Yes, it’s the Harry Potter camera. More precisely, it’s the camera that Colin Creevey used to take photos of Hogwarts so he could show them to his father. It appeared in the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, arguably making it the most well-known Argus camera ever.
In reality, the Argus Match-matic C3 was the first serious freshening of a camera that had been in production for 20 years. The Argus Camera Company probably had no idea what it was in for when it started making the chrome-trimmed black bakelite (plastic) C3 in 1938 – it was the first affordable 35 mm rangefinder camera, and did it ever sell. Argus made only minor changes to the C3 over the years; one C3 looks pretty much like another.
But by 1958 many competitors had entered the low-priced 35 mm space, offering cameras with style and features the C3 couldn’t match. Argus fielded other 35 mm cameras, but none of them caught on like the unexpectedly durable C3. So Argus decided to spruce up its venerable black brick, sticking some tan vinyl (leatherette?) across its front and back.
More importantly, it also clipped a selenium exposure meter, the LC3, into the accessory shoe. It gives readings in numeric exposure values (EVs). The old C3 used traditional shutter speeds and f stop numbers, but this C3 replaced both with numeric guide values. To get a proper exposure, you set those numbers so they added to whatever EV the meter returns. For example, if the meter returns 7, you can set the aperture and shutter to 3 and 4, or 5 and 2 – any combination that matches the meter. And thus this C3 earned the rest of its name, the Match-matic.
This was supposed to be a simple system, simpler anyway than the notoriously non-standard C3 with its controls in odd places all over the front of the camera. But simple is a matter of opinion, and mine differs from Argus’s. I dropped some Fujicolor 200 into my Match-matic and actually had to read the manual to figure out how to set exposure. Man! What is this world coming to? And even then, I struggled with it. I got it right only a few times. This was one of them. It’s sad that the best image I got is a throwaway of my front yard.
Every photo was out of focus to some extent. You can see it in the previous photo at larger sizes, but it’s pretty obvious on this one at this size. It doesn’t look like camera shake to me. Perhaps the rangefinder is out of alignment.
Then things started getting really weird. I’ve bollixed photographs in all sorts of ways, but this one is new to me. Dig that crazy brown streak.
I stopped by First Presbyterian Church, one of my favorite subjects, for a snap. This is what I got. I swear, the air in Indianapolis isn’t polluted!
Or maybe, in true Harry Potter form, my Match-matic is enchanted. Perhaps it’s seeing beyond this muggled plane. Perhaps there’s magic in the air.
Whatever it takes to avoid blaming the photographer.
If you’d like to see more, check out my Argus Match-matic C3 gallery.
Do you like vintage cameras? Then click here to see the rest of my collection!