Argus flash lamp


I previously made a lamp from a spare parts Nikon FTn, but my Argus collection was getting jealous, so I decided to make an Argus camera lamp.

The easiest starting point is the oldest model Argus flash which has a socket that fits the Edison base bulbs that we use in our ordinary household lamps. I can't image using a flashbulb as big as a regular light bulb, but that's what they did from the 1920s until much smaller M type bayonet bulbs started gaining the lion's share of the market.

The Argus flash was originally made to run on three volts from two C batteries to trigger a flash bulb when the camera shutter was released. I modified my flash to run continuously on 110 volt AC power. This flash can be attached to any of the C3 cameras and probably some other Argus models that have the two prong flash socket.

Here are the steps I took. I assume you know what you're doing around electrical wiring and will make sure it is properly insulated so you don't start a fire or blow a fuse or electrocute yourself or cut yourself or burn yourself while soldering. I disclaim any injuries or damages that may occur. When I say "top" below, I mean the end of the flash tube where the bulb goes.

1) Remove the bottom cap and drill a hole just big enough to fit a 110 volt AC cord through.

2) Run about 12 inches of cord from the outside of the hole to the inside and tie a loose overhand knot close to the cap (to be adjusted later).

3) Inside the tube, use a very small screw driver to gently pry one end of the connection of the top copper connector away from the top prong that inserts into the camera. The copper connector I'm talking about is the one that leads into the top of the tube and connects with the outside of the socket for the bulb. If you did it right, the copper strip has a hole in it where the connection prong to the camera used to be and is still attached to the socket on top. The copper strip will also be slightly bent where you worked the screwdriver on it which is great as you'll be able to later wrap that bend around a wire to secure the wire.

4) Use a knife to carefully separate the two wires on the AC cord for about 4 inches without removing any of the insulation or exposing the wires. Cut one of the wires shorter than the other equal to the difference between the depth of the center hole as you look into the tube and the depth of the hole in the copper strip (I think it was about two inches). Strip away 5/8 inches of insulation from each wire. Twist the strands so that they are tightly wrapped together.

5) Stick the wire into the tube and guide it so that the longer end goes through the hole in the middle of the light bulb socket on top. From the socket side, bend that wire over and secure it by screwing in a 5 watt led 110 volt household light bulb (40w equivalent).

6) Use a screwdriver to bend the copper strip away from the wall of the tube.

7) This is the hardest part of the process - bend the end of the remaining wire at more than a 90 degree angle. Feed the end through the hole of the copper strip on the side away from the curl of the strip. Once it's through the hole, bend it up so the exposed end of the wire is nestled in the curl of the strip and use a long needle nosed pliers to carefully crimp the bend in the strip over the wire to firmly hold it in place. This took me a lot of attempts and a lot of swearing, but I finally made it happen.

8) Use a generous amount of liquid electrical tape and a Q-tip or bamboo skewer to drip and smear it as insulation of the connection of the wire to the copper strip. Let it dry and repeat a few more times to fully insulate it.

9) Unscrew the light bulb. Trim off the end of that wire if necessary so that it doesn't touch the outside of the socket and short circuit the whole thing. Curl it a bit around the central hole/connection. Use a soldering iron to solder it to the central connection.

10) Once everything is done, adjust the overhand knot you made in step 2 so that it is as close to the inside of the tube as you can get it. Then screw the bottom cap back on the tube. I also added an inline switch to the power cord so I can easily turn it on or off (see picture of flash detached from camera above).

11) I found the modified lamp with a bare bulb was way too bright for the way I wanted to use it, so I used a cheap flash diffuser to soften it. Amazon sells a Neewer 6 inch octagonal diffuser which you can use in one of two ways. Option one is to remove the reflector from the flash and put the diffuser over the lightbulb so the diffuser points up at the ceiling which gives you a nice soft room light (this is the option I ended up using in the end). Option two is surgery on the diffuser to cut off two of the side panels (leave the one with the black male Velcro on it and the opposite panel), cut off the elastic band, cut off the black female portion of Velcro from the band and sew it to the remaining side panel opposite the male Velcro. Then you can leave the reflector on the flash and wrap the modified diffuser around it to provide a more direct light.

I find it a nice addition to the room where I keep my growing camera collection and where Argus is currently leading the other brands (they're cheaper than Leicas).

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