Re-skinning an Argus C3

Argus was the company that made 35mm film popular in the US. It was also know as the poor man's Leica. The A models were shaped more like a Leica, but when Argus introduced the C3 model, also known as "The Brick," they really showed their 1930s radio manufacturer roots. The C3 sold over one million cameras.

I have several Argus cameras in my collection (they're very cheap on eBay). One C3 I bought was a 1947 model where the original black leatherette was all dried out, cracking and peeling away. I decided to re-skin it, and because I already had a black model from 1956, decided to re-skin it in blue.

I originally ordered a leather kit from Camera Leather. I paid online, got a nice e-mail thanking me for my order and saying they were pretty busy and not to worry, it would ship in like six weeks. I waited. I heard nothing. I got nothing. I started writing many e-mails which all went unanswered. I went to Paypal to try to get a refund, but it was past the period where you can claim a refund. I advise you to never have anything to do with Camera Leather and I'm sorry that I didn't see all the warnings in the discussion boards before I ordered..

The place you want to work with is Aki-Asahi. They are in Japan, but have very fast and reliable service. They have less pre-cut leathers for specific cameras, but they actually send what you order and don't rip you off. Since the C3 is so "bricky", it's easy to measure or trace your own template and cut a sheet of leather to fit.

I think the blue leather looks great on this. It's my best looking C3, expecially with the 35mm Sandmar lens and the hood that comes with it. The supplemental viewfinder on top is the one that comes with the 35mm / 100mm Sandmar set. You use the built in rangefinder to focus, then the clip on viewfinder to frame. Flip the little window down to get a 100mm field of view if you're willing to go through all the hassle of removing the idler gear and changing the lens. I just leave my 35mm lens on this camera. The blue leather also goes well with the blue flashbulbs that are period appropriate.

As usual, I needed to adjust and clean the rangefinder on this camera as well as the viewfinder and rangefinder windows on the back. They pop out pretty easily with a small screwdriver and a Q-Tip with a bit of alcohol does the trick.

Below are some pics taken with this camera. The Sandmar 35mm lens doesn't seem quite as sharp as the original 50mm Cintar that came with it, but maybe it's my copy of the Sandmar.

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