It’s been months since I bought an old camera. I’ve been looking at Argus C3s on eBay for months, looking for the right one. Argus cranked out millions of C3s from 1939 to 1966, and this rugged and relatively inexpensive camera is credited with almost single-handedly popularizing the 35mm film format in the United States. These things are as common as dandelions, but I have wanted one for a long time.
Actually, I wanted two. I figured I’d first find an original C3, a classic black brick. But starting in 1958, Argus put a bit of tan leatherette on the front and back and a light meter on the top and called it the Match-Matic. I found one of those first, and here it is. Mine was made in 1960.
This camera is heavy, and its hard corners make it uncomfortable to hold. The lens on mine appears to be clear, but the viewfinder and rangefinder, while usable, are both a little cloudy. The winding knob is a little loose but I think the camera ought to work fine anyway. Many, many people took excellent photographs with their Match-Matics. Some classic camera lovers, such as this fellow and this lady, still use theirs.
As I built my first camera collection, I bought pretty much anything I could afford. I ended up with more than 100 cameras and I enjoyed them all, but most of them were considerably worn and probably 1 in 4 of them was broken. When I started collecting again, I decided to buy nothing but working cameras in decent cosmetic condition. As you can see, this Match-Matic is in very good cosmetic condition. The only real blemish is on the back, where the case left a snap mark.
Notice the accessory shoe? That’s where the light meter goes. Without a working light meter, the camera has no real collector value. I understand that the light meters weren’t as long-lived as the cameras, and I imagine the little things tended to get lost, so it’s no wonder so many Match-Matics are available without them. I’ll keep looking at Match-Matics until I find one at a good price that comes with a working light meter.
Then why did I buy this meterless Match-Matic? For its case! Seems like every C3 I see comes with a case that looks like Ernie Pyle took it to Normandy and let the whole 82nd Division run over it on their way up the beach. This one came with a nearly perfect case.
Coming soon: an early C3 I just won on eBay.