Camera Review

Fantastic Plastic: A rescued Bentley BX-3 35mm “toy” camera

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I have a soft spot for older neglected cameras. This particular camera has been sitting around in my office for a bit. It had a good layer of grime and dust, as well as noticeable water damage and rust on both the inside and outside of the camera from the previous owner. It was a bundled purchase item, and quite frankly I didn’t think this camera had a chance.

The camera is a Bentley BX-3. This mostly plastic “toy” 35mm camera was ready for some much needed TLC. The camera shutter was inoperable. The lens was coated in rusty water. A funky old roll of Kodachrome II had half melted inside the camera and had to be pulled out of the camera by force. Nothing like a challenge!

I removed the innards and freed up the shutter mechanism. Removed the front lens and cleaned the inside and outside of the taking lens. Added a bit of lithium grease to the shutter post and everything seemed to be good again.

The camera has a defect, the hot shoe connector that trips off the shutter kept hanging the shutter open. It didn’t happen every time, but it happened after I reassembled the camera (HA!!). After taking it apart again, I noticed that the little brass piece would just not sit correctly, even with some gentle coaxing and bending. I ultimately bent it out of the way to keep the shutter free.

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With this being the Memorial Day weekend, I decided a perfect place to test the camera would be at the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Cemetery in Homer, Il.,  located a short distance from my house.

The camera is fairly straight forward. It has a shutter button, a film counter, hot shoe, film rewind crank and a four aperture lens. The camera has a fixed focus lens and a fixed shutter speed. I used some older expired T-Max 400 film for my test.

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The results: Somewhat soft, somewhat sharp and dreamy images. The corners are dark, and the depth of field places the sweet spot of focus about 10-15 feet out and dead center in the lens. The foreground and background get a pleasant Petzval-like swirl especially as they approach the edges. I shot mostly stopped down to f/16 due to the bright sunshine, but I imagine the lens would show even more defects if shot at the widest aperture.

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The camera has an offset viewfinder, and I tried to compensate and re-frame my images with where I thought the center should be. I was off the mark quite a bit on some of the pictures, and will have to adjust to this non-parallax rangefinder like viewing experience next time.

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I really liked shooting with this camera. For being a basket case and almost tossed in the bin, I was actually quite impressed by the pictorial qualities of the lens and the accuracy of the exposures. I’ll be running another roll through soon, maybe even some color film.

And for all those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our country: freedom isn’t free. Thank you for your service.

2 replies »

  1. Further amusement can be had from the knowledge that these and many name variants were sold under the description of “REAL 35mm camera!” from many sources.
    In a way I wish they’d make digital cameras with this degree of simplicity – ones that actually work, that is.

    Like

    • I’ve owned a Time Magazine Camera and a few other of the plastic camera varieties. They always work, sorta lol. Something either breaks or jams but those plastic semi soft, semi sharp lenses are like no other.

      Like

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