The Barclaycard Visa Camera was a freebie camera that has the infamous optical color lens moniker. A true plastic trashcam which is now worryingly brittle. But there is something endearing about this lump of plastic toy camera,
Let’s be honest this was a cheap promotional gimmick given away for free. It is arguably the UK equivalent to the (im)famous Time Magazine camera and host of other promotional cameras all featuring the 50mm optical color lens. These cameras whilst just simple viewfinders were styled to resemble SLR or rangefinders of the day and sadly there were a series of sound-a-likes marketed (Mintax, Nikkai, Cannon, Olympia etc) to catch out the unwary. They were often weighted to add a sense of quality.
Barclaycard Visa Camera Specs
- Lens: 50mm 1:6
- Focus: Fixed
- Metering: None
- Aperture: f/6-f/16
- Shutter: ~1/100 sec
- EV 100asa: 12-15
- Filter-Thread: none
But let’s focus on the Barclaycard Visa Camera although much of what I’ll say here will be relevant with others. This is a simple viewfinder camera with a fixed focus 50mm lens. The camera has fixed shutter speed around 1/100 sec and 4 aperture settings (f/6, 8, 11 & 16) which can be set numerically or by a weather symbol on a dial around lens barrel. The camera is geared for 100asa film and utilises the Basic sunny 16 rule although I find 200asa is fine
And this exposure works well enough. If you’ve a sense you can use faster or slower film. Shot wise the viewfinder is pretty awful as it doesn’t actually reflect the frame you’ll shoot just a square off centre in the middle. The shot falls on a curved film plane, which makes sense – for such a basic lens this actually improves things.
The lens is actually okay for a toy class camera. Yup there is a bit of distortion I grant you and things are a bit soft and you tend to get aberrations long hard lines but the camera actually can take an okay shot. Focus is sharper about 2-3 meters away.
The camera has a Hotshoe flash mount and a tripod point. There is no cable release but a modding guide for the Time camera may help.
What will be a bigger issue is durability. Googling these and sister cameras, time and time again you come across just how brittle they are. The film rewind knob seems especially keen to snap and mines was no exception. Luckily I had a match in a defunct Mintax and just swapped it out as it was an exact match. Others have had frame problems but I guess I’ve been lucky.
I actually liked using this camera, It is a bit bulky, has a crap viewfinder and you do get nervous about what’s going to blow next (worth having a film change bag just in case at home) but it can deliver an alright image and can serve up more useful shots than a Diana Mini. Don’t pay lots for it or any other as will probably break.
Worth noting there was also a later 35mm compact with flash promotional Barclaycard camera.
- Halina 1000– More robust but similar toy camera from Haking
- Diana Mini – Pocket modern classic manual P&S
- Goko UF – Probably one of the best plastic fixed focus with Flash
- Halina Panorama – Even more simplistic toy fun
- Barclaycard Visa Camera at camera-wiki.org
- Review on Ben Chapman’s blog (not favourable)
- Review on Inauspicious.org (more favourable)
- Optical Color Lens Group at Flickr
- 50mm-color-optical-lens-toy-camera-with-1000-names (Flickr)