Coca-Cola Promotional Camera

Introduction

We all start somewhere. While that starting point may not be as exciting as the journey, or the place we’re going, or the place we are, it’s the root of the adventure; the groundwork on which everything else can be built.

My journey through the world of photography began with a red and black lump emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo. That was a time before I knew what an aperture was, didn’t know shutters could have speeds, and my favourite film was whatever I could lay my hands on. Thinking back 16 years to the time, when aged 7, I first picked it up, makes me smile. And feel quite old.

The Coca-Cola Promotional Camera, resplendent in its low quality red and black plastic cladding.
The Coca-Cola Promotional Camera, resplendent in its low quality red and black plastic cladding.

Technical Specifications

Shutter speed: Fixed to a (probably quite slow) speed I’m unaware of.

Aperture: cf. shutter speed

Focus: Hyperfocal (whatever that is for this lens)

Lens: See-through, probably plastic, fancy retractable (plastic) cover

Viewfinder: cf. lens, sans cover

Film advance / rewind: A plastic thumbwheel / tiny fold-out crank

Flash: Hot shoe for manually controlled external flash

Shooting Experience

It’s been around 12 years since I last used this camera, but I can recall it vividly. The shutter button felt crisp, the shutter had a sharp click, and the advance wheel made this horribly tinny grating sound when you turned it. It was very light, and always felt hollow, even when loaded with a film.

Haast (specifically, some trees in Haast).
Haast (specifically, some trees in Haast). This was not long after I got the camera. Can you tell?

Shooting into the sun led to red patches on photos from sunlight streaming through the red front cover and onto the film. It wasn’t any good indoors without a flash, and even then, you were at the mercy of the flash you chose to use, and the speed of the film you put in it.

Haast, a very long time ago. I like to think I've improved. I also like to think this proves my tree obsession isn't a new thing.
Haast, a very long time ago. I like to think I’ve improved. I also like to think this proves my tree obsession isn’t a new thing. Note the red flare from the sun shining through; the sun is top centre, just out of frame.

My overriding memory of shooting with this camera was the rate at which it went through film. I remember going a bit mad with the thing, taking pictures of anything that passed me by. I also remember smiling a lot in the process. Some things never change… Sometimes, that’s probably for the better…

Image Quality

I’m reserving judgement on this. While it’s undoubtedly nowhere near as good as some of the equipment I have now, on the basis that my technique was dire at the time I was using it, I’ve probably never seen what it’s capable of when taken right to its limits.

Conclusion

The Coca-Cola Promotional Camera represents an auspicious beginning. Think about it: it teaches you to cope with a fixed focal length, and how to manage when you’re limited to a single shutter, aperture, and ISO. That’s a level of discipline which can carry you far.

By virtue of that, this is the most important camera I own; it sowed the seed that grew into my passion for taking photos; it gave me a sound beginning. Without it, I wouldn’t be here, writing these middle chapters, and I certainly wouldn’t be looking forward to the chapters yet to come.

Thank you, lump of red and black plastic with a film door on the back and a lens on the front. Thank you very much, indeed.

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