Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Argus C3 Repair Guide

No, this isn't the definitive repair guide to the Argus C3, as you can get a repair manual for that.  This is a basic guide to unstick a sticky rangefinder focus, and how to disassemble the lens and body.

It is actually very easy, and one of the reasons why a lot of people who pride themselves on customized and repairing cameras go for the Argus C3.  Besides, it's a fantastic camera!

So first off, what you'll need..

For starters, a small jewelers flat screwdriver, but not the ultra small one, as that will not unscrew the larger screws for this repair, but will be good for aligning the rangefinder later.
A handful of cotton swap sticks, and some oil.  Gun oil is best, but if you have no gun oil or some kind of machine oil (sewing machine oil), then olive oil (Extra Virgin) works pretty well!  It's actually a fantastic lubricant for all sorts of camera parts, mostly focusing helicals, and wheels, but should never ever come in contact with electrical parts, shutter blades, aperture blades, or the like.
Also, the Canon A-series Squeal repair, it is crucial that you use GUN OIL ONLY.  Olive oil and machine oil is far too thick and will cause more problems then it will solve.
Obviously you will not need this much oil for the repair, as it is just for demonstration purposes only.
You will also need a tube of adhesive to reapply the leatherette, unless you are reskinning your C3.
The adhesive I used is a non-acid based one that I picked up from Walmart for a couple of dollars.  It is not crazy glue, which I would not recommend using at all, and will not bond to skin.  It does contain acetone, so it can smell rather strong.  Thankfully when I did this repair I had a cold, so I couldn't smell anything anyway.
Of course the other couple of items you will need are foam pads, preferably in a shade of white.  This will help you save your stuff, and for easier visibility.  Small containers will help to store the screws.

So, lets get to it..
So first off, you will need your beloved "Brick".  For the record, I have two of these, and one has already
undergone this kind of repair. 
So here is the C3, my repaired model used to display a model with the leatherette still in place, except where it fell off in the two upper corners.
First thing to do is to find a corner that is starting to lift away.
Your camera is at least 50+ years old, there is bound to be a corner that is lifting.
Gently peel away the leatherette and place away from the oil and other material.  Be very careful around the rangefinder and viewfinder windows as the thin leatherette there can rip.
When you have that all removed, your Argus should look something like that, which is very steampunk-ish..

So now that we have the leatherette off, you'll notice some minor differences between the previous image and this one.  For one, this is an earlier model C3, which is missing the cold shoe, while the repaired one has it.  Also the rangefinder distance wheel is missing the distance scale on it, which doesn't affect the operation of this camera at all.  What does affect the operation of the camera is the fact that the frame lock is missing, and I have to release it by using a long thin piece of metal.
Also, if haven't removed the leatherette as of yet, take a look at a large photo of the Argus, and you will see where the body screws are, then you can just gently lift up the leatherette where the screws are to remove them.

Okay, so the next step is to remove the shutter cocking lever.  That is done by unscrewing it clockwise.  Once it is removed, you will see a nut underneath.  Do Not Remove this nut at all.  It is used to stop the lever from travelling around and around until it becomes flush with the body and jams against the housing.

Once that is removed, you then remove the screws from the body.  Do not remove the screw from the shutter speed select dial, as it is only holding on a oblong wheel behind and does not hold anything to the body.  
 The last screw is beside the rangefinder window.  I always leave this for last, and replace it first.  it is rather long.
It is my preference, and doesn't necessarily mean that there is any significance to removing it first, last, or whenever.

 As mentioned, you can see how long this screw is.  Keep it with the rest of the body screws.
You'll quickly understand why the suggestion for the white foam mats.  It makes it much higher visibility, plus it reflects light back up to a working surface.

Always make sure you have a good light source that will provide enough light from multiple angles that it will reduce shadows.  This will help with visibility.

 Here the face place is removed from the body of the camera.  You can see the innards of the camera, from the shutter cock, release lever, Flash Sync poles, blue shutter blades, and even the rangefinder mirrors.  Those can get a quick swipe with a clean cotton swab, do not use anything on the swabs, as it can desilver the mirrors, which is not something that you want.  It'll cause the camera to become instantly unusable.  You can, however, add some 99% alcohol to a cotton swab to give the rangefinder window and viewfinder window a cleaning and polish, as it will remove years of dirt and dust without streaking.  The alcohol should be gently removed after with a dry cotton swab.  It will pretty much instantly dry after as alcohol evaporates fairly quickly.
From this point, make a quick inspection of the camera.  You need to note where everything is.
In fact, I would highly recommend taking a snapshot of the inside of the camera with a cell phone, or other camera, so that you can have a quick reference image of where all the different parts inside go, and have a reference for the layout of the camera.

This part is where you start to remove the lens and the focusing interconnect sprocket.  Make sure that the lens is at its most extended position (3 feet) as it is essential for the removal of the sprocket's retainer.
When this is at its minimal focusing point, unscrew the retainer.  It might need a bit of effort the first time, as years of sitting will hold it in place.  But once it comes off, you can gently lift it away and place it onto the white pad for reassembly.

 Retainer now unscrewed, and you can see the sprocket peg underneath.  The sprocket will lift away, but you might need to wiggle the lens a little to free it up, but once freed up it will lift away very easily.

 Next, unscrew the lens.  It unscrews just like any screw mount lens, and will separate from the body easy enough.
Once it is freed up, you'll flip the face plate over to see the backside of it.
 This will expose the yellow contrast window for the rangefinder, and you will see the rangefinder dial.
This dial is what is causing the first half of the operational problem.  This will require the first dabbing of oil, but not a lot.  First make sure that you run a dry clean swab over it to clean off any dust and debris that may be on it, so that when you apply the oil it won't get into the wheel and cause it to gum up again in the near future.
 Apply a small amount of oil using the swab, which I did just by dabbing in the oil and putting a small drop into the edge then using the other end to work it around.

Clean off any and all excess oil so that it doesn't get into the inner workings of the camera after it is reassembled.

Now that the dial is oiled, and excess is removed, you wheel it around and around and around.  You will feel it stiff at first, and after one revolution it'll free itself up and feel like it's new. Almost like magic!  All that dried up oil/grease in there will absorb the oil you just applied and become revitalized again and ready to serve you for another dozen years.   Since you've got this all apart, use the opportunity to use the a clean cotton swab and some alcohol to clean up the rangefinder windows.  The yellowed contrast screen can be cleaned this way, as can the viewfinder and rangefinder glass in the middle of the wheel.
Next we move on to the lens.  This screw is the distance retaining screw.  It will not allow the lens to focus beyond 3' as it will completely unscrew and fall off beyond that.  So using your flat screwdriver, remove the screw and place it on the mat.  Begin unscrewing the lens, and it should separate fairly easily, as the helical grease should see be relatively okay.  It won't be fantastic, and that part to clean that up is coming.
Once apart you can see the focus collar, and lens helical.
Place the lens anywhere on the mat, away from your work surface, so you can concentrate your efforts on the focusing collar.  This is the part that is geared and rotates on the mount to focus the lens in and out. You will see a small grove in the collar. This is where that screw slides up and down through its travel.  The top grove will allow the lens to completely separate from the mount, but it's a snap ring which holds the focusing collar in place on the mount.  You can remove that ring, but it's rather pointless as you can do this next part with the collar on the mount.

Add some oil to your cotton swab and place a single drop, no more than that, into the grove of the collar. Once you've done that, spin the collar around the mount a few times, and you should feel it free up.  It would spin freely before, but the oil that was on originally has probably mostly evaporated and gummed up the works.  This will give the collar new life.  Once that is done, use another dry swab and rub off all excess oil so it won't dribble down and possible contaminate the shutter blades.
Highly unlikely that will ever happen, but better safe than sorry.
Here you add some oil to a cotton swab, preferably clean, and run it around the inside of the mount.  This is where the lens focus helical sits to focus.  It will be a little on the gummed up side, which is why it is good to add some oil to this.  Do not add a lot of oil, as you just want it to be brushed on.
There is no need for a lot of oil.  Just a little is more than enough, as you brush it around the entire mount on the focus helical.
You should also remove any excess so that it won't dribble down and possibly contaminate the shutter blades.

The next steps is for disassembling the lens, and can be skipped over if you don't want to do this.  It should be done with extreme caution, as the aperture blades will be removed from the lens, and you don't want to drop this piece and cause the blades to fly everywhere...  It'll be a really big mess!

Unscrew the front retainer, as this is what holds on the first and second elements.
Once removed, gently remove the element from the lens by turning it over on the foam mat.
Keep it down as you will put it back in in reverse.  it is critical that all elements go back in the same way they came out, or focusing will be near on impossible, and you will not be able to get a sharp image.
 The second element is removed by turning the lens upside down and giving it a slight but gentle thump onto the mat.  This will dislodge the spacer, and element.  Again, make sure that you keep it in the same position that it came out to go into the lens in reverse.
 Next, flip the lens over and using a pointed spanner tool, unscrew the rear retainer to remove the rear element.
The element will then drop out, so same as all the other elements.  Place it onto the mat in the same direction that it came out so you can place it back in in direct reverse.

Once that is done you can remove the inner parts of the lens, which is the aperture retainer, aperture blade ring, and aperture blade guide.
Notice on the guide that there is a tiny tab?  That is a critical piece for correct operation of the aperture blades.  When that is all out, turn the lens back over and you will see the aperture select dial.  Unscrew that just by turning it like you're adjusting the aperture until it comes away from the lens body
 After that is removed, use another new cotton swab and clean the threads of the control.  After they are clean, add some oil, but do it in the same aspect as the focusing helical of the lens.  Just brush it on lightly.
 This part comes next, which is cleaning the inner threads.  Use yet one more clean cotton swab to clean the threads, then again, brush a small amount of oil onto the threads.   This will allow the control dial to spin freely.  By doing this, you will not accidentally muck your focus when you adjust the aperture opening of the lens.
After that you can screw the aperture control dial back in until it is snugged up.  Once that is snugged up, unscrew it slightly until you line the aperture setting to just slightly before ƒ/3.5.  Should be roughly one quarter turn.  Now reassembly of the aperture itself.
 First the aperture guide.  This part is very important for the correct operation of the aperture.
 Notice the outlined (in red) groove?  Remember the tab of the guide?  it goes in there..  It will drop into place once correctly aligned.
Now we add the aperture blades. Those go in with the single tab facing toward the back of the lens.  That tab is a locking tab so that the aperture plate doesn't spin when you select the aperture on the control.
Here's the aperture locking guide and rear element holder.  The groove in the side lines up with the tab on the aperture ring, and will drop into place.  You will also notice a pocket on this locking guide which must be out toward the back of the lens.  The rear element will sit in that spot.
Before we add the rear element, use a microfiber cloth, or a piece of silk, and clean the element.  This will remove all grime from it.  If there is fungus or haze, you'll have to use a bit of WinDEX or lens cleaner. Haze you can use the 99% alcohol to remove, but if there is fungus, you must use Window cleaner WITH Ammonia.  This will kill and remove the fungus.
I cannot warn you enough.  BE VERY GENTLE WHEN CLEANING!! You can easily scratch the coatings on the lens elements.
Next we add the rear element back into the lens.  This element MUST have the convex (outward curved) side toward the back of the lens.  This is critical for correct operation of the lens.  You can confirm the design by looking up "COOKE TRIPLET CONSTRUCTION"
 Finally screw in the rear retaining ring to finalize the reassembly of the rear part of the lens.
 Here the rear part of the lens is now fully assembled.
Next comes the front.  The second element will drop into place, but you might have to work it into its pocket using a clean swab.
Using the same method to the rear element, you can clean the second element before installing it.
This is a double concave lens.  After installing the element into the pocket, install the spacer with the flat side down and the tapered side up toward the front of the lens.
Lastly is the front element.  Again, clean like you did the other two, and place it gently into the lens pocket with the convex side facing out.  This is critical for correct operation of the lens.
 Next screw in the front element retainer.  This will complete the reassembly of the lens.
Here's the reassembled lens, ready for reinstalling into the lens mount.
Screw the lens back into the mount.  It will screw back together very smoothly, especially with the recent recoating of oil.
If you preferred you can always get lens helical grease and use that.  Do not use anything like bicycle chain grease, or any other kind of mechanical heavy grease.
 Lens, reassembled, ready for remounting to the body.
 Screw the lens back on, careful not to double thread the lens as it can ruin the threads.
 After installing the lens, you will see this arm.  This is the shutter speed control arm.  Remove it from the body, and you'll see a small peg sticking out from it into a hole in the triangular control mechanism.  This tensions the shutter spring for the slower speed timings down to 1/10s.
Failure to install this afterward will mean you only have 1/300s shutter speed.
 Make sure that when you are ready to install the shutter arm, that the shutter dial is at 1/300s.  This is very important.  It will make reassembly of the camera very easy!
 As mentioned about the reassembly of the camera being easier, you can see the tab.  That tab prevents the speed dial from inadvertently being turned back to 1/10s, and keeps it so you turn the speed dial in one direction only.
 Slide the control arm under the bridge and into the tabbed section ensuring that the peg from the control arm is up.  This is so you can pace it back into the shutter speed control wedge.  Once that is done, turn and hold the shutter speed dial so that it'll add tension against the control arm.  When you turn over the face plate it will keep the arm in place and prevent it from falling out.
Once that is done you will sandwich the face plate and body together from the bottom up, making it much easier to align the peg into the speed control wedge.
Once the body is together, you can confirm if the pin slipped into the wedge through the inspection hole.
 If it hasn't slipped into the wedge, you can use a fine tipped screwdriver to drop it into the peg.
 Once that is complete, get the long screw and only place this one screw into the body.
 Now that it is screwed back together, it's time to get the focusing rangefinder interconnecting sprocket.
 With the rangefinder at 3' and the adjustment collar at 3' (can be done by being at the upward limit of the meshed teeth) install the sprocket.  You might have to make a few tries to get it together, but it shouldn't be too difficult.  Oh a note on that, it'll actually be slightly before 3' on the rangefinder dial.  This is minimal focusing distance, and I'll explain why this is important.
 Install the sprocket retainer by screwing it in.  One reason why it is important to be setting the rangefinder at 3'.
 Next is here.  Turn the lens until it is just over the groove.  It should be at its furthers most extension.  Once you get the screw tightened you will not be able to unscrew it any more.  Remember the snapring on the focus collar?  It serves also as a focus stop which if you install the lens at this point it'll set minimal focus, as well as give you infinity without needing to confirm.  But we will confirm that anyway.
Tighten up the screw to make sure it is snug.  This is one screw you don't want to lose!
 Screw the rest of the body together..
 Every time I have done it I always end off with the bottom right screw.
The top centre (long) screw I save for last, and first.  I just find it easier that way.
 Now reinstall the shutter cocking lever in reverse to how it was removed, so turning it counter clockwise until it locks/cocks the shutter.
 Shutter cocking lever installed, and face plate screwed together
 Camera reassembled..
 Using the adhesive, spread it out evenly on the leatherette and reapply the leatherette...

NOTE:  You will have to have the shutter cocking lever REMOVED for the installation of the leatherette.  It is my error, as I never originally removed the leatherette on my previously serviced Argus C3.

We're almost done
 Unscrew this top cover, as it houses the Rangefinder adjustment screws.
Remember that very fine screwdriver I mentioned before?  This is where you'll need it!
While looking through the rangefinder, focus on an object, then adjust the vertical and horizontal until the image lines up properly.
It is recommended that you adjust the Horizontal first, than the vertical.

Once aligned, screw the cap back on, and you're good to go!

Enjoy your fully CLA'd Argus C3 Rangefinder.
It'll give you many more years of enjoyment!


And Keep those Shutters Firing!!


  1. Excellent Article! I'm doing this to my brick as soon as I can!

    1. Thanks. It took a bit to write up and I have a few spelling errors to correct but I think it will definitely be useful for many people a little intimidated by this kind of repair.

  2. Very informative blog post!
    I hope to learn how to fix a Canonet one day (with a very sticky shutter) - maybe we should chat about that soon! cheers!

    1. Indeed we should chat!
      I will do a walkthrough on the repair for you if you'd like. I wish I never deleted that post.. :/ It has apparently been called for a few times already! :)

  3. Thanks! I have a non functioning Brick I was just going to dump, but I think I'll give this a try!

    1. Go for it! If it's non-functioning, what's the worst that can happen, right?
      Look forward to hearing how it works out for you!

  4. I did everything and it looks great. Can't seem to get the lens back on in the right position though. Is there something I'm missing?

    1. I Ed, I do apologize for my late reply, I have been away from the computer for a while, or at least my blog.
      When you are putting it back in, it does require a bit of "finesse" so to speak.
      That "infinity" focus screw I was mentioning should spool the lens out to 3' and in to infinity when it is aligned properly.
      If you've completely unscrewed the lens from the housing, you have to unscrew it again, turn it and try again. It takes a few times, but once you have it in the right grooves it'll go together pretty easily.
      If, for future reference, you need to get in easier contact with me, feel free to contact me via G+ hangouts, or my email which is

      That is automatically forwarded to my phone, so I'd see it and not miss a more urgent comment.

      Hope that you've managed to get the camera back together in the mean time :)

  5. Great article! I just inherited my grandpa's C3 and wanted to clean the rangefinder and viewfinder lenses before loading it (they were incredibly murky). I removed the c-clip from the back, and the back lense fell out (flat on one side, concave on the other). As I turned the camera over to look at something on the front, the inner tube and lense also fell out (this lense is convex on one side and concave on the other).

    So the question is, which direction do they go back in? Please help!!

  6. Although I am sure you've managed to figure this one out (more than a month later)..

    Here is a quick graphic of the TRIPLET lens.

    it will show how the lens is to be reassembled.

    Easiest to remember is that the lens will form a oval when put together. The front element and rear element are opposite directions.

    But if you have the element flipped, you'll have soft corners and sharp center. It's a neat effect!

  7. This is the best explanation of how to tear down and clean up a C3 that Ive seen online. Your pictures are great!

    However, there is no mention of how to clean the shutter? Ive read on other sites that you can use lighter fluid. There are 3 screws around the perimeter of the shutter, do I need to remove the shutter first and soak it? Or do you just apply the lighter fluid onto the shutter while its still installed?

    1. Thank you Mike. The thing is I never actually cleaned the shutter myself. I left it as is, since it was not having any problems.

      I didn't get involved with the shutter, as I didn't want to potentially mess up something that was working fine.

      But Naptha, also know as lighter fluid, is a common item to clean sticky shutters.
      And yes, you actually apply it to the shutter blades while it is still in the camera.

      It evaporates and leaves no oily residue

  8. I have a C# that has the leatherette removed, almost like a 10 year old scrapped it off. I was wondering what type cleaner you would recommend using to take off the grime?

    1. Uhmmm.. Some "goo" remover is pretty good, but you have to be careful with it.
      Thankfully the camera body is pretty robust and can take a bit of a cleaning. My Argus C3 is cleaned of all Leatherette.. Looks really nice without it!

  9. I have what looks to be a C3 "standard" or at least a model with the shoe on top. The rangefinder adjustment at 6 feet and 15 feet doesn't seem to want to line up horizontally when I adjust the larger screw...Thoughts? Also, on the newer lenses that had the aperture ring on the outer rim of the lens, what filter thread size is that?


  10. I have just re-vitalized my C3. This site was a great help.
    Thank you very much for sharing this info.

    1. Awesome! I'm so glad this was able to help you out!
      Hope that you get many more years out of this little camera. They are fun to shoot!

  11. Excellent article. I have a C3 with a broken shutter leaf (cracked in a line across the two holes) - made a replacement out of very thin brass about 40 years ago - but didn't use it much after that. Now thinking of a proper repair. Any ideas where I can get something like that (I could probably make a better on now - but an original would be good)

    1. Are you located in the US? If so, I have several Argus C3 parts cameras. I could send you one and you could salvage the shutter blades from it.