The Holga camera is a type of medium-format camera
, belonging to the larger family of plastic cameras
. It is quite possibly the most popular of these cameras, as it is fairly readily available and inexpensive.
The Holga's controls are very simplistic - it has only one shutter speed
, about 1/100th of a second, though every camera is different, and it's unlikely that any two exposures will be the same. It has two f-stops
, conveniently labeled "sunny" and "cloudy," they are about the equivalent of f/8 and f/11, respectively. The fixed 60mm wide-angle lens
features four focus guides: "Portrait
" (one person at about one meter), "Small Group
" (three people at about 3 meters), "Large Group
" (a number of people at about 6 meters), and "Mountain
" (denoted by - wouldn't you guess? a mountain, at about 10 meters to infinity).
The Holga also has the ability to shoot 16 6x4.5
cm images on standard 120
roll film, or 12 6x6
cm images on the same. To obtain the square image, the photographer
must remove the rectangular frame from inside the camera body - it can easily be installed and removed depending on your particular intent for the roll you are photographing. The photographer can buy Holgas with a built-in flash, but the standard model features a hot shoe
for an external electronic flash
. No batteries are required for operation, the shutter is finger depressed, and the photographer manually loads and advances the film. The Holga also doesn't care if you've made an exposure and not advanced the film, making double exposure
s possible, to either your advantag
The Holga is made virtually entirely out of plastic
(including the lens, which has no sort of coating on it at all). It is also incredibly prone to light-leak
ing (in fact, I don't think I've ever seen a roll of Holga film that hasn't had some kind of light-leak on it), which, in your new Hasselblad
would be cause for suicide - in this $20 beauty, it is a thing to be explored. I would, however, recommend taking some or all of the following steps to ensure that light-leakage is kept to a creative minimum:
1. There are two little holes inside the camera body, inside where the 6x4.5 frame sits, on the roof of the camera, near the lens. Cover these with gaffer's tape
2. When your film is loaded and the back is put back on, tape
the bottom seam (where the back meats the rest of the camera body), the top seam, and the two side seams closed with black gaffer's tape. Also gaff
over the window that allows you to see what frame you're on. Take the tape off to advance the film, then replace it. Though this little window is supposed
to be light-tight, it isn't.
3. When not photographing, I'd recommend keeping the camera some place relatively dark - inside a bag or backpack is probably best. You ought to load just before you shoot, and probably shouldn't leave the film sitting in the camera for extended periods of time, because despite the steps you've taken to try and make the box more light-tight, it still isn't foolproof.
The totally unpredictable nature of the Holga is what makes it so much fun to work with. Additionally, with such simple technical controls, the Holga allows the image-maker to be much less concerned with the technical aspect of photography, and much more involved in the actual creation
of the image - a liberating feeling to a view camera photographer like myself. Because of the nature of the lens' relationship to the film, you're almost guaranteed to get vignetting (to some degree) on the outside corners and edges of your film. Also, because the focus ring is so vague, your focus will rarely be perfect. Because of this, images made with Holga are generally surrealistic, as if they’ve been taken from a dream – it is this quality that makes them so unique, and why the quirky $20 plastic camera that could is just as powerful an image making tool as that new 8x10 Calumet Zone VI Modified View Camera of yours.