ARGUS C44

argusc44

SUMMARY
Every camera collection should have at least one Argus camera.  Sure Kodak is the household name everyone associates with “photography for the masses,” but it can be argued that without the success of the first Argus 35mm cameras, including the Argus A, Kodak’s 35mm film format would not be as prolific and profitable as it is today.  Kodak may have developed the 35mm format, but their 35mm camera sales were eclipsed by the millions of Argus 35mm cameras sold to the general public from the 30’s to the 60’s.

By selling an inexpensive ($12.50 for an Argus A) easy to use camera that resembled a stripped down Leica, Argus brought dependable 35mm photography to the American public; a situation that did not exist prior to the Argus A. The C44, including its revised model the C44R, was the last in a long line of Argus 35mm Rangefinder cameras.  This Leica wannabe is essentially a C4 with the inclusion of interchangeable lenses, something the C4 lacked, except for an aftermarket version modified to accept Geiss interchangeable lens.  Ironically, one complaint about Argus systems in general has been their interchangeable lenses.   This was due, not so much about the quality, but the fact that each Argus 35mm Rangefinder model required its own set of proprietary lenses.  So if you had a C3 with all of the available lenses, you would have to purchase a whole new set of lenses if you wanted to upgrade to the C44.  That being said, the lenses for the C44 are quite good.  Some say the best lenses Argus ever produced.  Four types were available, the standard Cintagon 50mm f/2.8, and the optional 35/4.5, 50/1.9, and 100/3.5. An external viewfinder is necessary to utilize the lens correctly.

Another major complaint of the interchangeable lens system for the C44 is the lens mount itself.  Many feel it is far more complicated than necessary.  Admittedly there isn’t a simpler lens mount system than the screw mount, but after removing and attaching the lens a few times on the C44, I found it relatively easy to perform.  It just takes practice. To remove, turn the focus ring to infinity.  While pushing up on lens lock release, turn the lens barrel (counter-clockwise), the focus ring will also turn counter-clockwise, let it, when it stops lift out the lens.  Inserting the lens is exactly the opposite, line up the red dots, insert the lens barrel and turn clockwise until it locks into position.

Other positive points about the C44, are the removable back for easy film loading; a bright coupled view/rangefinder system; Hot shoe with M & X flash synch, and a very solid die cast body that feels good in the hands.  In fact my Minolta 2800 flash works perfectly on this camera in X flash synch mode.  Like all “Argi” this is a tank.  There is no built-in meter, although an external meter can be attached to the C44R, and other than the B setting, the C44 does not have a slower shutter speed than 1/10.   Since the shutter speeds are fairly limited it is always a good idea to use slow speed film such as ISO 64 or 100 outdoors and high speed film such as ISO 400 or 800 inside.

CLEANING AND REPAIR
This model is fairly easy to take apart.  The lenses are interchangeable and once removed allows easy access to the shutter, which can be flooded with lighter fluid if sticking.  Just work the shutter for a few minutes after lightly flooding and let dry.  Clean the rangefinder windows with a cotton swab lightly soaked in Windex or a 50/50 solution of ammonia/hydrogen peroxide.  There are screws in both rewind and film advance knobs, and a screw in the frame counter that can be removed to allow access to the top of the camera.  Unscrew these and lift up the top if access to the inside of the viewfinder windows or the rangefinder adjustment mechanism is necessary.  The back is fully removable with the turn of a simple latch on the bottom of the camera.  There’s not much to the inside of this camera, but you can get to the shutter if necessary.

The interchangeable Argus Coated Cintagon 50mm lens comes apart fairly easily.  First open the aperture diaphragm all the way.  The glass elements can be accessed by unscrewing three small screws on the side of the front ring that has the engraved aperture numbers, and removing the ring.  There are three small screws on the large main ring, which has the depth of field scale engraved on the side. These can be loosened to allow for the main silver ring to be removed.   Now three small screws that were under the main ring are revealed and can be loosened to allow for the removal of the inner element housing.  Gently pull out the element housing.   There is a notched guide on the inside of the housing which ensures the unit has only one way to fit, so you don’t have to worry about how it goes back together.  The innermost glass element, the one closest to the film plane can be removed by unscrewing the retaining ring with a #5 rubber stopper or similar device such as the spanner wrench.  The rubber stoppers were purchased through www.micro-tools.com.  A full set or nine different sizes runs around twenty dollars.  Once the retaining ring is gone, you can lift out the lens using a suction cup and clean both sides with the 50/50 AH solution and a soft optical cloth.   Access to the aperture diaphragm is now possible as is the middle element.  Three more screws on the side of the element housing can be loosened to allow for removal of the middle lens element.  To reassemble just run backwards through these steps.  If the third inner element was removed, make sure to apply light pressure when setting it back in, when you hear a soft click, it is back in place.  Screw the retaining ring back in and continue going backwards through these steps.  When replacing the large main ring, line up the two red dots at the base of the lens, then slide the large ring back on with the black arrow under the 2.8 lined up just to the right of the infinity symbol.  Tighten the screws.  Stop down the aperture to its smallest setting and place the aperture ring back on.  The 22 on the aperture ring should line up with the black arrow on the large main ring.  Tighten the screws.

It’s always good to make sure the three small screws on the side of the lens mount itself are tight, as the focus can be offset if these loosen up.  When loose the faceplate of the lens mount can shift slightly causing focus problems.

EBAY SUGGESTIONS
These cameras can be found at reasonable prices on EBay.  Mine came with the standard Cintagon 50/2.8 lens and both lens and camera were in very good shape.  They just needed to be cleaned up, a usual necessity for EBay camera purchases.  However one tip you should consider if looking to acquire the additional lenses, try finding a camera that already has one of these lenses attached.  I’ve seen the 35mm lens go for 25-50 dollars and the 100mm go for 30-75 dollars, but I was able to purchase a complete camera with the 35mm lens, in fairly good condition for less than fifteen bucks.  This second Argus C44 was in worse condition than the original one I purchased, however it functions correctly, it’s just beat up and has a fairly large dent in the top cover.  Plus if my main C44 ever has a problem I have replacement parts readily available.  The 35mm lens has some minor scratches on the outside of the barrel but mechanically and optically it is perfect.  So I got lucky, two usable C44s with a 35mm and 50mm lens for less than thirty bucks.  Expect to pay around $15-30 dollars on average for a C44 in good condition with case and possibly some accessories.  Remember this early version was only made for a year, until the C44R was produced, so they aren’t as prolific as their C3 cousin.

SAMPLES
argusc44sample01 argusc44sample02

RELATED LINKS
Argus Camera Company
Make a flash for your Argus
Other Argus Cameras
Argus Collectors Group 
Cameraquest – C44
Argus C44 Index
Argus C44
Argus C4 Geiss Modified

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s