Becnini Comet 3
The Italian camera industry, which is no more, had a few high-end camera makers and some that made cameras for all, to meet the up-and-coming hobby.
The flag bearers were Ferrania and Bencini. I may favor Ferrania as my first camera, back in 1962 or about that was a Ferrania. Also, they made some better camera models, bogged down with the perceived cheap image of the brand.
Bencini, established in the late 1930’s, made cameras off and on. Off during the war and on before and after. Neither of their products has gracefully aged nor has any collector value. Per my records, the only camera worth over US$ 100 today is the Koroll marine, a basic Koroll dressed up with a waterproof shield; if you squint hard, it resembles the Nikonos. Altogether Bencini made about 80 camera models.
Most of the Bencini cameras were variations of a traditional horizontal body, bulky, with square bulges in each direction. The Italians are known for refined design; perhaps the designer here was family via marriage. The Bencini and Ferrania enjoyed the same status as the Kotdk and Polaroid in the US, where all Italian households had one of the two brands.
The Comet line had three models. The first two were conventionally styled, with Comet III vertical. They were introduced in 1956 and made until 1972, a very long life span for a basic camera.
There were three variations of this Comet model. The early III, with a cylindrical focusing dial, a later III with a conical, and the Comer 3, which kept the conical nose. The three models were also sold in the UK under Boots, perhaps in other export markets.
It is said that Antonio Bencini, the company owner, was a flight buff and named this model after the de Havilland Comet. It might well be, but the Comet aircraft had its first flight in 1949, seven years after the Comet camera introduction. Aiken Gleason had a Comet III camera, a box camera, no relation.
Save for the orientation, the Comet 3, which I have, is a typical Bencini. A cast aluminum body, bare from any finishing, and leatherette to dress it up. The body, true to Bencini, is badly pitted. I would assume it is the wages of time, as the same happens to respectable cameras, but leaving it without any coating or paint does not do much for preservation. I would assume that saving on the finish is part of making the camera accessible to a bigger market.
The Comet III has all the features one could find in a box camera: lens, trigger, and winder. The added features are a focusing dial and a mighty trigger lever. The winding knob is Rolleiflex big, and the back opening dial is sized to match. The shutter is self-cocking, where a built-in spring redies the lever for subsequent exposure.
The camera body is on the small side, compared to other #127 models, but it is heavy as it is made of a solid block rather than stamped metal or plastic. The viewer is tiny, and takes getting used to it.
Bencinii also offered a pistol-style grip for one-hand shooting.
For the collector, it is nice to have, not worth an expensive purchase. Many were made, and the camera has no pedigree to make it an investment.
|Body material||Metal, cast aluminum|
|Weight||440 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||372 gr, Body with lens|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens|