Holga, the hol-mighty!

Okay, so let’s ignore the bad pun that is the title of this post and focus on the main topic.

The Holga is a rite of passage, a must for every film photographer.

Like the Diana, the Holga is a plastic “toy camera”, with a meniscus lens. Unlike the Diana, there are several models of Holga according to what they have as features. Holgas were produced until not long ago by Universal Electronic, Ltd. of Hong Kong, under the guide of TM Lee, creator of the original Holga. Production switched hands in 2015, when another company got hold of the original Holga moulds and tools and kept producing this legendary icon of film photography.

The lens is a basic meniscus type lens, 60 mm, in plastic or glass (according to the model), with apertures of f/8 and f/11, switchable by the user. Focus is done by rotating the lens barrel, in a four-zone focus system: portrait, small group, large group and infinite. As with the Diana, the pictures show vignetting and other aberrations, including light leaks. Also, every Holga is slightly different, so that even in the same setting, two Holgas will never produce the same image.

This beauty has experience a rise in popularity thanks to the Lomography movement, who distributed the Holgas in their store (they stopped, at present). Holgas are still VERY easy to find on eBay, and there are several different models to choose from:

  • 120S: standard model, plastic lens, no frills, only one picture size. This has been discontinued for a long time but remains the favourite of many photographers.
  • 120SF: the standard model with a built-in flash.
  • 120G: called “Woca”, is a 120S with a glass lens
  • 120GF: a Woca with a built-in flash
  • 120N: the new standard model (I assume “N” stands for “New”), tripod mount, bulb mode and the possibility to change masks between 6×6 and 6×4.5. Models produced before 2009 (I believe) have a non-functioning aperture switch.
  • 120GN: a 120N with a glass lens (still named Holga)
  • 120FN: a 120N with a flash
  • 120GFN: mix the two above and you get a Holga with a glass lens and a built-in flash.
  • 120CFN: a 120FN with four built-in colour filters for the flash, selectable with a wheel
  • 120GCFN: Again, mix the two above and this is what you get. This is the model I own.

There are also some other models, including a TLR Holga, a pinhole, stereo pinhole, 110 film format Holga and so on and so forth.

There are also several accessories for the Holga, including a 35mm film adapter (which does not have an exposure count, so you have to advance the film manually and kind of guess when to stop), cable release and instant back.

Of course it’s not perfect, there are several issues with each model, mainly affecting the metal clips that both hold the back in place and allow you to attach your camera strap, the film advance mechanisms that tends to loosen the tension thus creating artifacts and light leaks. Most of these issues can be fixed with a roll of duct tape and patience.

I have to admit, I am happy of the results I got with the Holga, it’s a fun camera and has character. I feel I need to know it better so to more appreciate what makes it different from my Diana.

All the pictures above where shot with a Holga 120GCFN on a Lomography Color 400 ISO film.

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