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.


La Sardina (Czar Edition)

I did it. I went online and bought off eBay yet another camera (I really can’t seem to be able to stop).

This time is the turn of La Sardina, a 35mm point and shoot released by Lomography with a sardine can in mind (yes, La Sardina actually means the sardine in Italian and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the region of Sardinia – or Sardegna). It features a wide angle 22mm lens (which is what attracted me the most to this camera), a switch that enables multiple exposures and also a rewind knob that allows you to re-expose previous shots, in true Lomography style.

The thing about this camera that jumps immediately at the eye is the design. Apart from the compact, tin-box size, there are dozens and dozens of different designs of La Sardina, some still in production, some limited editions. Lomography also released dresses, masks that can be applied to change the design of the camera. Not only the patterns and colour schemes are different, but also the materials. The Czar Edition (the one I purchased) is made from steel, the Capri edition instead of a plastic insert has the pattern printed on actual beach chair fabric. Others are made of textured plastic or even cork.


The whole theme of the camera is seaside and nautical life, as the booklets include demonstrate. As always, Lomography has packed with the camera some nice photo books that show what kind of pictures you can expect from the camera. One of them brings real examples of the Ten Golden Rules with pictures taken with a La Sardina. The other is called “The Caviar Diaries”, by lomographer Wil6ka. It is a brilliant narration of a journey for the discovery of caviar that takes Wil6ka from Germany to Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Russia, Latvia and back to Germany, rigorously documented with his prototype La Sardina.

There is a non-standard flash microconnector on the side, designed exclusively to work with Lomography’s Fritz The Blitz flash. Not all camera editions come with it, but those which do feature the flash unit with matching design. Those that do not, can be paired to any FtB flash, including the standard, generic one available from the Lomography shop. Due to this microconnector, there is no cold or hotshoe available.

Features wise, it offers a 22m glass lens, with a fixed aperture of f/8. Shutter speed is either instant (1/100) or bulb. Focusing is done via a two-step system: 60 cm – 1 m, and 1 m to infinity. Quick and simple, after all this is a point and shoot. Cable release threaded socket and tripod mount are available as well. The lens offer sharp pictures with vibrant, saturated colours, that match so well with the Lomography philosophy. Of course, a lot depends on what film you are using. I left today my first roll of film taken in Arundel with this camera to the photo lab, I will be back with the results in a couple of weeks (next lomotour is taking me to Poland).

One of the nice features that comes in handy (and that more cameras should have) is the small rectangular window on the back door, that allows you to see what kind of film you have inserted into the camera. Lomographic beauties like the Diana and the Smena do not feature any sort of holder or window, so it’s easy to forget what you actually have inside if you don’t use it for a while.

Ir is really easy to use and quick too. The shutter is very silent, making it a good stealth camera for all those lomo moments that fill our days. The metal body is not too heavy, but gives the camera a sturdy feeling and it is pleasant to hold.

Finally, let’s talk about the package. It is just awesome. The camera comes packed in a wooden box, like the ones that contains fruit and veggies at the market. Inside, there is the camera itself, the FtB unit, a matching lens cap and four colour filters for the flash. Also the usual Lomography poster/instruction booklet and a couple of photo books featuring the camera. Really cool, I must say.

This might not be the sharpest or the best point and shoot money can buy, but its design and dimensions are quite impressive and stand out from the crowd. Overpriced for sure, like most Lomography products (hey, as much as I love the company I still have to pay my bills at the end of the month, like everyone else!) but this time it looks like things have been done with even more care than usual. The attention to the detail is stunning.

If you want a cool camera, that’s fun, easy to use and offers a quick approach to film photography and lomography, you should really consider a La Sardina – just pick your style and get going.


Kodak Pocket Instamatic 100

Note: I started this post in May 2018, hence the date, but I just finished editing it and adding the picture. It is quite long overdue.

Instamatics are possibly among the most commonly found film cameras in charities here in the United Kingdom. If a charity sells cameras, there’s a 90% chance you’ll find an Instamatic somewhere.

Although the name itself might lead to the idea of an instant camera (much like the Polaroid), in reality no Instamatic model worked with self-developing film (these were the Kodamatics). They were designed as a line of inexpensive, easy-to-use compact point and shoot cameras, that accepted 126 and 110 film. Most models had no setting control at all, with a few exceptions.

The first model was the Instamatic 100, a camera which used 126 film cartridges, which costed around 15-16 US$ (in 1963). It accepted AG-6 flash bulbs which were powered by a couple AAA batteries. The only setting available was whether to use the flash or not.

Several models came out, later models replacing the flash bulbs with flashcubes and magicubes (thus, removing the need for batteries).

The model I purchased online is the Pocket Instamatic 100, a 110-film camera that was produced in the early seventies.

The Pocket Instamatic 100


The Pocket Instamatic 100 in its original package. Missing are the film roll and the instructions manual. The red button is the shutter release, whereas the black slot is for the Magicubes (optional).

It took me a while to find out some specs for this camera, but finally I found the Kodak Classics website, so I managed to get hold of some numbers. This camera offers a fixed 25mm triplet lens, with an aperture of f/11. Shooting time is 1/60s (unchangable) and there is the option of using a Magicube flash, if the lighting is insufficient. Inside the package there is the camera itself, a Magicube extender (an adapter that raises the Magicube a bit so it is not too close to the lens) and a lanyard. The original package also provided a blank roll of 110 Kodak film and the instructions booklet.

It is a plastic beauty, quite small and compact (the dimensions are …). The lens is protected by a sliding panel, that also unlocks the camera when opened. There is also a lever to operate the film advance on the bottom, which also rotate the Magicube slot by one quarter of a turn (a Magicube has four bulbs).

It’s a very simple and compact design, but it’s quite fun to use. 110 Film is still produced by few companies, including Lomography who also process and scan it through their LOMO Lab service.

There are some pictures I snapped in Krakow, Poland with the Pocket Instamatic:

Kodak Brownie n° 2

Now, we need a moment of attention for one of the most important cameras in history.

The Brownie has been the first inexpensive camera to introduce photography to the masses (well, sort of). It has been from the beginning a very simple box camera, initially using 117 film, then switching to the more popular 120 film (the very same that we still load in our Dianas, Holgas and Mamiyas). It was introduced in 1900 and has been produced, in one form or another, until 1986 (again, sort of – the Brownie introduced in 1986 was produced only in Brasil and was using 110 film, it looked more like an Instamatic).


The Brownie n. 2

The model I have in my hands, the Brownie n° 2, was introduced in 1901 and was the first camera ever to use 120 mm format film. Lots of people still use the brownies, because of their dependability and their simplicity that allows one to focus on the photography rather than on the bell and whistles of the camera.

It is a very simple camera. A meniscus lens, projecting light into the box, hits the film mounted on the internal holding structure. Shutter is operated by a lever. There are three apertures available.

Here are some details:

  • approx. 100 mm lens
  • apertures f/11, f/16 and f/22
  • shutter speed: instant (1/50) and bulb

This camera gives its best in black and white photography, although any 120mm film can be used.

The structure of the camera itself is quite simple: there is an internal metallic film holder that slides out of the camera, in which you can put the film roll and the take up spool. A couple of metallic rotating pieces to make the film move without scratching it and that’s it. The rear panel is held in place by the leatherette itself, there are no hinges at all. Exposure counting is done via the classic red window on the back.

All in all, it’s a fun piece of equipment to play with and there’s plenty of good photography to be done. It is very similar to a toy camera, but for several reasons people  tend take this more seriously than a Diana or a Holga. Like these two plastic wonders, though, the Brownie allows to focus most of your attention into composition and proper technique rather than a thousand gizmos.

Verdict: everyone should play with a Brownie at least once.

Some pictures I took with the Brownie: no controls at all mean that most of my pictures came out totally white or totally black, here’s a couple that survived.


LOMO Smena 8M (ЛОМО Смена 8М)


Привет, красоткаi! (Privet, krasotka!) – the Smena 8M with its original box and the instruction booklet.

Today, 27th April 2018, I received what is probably the most wonderful object that I currently own, a LOMO Smena 8M in mint condition, perfectly working, together with original case, manual (in Russian) and box from 1980.

What I currently hold in my hands is a fully manual camera, made out of plastic, with a triplet lens, an eclectic icon-based aperture system and thousands of memories from lomographers and hard working soviet youngsters alike.

A camera for all

The Smena series was introduced in 1953 by GOMZ (the State Optical-Mechanical Factory of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, which later became LOOMP and then the beloved LOMO) as an relatively (to Soviet wages) inexpensive camera for everyone, in particular it was targeted at the youngsters. The word Smena itself means something like “change” or “young generation”. There were at least 25 models in the series, produced until the mid ’90s. These cameras are quite widespread in the countries that once were behind the Iron Curtain, and it is quite easy to find the on eBay.

The three most known models are the 8M, the Symbol (click here to see a review of the Cosmic Symbol – effectively a rebadged Smena Symbol – appeared on Which Camera? Dec ’86/Jan ’87) and the 35mm, this one being the latest model of them all.

The 8M

Among the various models, I fell immediately in love with the 8M. Its pronounced angles, its rectangular shape, its overall plasticosity make this little jewel a prime example of lomographic beauty.


The camera, the original manual and the box.

The camera body its made entirely of plastic, with an aluminum face plate on the top front. Mine is black, but silver, blue and red versions exist as well (the latter are quite rare).


The LOMO T43 Triplet lens barrel, with the aperture/film speed selecting dial.

The lens is a LOMO Triplet 43 40mm f/4 triple element glass lens, designed by the same guys that created the Minitar-1 for the LC-A.  The lens body is threaded, so I imagine one could use filters, although I have no idea if LOMO ever produced compatible filters for the Smena series.

On the front of the lens barrel, there is the aperture/GOST/DIN setting wheel. I am using slashes because changing film speed changes aperture as well. There is only one wheel with two red dots that fall in proximity of the desired aperture and the desired GOST setting. The gear is marked “GOST-ISO”, but the numbers are in GOST scale, so a little conversion is required.


The top part of the lens barrel with the funky weather icons.

On the top of the Triplet lens, there is the distance scale selector and some weather icons, associated to different shutter speeds. On the left side, there are numeric indicators, ranging from f/250 to f/15 and a B setting. The shutter cock is operated separately from the release button, and it is done by pushing down the lever on the lens barrel. The shutter release button is on the top of the camera, with a threaded hole for a cable release.

On the top there is also a cold shoe for accessories and a flash, which connects to the PC socket on the right side of the lens barrel, and can sync at all speeds. A popular accessory (which I am waiting to be shipped to me) is the Blik, a small rectangular rangefinder that was designed for the 8M and the Symbol.

There is also a frame counter (next to useless, I still have to figure out how it works) and the film rewind knob.

The viewfinder is also almost pointless, as it is located on the far right side of the camera, as far as possible from the lens barrel.


This certifies that the Smena 8M with serial n. 90998154 is not radioactive and has approved by the Supreme Committee for Popular Products for the Proletariat of the Soviet Union. Of course, I made this up, I actually have no idea what this certificate…certifies. Just to make sure this manual came bundled with the camera I checked the serials and they match. Cool.

All in all, I still have to try it properly and develop pictures shot with it. I’m sure it will be great fun to use, and I decided she will be the camera choice on my next trip to Poland in two weeks. After that, I will post some pictures from the trip on here, make sure to come back and check them out!