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Buying Holga Cameras | Toy Cameras for Casual Snapshot Photography

Updated on April 6, 2013

The Holga

The Holga medium format camera is cheap camera manufactured in the 1980s in China. Due to it's inexpensive nature, it is considered a toy camera. In terms of timeline, the Holga can be considered the successor of the Diana range of medium format cameras. Made entirely of plastic, it is currently made by Lomography and enjoys worldwide popularity due to the unique photographs that it produces.

In contrast to the standard sharp images produced by modern day digital cameras, Holga shots have characteristic vignetting - a photographic effect which is clear in the center, and fades off at the edges. These features of the images produced have become desirable for artistics and personalized shots used in casual photography. The Holga has become a counterculture item, reducing the complications of modern photographic technology into just four elements - your eye, the lens, the film, and your subject.

Camera Features

Plastic 60/8 Optical Lens


The plastic lens is the heart of the Holga, producing the characteristic vignetting in Holga shots. In addition, it creates vibrant colors and unpredictable shots. The focal length is 38mm and is a bit wider than a normal perspective.

120 Medium Format Film


The 120 medium format film was created by the Kodak company in 1898. Four times the size of standard 35mm film, it offers amazing resolution and deep, fantastic colors. A typical 120 print has an incredible richness and depth that no 35mm image can match.

Built-In Colorflash

The built-in electronic flash and allows you to choose a red, yellow, or blue filter to tint your pictures. It's super fun for night shots to create wonderous results.

Uncoupled Advance and Shutter


This feature allows you to shoot multiple exposures on the same frame or advance only partial frames to create overlapping images.

Variable Shutter Speeds

There are two shutter speeds to choose from - the standard daytime speed of 1/125 second and the long-exposure "B" setting that holds the shutter open for as long as you want. The "B" can be used to take night images without a flash. Pair it with flash, or on a tripod to create multiple effects of sharp subjects on a glowing background.

Variable Aperture

There are two options of either f/11 (sunny shots) or f/8 (cloudy / night shots.)

Zone Focus


The Holga has four focus settings – portrait, small group, big group, and infinity.

Specifications

  • Size: 22cm (8.65in) x 17,5cm (7in) x 9,5cm (3.75in)
  • Weight: 730g (1.6lb)
  • Format: all 120 medium format film (color negative, slide, b&w)
  • Lens: Plastic 60mm, f/8
  • Focus: manual zone focus with four distance settings
  • Approximate 35mm format equivalent focal length: 38mm
  • Aperture settings: f/8, f/11
  • Shutter speeds: 1/125, "B"
  • Flash: Color gel system (yellow, red, blue, clear), powered by 2 "AA" batteries
  • Uncoupled advance & shutter release for multiple & partial exposures
  • Standard tripod thread
  • Professional lab development only

Models

There are a number of variants to the Holga and the following is a guide to understanding the various models.

Holga 120: Standard Basic Model (Uses 120mm film)
Holga 135: A Holga Using 35mm film

Prefixes behind the model

S - The Original Holga
N - Updated Basic Model, no inbuild flash with hotshoe adapter for external flash
GN -Same as N but with Glass lens (G = Glass) Glass lenses are less prone to scratches and produces sharper images.
FN - Same as N but with inbuilt flash, no hotshoe adapter (F = Flash)
CFN - Same as FN but with colorgel filters for 4 colors of flash (Blue, Red, Yellow, White)
GCFN -Same as CFN but with Glass lens
WPC - A wide pinhole version of the 120N shoots 6x9 or 6x12
TLR - Twin-lens reflex (TLR) viewfinder in-lieu of a standard finder.
BC - Black Corner, to create the vignetting effect


What is the difference between the 120 TLR /GTLR and the CFN/GCFN?

They are the same except that the TLR viewfinder is similar to the Superheadz Blackbird Fly Camera.



Other Toy Cameras | Comparision between the Holga, Diana and Fisheye

Other than the Holga, there are other cameras on the market like the Fisheye and the Diana. In terms of features, functions and flexibility, the Holga has more functions than the Diana. The Fisheye Lomo is the most basic of the three with the least number of functions.

Hence if you are looking for a basic toy camera, the fisheye lomo is the best bet. The Holga is best for an added dimension to your play with it's various features. The Diana is a mid range camera for those that would like something more than a fisheye lens but less complicated to use than a Holga.

Read the other related articles on these other great shots and compare how they fare against each other!

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    • HELLA profile image

      HELLA 8 years ago from Boston

      Good post! I just purchased a Nikon D90 and there is SO much to learn. I used my dad mechanical Minolta from the 80's and it was so simple, basically point, adjudst aperture and f stop, then shoot. Now there are white balances, different manual modes, etc, etc.....its so complicated, which makes me second guess spending all of that money on it. I think a DSLR is great for shots of the family or for business, but for PURE ARTISTIC photography a camera such as a Holga seems to be the way to go. It's the artists eye, not digital manipluation. Thanks for the article.

    • HELLA profile image

      HELLA 8 years ago from Boston

      Good post! I just purchased a Nikon D90 and there is SO much to learn. I used my dad mechanical Minolta from the 80's and it was so simple, basically point, adjudst aperture and f stop, then shoot. Now there are white balances, different manual modes, etc, etc.....its so complicated, which makes me second guess spending all of that money on it. I think a DSLR is great for shots of the family or for business, but for PURE ARTISTIC photography a camera such as a Holga seems to be the way to go. It's the artists eye, not digital manipluation. Thanks for the article.

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