Plastic Toy Cameras
I mentioned in my Retro Digital Cameras hub that I finally made the jump to digital not to long ago, but I still shoot film fairly frequently. And while I do have a really nice Nikon lying around, I almost always end up shooting with either my Polaroid SLR or one of my cheap toy cams.
My favorite tool is the Holga with a Polaroid back. It is so big and bulky when I'm out and about that it makes for quizzical looks, both when I'm shooting and when I'm pulling Polaroid film out of the back of it. But I love the pictures and this is why lots of photographers, both professional and amateur, like to play with plastic toy cameras. They make fun and very different looking photos from the overly slick digital stuff.
So here's an introduction to a couple of different plastic toy cameras that are fairly cheap and lots of fun to play with. They are medium format cameras, which means that they have nice large negatives (much bigger than 35mm) and the images are usually square. They can take rectangular shaped photos as well, but many photographers who work with medium format choose to shoot the square. You'll need to buy 120 film to work with these.
The Diana Camera
Produced in the 1960s by the Great Wall Camera Company in China, the Diana camera used to be sent to subscribers of Reader's Digest. Usually regarded as the camera that started the toycam craze, it has been out of manufacture for about 25 years.
As the camera became more popular among plastic enthusiasts, it's selling price on places like Ebay shot up dramatically, far in excess of what you'd expect from it's photographic abilities!
But now the company that is most responsible for exploiting the plastic camera craze, Lomographic, have made a replica of the original Diana. The price is a bit out of line for what a plastic camera should sell for (about $25-30 bucks is my max), but this does mean that there will be less demand for the original camera which means that one should be much easier to get at a decent price on Ebay.
If I had room in my collection for another toycam, I'd probably look for the original Diana at this point.
The Holga Camera
The Holga is another medium format toy camera manufactured in China. It was introduced in the 80s and it features a cheap plastic lens and very cheap plastic construction. It's prone to light leaks and the back of the camera can fall off at any moment.
None of this stopped its adoption by the photography community though. Because it is so cheap, it is an ideal camera to just open up and start modding yourself. Some photographers repaint the inside of it with non-reflective black paint to cut down on some of the light bouncing around and many tape up the seams and the film indicator panel during use in order to cut down on some of the light leaks. When I use it, I also wrap some strong rubber bands around its body to minimize the frequency of losing the back of the camera -- especially when I have my Polaroid back attached to it.
I use my Holgas (I have a few!) mostly for Polaroid photography. I have a Polaroid back that I can attach to it and it takes really beautiful photos with a sort of vintage, ethereal feel to them. Now that Polaroid is no longer manufacturing film, I'll be attempting to get more familiar with 120 film, so there's a whole new journey ahead of me.
The photos featured below were all taken by me with a Holga and a Polaroid back. If you decide to buy a Polaroid back for your Holga, stock up on Polaroid film before it is no longer available, or get your hands on the Fuji film in the same size.
My Holgaroid PhotographyClick thumbnail to view full-size
More Toy Cam Work
- Flickr: holgagraphy group
You can see tons more Holga photography at the Flickr holgagraphy group. Lots of great photos mixed in with lots of lame photos.
The guy who runs HolgaMods does all kinds of modifications to the Holga cameras -- flocking the inside, doing bulb modifications, turning them into pinhole cameras, etc. He has some times for self-modding, or you can just order a pre-modded camera.
- Holga Tune-up and Mods
This page has diagrams and directions for doing self-modifications on the Holga. Most of them are pretty easy to do.
- holga on deviantART
More Holga Photography at the DeviantART community.
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