Argus  –  Vintage Camera Brand

Argus Brand Overview

Founded: 1931 — Ann Arbor, MI, USA
   
Currently: Argus Camera Company, LLC

Argus Brand History

Argus is an American brand founded in 1931 as the International Radio Corporation (later renamed the International Research Corporation) in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Argus is often credited for popularizing the modern 35mm film cartridge in the United States through its introduction of inexpensive but well-built cameras.

Argus’s first product was the aptly named Argus A, a simple viewfinder camera that was one of the first non-Kodak cameras designed specifically to be used with Kodak’s 35mm daylight loading film cartridge (which has since become the international standard for 35mm film). A few years later in 1938, Argus came out with the ubiquitous C series of rangefinders, possibly the most popular American 35mm cameras of all time. Eastman Kodak’s Kodak 35 model (a simple viewfinder camera and the very first camera designed for the 35mm cartridge) was losing significant market share to the technologically superior but much cheaper Argus C rangefinders. Kodak hastily cobbled together a competing rangefinder camera in the shape of the Kodak 35 RF but it was simply too little, too late. Despite being just a regular Kodak 35 with a rangefinder assembly, the 35 RF still ended up costing twice as much as the Argus C3 which continued to annihilate it in sales until Kodak gave up and ceased production of the 35 RF in 1948.

During World War II, the International Research Corporation (which renamed itself as Argus Inc. in 1944 after its cameras) began manufacturing military optics for the Allied war effort such as gun sights and telescopes for tank crews. As a successful company, Argus became a major contributor to Ann Arbor’s economy and built several production facilities within the city. Several of these buildings still exist and now function as office space or as part of the University of Michigan. In 1959, Argus was purchased by Sylvania and continued to produce its own cameras until 1969 when it was abandoned.

Although rebadged cameras from other manufactures continued to be sold under the Argus name throughout the 1970s, Argus did not truly return until it was reestablished in 2003 in the Chicago suburb of Inverness, Illinois as Argus Camera Company, LLC. After its resurrection, Argus sold a range of digital cameras for a time but doesn’t appear to be selling any consumer products at the moment.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Argus cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

References:

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), 63-66.

“The Argus Museum,” Michigan Economic Development Corporation, http://www.michigan.org/property/the-argus-museum/

“Argus Eyes for Victory,” Ann Arbor District Library, http://www.aadl.org/argus_eyes_for_victory

“Argus Photographic Division of Sylvania,” Ann Arbor District Library, http://oldnews.aadl.org/taxonomy/term/7206

“Campus Information,” University of Michigan, http://campusinfo.umich.edu/building-search/building/14/argus-building-i, http://campusinfo.umich.edu/building-search/building/15/argus-building-ii

“Argus,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argus

“Kodak 35 RF,” Camerapedia, http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Kodak_35_RF

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