to like to try to increase their presence in my collection.

Argus C4 Specifications

  • Argus 35mm coupled rangefinder camera
  • 5 Shutter speeds of 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/300 + bulb
  • Distinctive external rangefinder coupling with rangefinder viewport in centre
  • 50mm f/2.8 Cintar coated lens
  • Stepless multi-blade aperture from f/2.8 to f/22
  • Flash hot shoe with F/M switch on back plate
  • Tripod bush on base of camera
  • Bottom and back of camera removable for film loading
  • Ser No: 0320001
  • Manual available on-line here

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