The Holga has an interesting reputation.  Students, amateurs and some professional photographers consider the Holga more of an art camera than a practical shooter.  This cheap, all-plastic (including the lens) camera is made in China and has taken up where the classic Diana left off. Officially considered a toy camera the Holga is by far the cheapest way to get into Medium Format with a new camera.  It takes the standard 120 roll film and by default yields sixteen 6×4.5cm negatives.

Recent manufacturing changes have reduced the already limited features, and modifications are suggested if not required to realize its full potential, more on that later.  The 60mm plastic lens has a fixed aperture of f/8 even though there is a switch above the lens for sunny (f/11) and cloudy (f/8) only the cloudy setting actually works.  If you look into the lens you can see the small, flat f/11 aperture arm swing in and out of place as the aperture switch is moved.  However, the end of the arm no longer incorporates an aperture hole, so the Holga is essentially a single aperture camera unless modified.  The single shutter speed is approximately 1/125 although I have read that some users claim their camera is closer to 1/250.  This is no surprise since manufacturing standards are all but non-existent with this camera.  The Holga also features a basic viewfinder and a hotshoe for flash attachments.  My Minolta 2800 flash works perfectly with the Holga, so any number of similar flash attachments are feasible.  A slightly more expensive model does come with a built-in flash.  Focusing is done with four settings around the lens barrel.  These settings are marked with standard icons such as a single head for close-ups (about 4 feet), a family of three for candid, seven figures of various sizes for groups, and a mountain for landscapes.  A red window on the back plate is for viewing the frame number, this can be switched up and down for 6×4.5cm or 6x6cm negatives.   It is highly recommended you use black masking tap or something similar to cover this window when not advancing the film as this is notorious for producing light leaks.  Of course with the Holga that might be desired.  There is no multiple exposure prevention, or tripod mount.  The two side strap holders slide down to allow for the removal of the entire back plate for film loading.

Since manufacturing standards with the Holga are limited at best, each camera tends to produce different results.  Lenses could produce clear or soft images and even distortion can be present.  Some cameras have more light leaks than others.  This is all part of the Holga appeal.  Generally the Holga produces images with an ethereal or Gothic quality and don’t forget that wonderful vignetting.  The first thing a true Holga believer does is remove or modify the 6×4.5cm negative mask.  If removed only thin, uneven plastic separators are left between the film spools and the lens to film path.  These can easily scratch the film as it is advanced.  I highly recommend modifying the supplied mask.  This can be done with an X-acto knife.  Since the height is already 6cm, only the width of the mask must be altered.  Measure 6cm and mark each side.  Then with the ruler as a guide slowly cut a straight line down each side of the mask to widen it to 6x6cm.  Once done, use a fine grain sand paper to smooth out the edges in order to prevent the film from being scratched.  The mask will snap back in and you now have the 6x6cm negatives that will usually create the signature vignetting that Holga is famous for.  Plus the square is so much more interesting.  Since these cameras are so cheap, many photographers buy more than one.  Each modified for a certain result such as the original 6×4.5cm negative size.  Light leaks can be minimized if desired, by using black masking tape or photo tape, to cover two small holes on the inside of the camera.   With the back off and looking through to the lens, these holes can be seen just above the lens underneath the viewfinder.  Also as mentioned before cover up the red window on the back of the camera when not viewing the frame number.  If you really want to get serious, the lens housing can be removed with two small screws inside the camera and all of the shiny metal pieces that make up the shutter mechanism can be painted flat black.  It’s usually these shiny surfaces that cause the majority of light flares.  See some of the links below for additional modifications that can be performed on the Holga.

This is one of the few cameras that I have not purchased on EBay.  They are prevalent on EBay but can usually be found cheaper elsewhere.  You won’t find many used Holgas, as most owners modify each camera to their own needs and use it until it’s a paperweight then buy a new one.  B&H Photo occasionally has specials such as the hotshoe model for only $15, while their normal price is only $20-25.  The model with a built-in flash is slightly more and the WOCA is available, which is essentially a Holga with a glass lens.   These run around $30.  Freestyle Photographic is another good online source for purchasing a Holga or Woca, including other modified versions.

Plastic Fantasic
Holga Mods
Holga Tune-Up
Digital Sucks
Holga Dreams
Holga Cameras
World of Holga

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