Bencini Comet

 The guy at the Mini Flea Market in Brighton, England asked me, “Why did you choose that particular one?” The question surprised me and I halted for a moment. “What drew you to it?” he asked.

As I’d sifted through his boxes of junk cameras, I kept in mind I only had just so much room in my suitcase. Selectivity was the word of the day. I hadn’t brought much with me, but I had brought a few American made cameras which I planned to leave in the U.K. In an attempt to lighten my load, I’d already traded my Argus C3 for a Purma Special at a shop on the other side of town. How did that lighten my load? Well, it didn’t.

“It feels bulletproof. The knurled focus ring around the lens that isn’t really a focus ring at all.” I answered.


Built in 1948, the Bencini Comet is one of those 127 cameras with the two ruby windows in the back.

You advance the film until the frame number “1” appears in the first window, take your picture, then advance the film until “1” appears in the second window.  And so on. There’s a focus ring on the front of the lens, but it’s just a viewfinder camera – no rangefinder. Still, she’s cute and tough. On the side of the lens housing is a little flap. Pull it out with your fingernail and it’s “b”. The aperture is ƒ11. The shutter speed? On a camera that was manufactured in 1948? Anyone’s guess, really.  McKeown’s Camera Guide says it has a telescoping lens, but I think not. IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: The lens is not telescoping.

Front lens view of Bencini Comet Camera

In all, I accumulated three cameras while in the U.K. I took them with me to Iceland. We had a nice chat about their upcoming new life in the U.S.

In Iceland, discussing the future with the trio.

This past fall, the Bencini Comet accompanied me on a road trip across the northern plains to Michigan. When I camped (and the weather permitted) I’d set my arsenal of cameras out in an attempt to start conversation. Conversation with other travelers … not between the cameras. (But that would be cool too.) I’m always open to talking about film / cameras / pretty much anything photographic. Photographica shall unite us all. World Peace through Junk Store Cameras!

Here are the results I got from this camera (so far). I reloaded some 127 spools with 35mm Tri-x. Hence, the sprockets. You can click on any of these images for a larger view:

Someplace in America!


Alzeda, Montana. A brief drive-by a few years ago had managed to insert this place in my mind. Like a brain worm – only a brain worm with pictures rather than music. It was closed back then and it is EXTREMELY closed now.


I’d gone out of my way to find this place. But it was too late. Not only was it closed, it was trashed. It was getting dark but the folks at the convenience store across the street were very accommodating . I stayed in their parking lot – along with the friendliest pronghorn antelope I’d ever encountered.


Every single time I pass through Livingston, Montana I have to stop and gaze in reverence at the old radio station. It was for sale at one time and man did I ever want to make it the Center of The Pintoid Universe. It sat on top of a superfund clean-up site and Bob and my friends were strongly against buying this place. They considered the superfund thing a deal breaker. I looked at it as a bargaining point. Alas, the Center Of The Pintoid Universe remains near Tokeland. But I still stop and sigh.


Fenton, Michigan


Back alley stuff. The middle is out of focus on these shots. You notice that too? Not sure if it’s my re-load or if it’s just, you know, the way the camera is.


Fenton, Michigan


More Fenton, Michigan.


Seriously weird shit in my parents’ basement.


More weird shit in my parents’ basement.



I’ve got a half finished roll of reloaded, expired  Efke KB400 35mm in it right now. I really need to order some true 127 film but I’m too much of a cheapskate.

7 Responses

  1. I actually left you one on the Facebook entry, concerning using 35mm film on 127 spools. As an addition, I too have found my old cameras to be conversation starters, but I’ve never tried to get the cameras to talk to each other. I’ll have to try that one.

    1. Their conversations always seem to end in spats and quarrels. Tangled camera straps and dinged housing corners. They can never seem to stay in their place and get along.

  2. Film cameras are great conversation starters.As I hike around the NW with a backpack full of cameras and notebooks I find that stopping into a cafe for a cup of coffee and putting a camera or two on the table will open a conversation quickly. Thanks for sharing your journeys with us.

  3. Ended up here, looking for a description ( and pics) of the shutter. I just got myself a Comet but the springs in the shutter are broken and maybe I can repair it.
    Anyway, it’s great to see someone using this little gem and I hope I, one day will be out, VOMETing the world.

    1. Magnus: Your comment about “VOMETing” the world … took me right back to the Bridge Over the River Kwai-themed song referencing Comet cleanser. Anyway, let me know if you ever get your shutter working. The Comet certainly is a fun little piece of shit.

  4. I had a Comet back in 1963.
    I lived in the UK, up in the far North, and the weather and industrial pollution meant that the days were generally rainy and dull. At least in my recollection.

    I could only ever get a decent shot with the camera when the sun was shining brightly. On normal grey days the film was underexposed. And anything moving faster than a pedestrian had motion blur.

    On the plus side the thing was built like a tank so practically indestructible, and there are so few controls that all you can do is point and shoot.
    Its just a small step up from my previous Kodak Brownie 127 with a plastic lens.

    1. Peter: Yup! The pics are crap, but the camera is indestructible. I might rather have had it the other way around. Thanks for the comment!

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