The Glass Holga

Some people can't understand why anyone would still use film.

Others can't understand why anyone would use a toy camera.

They'd really have a hard time understanding the Holga.  It's a toy camera that takes 120 film. 

The Holga has no "auto" mode,  no through-the-lens viewfinder,  no light meter.   There are only two aperture settings and one shutter speed.  Focusing is a matter of estimating the distance to your subject.   Not with a computer, but all by yourself.   It's like technology from 1910, but it's made of plastic.  So it's kind of like a 1970's version of 1910 technology, made in 2010.  You got that?

When you put the film into the Holga, you might want to use electrical tape to seal up the seams.  And while you're at it, tape the side clips on, too.  That way the camera won't fall off your neck while you're carrying it.

It's about as simple a camera as one can use, aside from an oatmeal can or a Brownie Hawkeye.   And that's part of its appeal. 

The regular Holga 120N has a plastic lens.  The 120GN has a glass lens.  I think it makes the focus just a tiny bit sharper in the center of the picture, but some disagree.   Other than that, they're identical, and I'd say there's really not enough difference between them to choose one over the other.  The plastic-lensed version (the 120N) is the classic one that many know and love.  (Order one here.)

The pictures from either one have a certain look to them, very dreamy and surreal but with a sharp region of focus in the center.  That effect is all in-camera, no Photoshop required. 

The Holga has one shutter speed, which is about 1/100th of a second.    The two apertures are f/8 and f/11.  A camera lens normally has the focal length and the widest aperture printed around the edge, such as "80mm 1:2.8".  The Holga says "1:8   f=50mm", so there you go.

Here are some photographs I've taken with the 120GN. 

Sundown II

Fuji Velvia 100

What constitutes "fine art"?  For some people it's ultra-sharp photos taken with their brand-new Leica.  For me, it's more a matter of composition and that sort of thing.  The phrase "Holga fine art" might grate upon some photographers, but for me it sounds about right.

More Holga photos are in the art gallery, along with photos from other cameras.  You can usually spot the Holga shots by their distinctive look.

Apparition Hill

Kodak Ektar 100

Geraniums, I Think

Velvia 100

120 film is such great stuff.  I love 35mm, too, but there is something about advancing this big ol' sheet of rollfilm, hearing the clicks of the winding knob.  Some joys in life are really that simple.   

Lonesome Town

Fuji Astia 100

Light leaks and other imperfections are possible with film.  To me, these are something to love.  Every time I load the Holga in ordinary light (instead of in a darkroom), the first picture on the roll ends up with a light leak.

Fuji Velvia 100

The Valley Where Time Stood Still

Ilford HP-5 Plus 400

Kodak Ektar 100

Kodak Ektar 100 is just awesome.  It's a color negative film that renders like a slide film, although slide has its own unique qualities.  This is going to seem like an awfully bold statement, but as far as I'm concerned, Ektar is the best color negative film Kodak has ever made.  No, it's the best color negative film anyone has ever made.  There is something almost magical or spectral about Kodak Ektar and night photography.   The way it renders the colors of reflected lights on pavement is not like any other film I've tried.  Pick up a 5-roll pro pack and have some fun.

American Wedding

Kodak Ektar 100

By the way, I've since rescanned this with better techniques.
The new one looks way better... better colors, etc. Will post the new version when I get the chance.

The toy camera photo is like a photographic interpretation of a person's vague memory of what their parents' photos looked like.  Blurred edges, chromatic aberration, parallax error... it all comes together to make the memory.

And the coolest photos are square, because real photographers shoot square film pictures (at least now and then).  

I don't know that I'd photograph a whole wedding with a Holga, but it's nice to add variety to a shoot.  Actually, who am I kidding... I would gladly "Holga it up" for a wedding, if asked. 

I hope you enjoyed this article and photo gallery.  You can support this website by buying your Holga 120N through this link or using the other links.  Or, you can simply

to help keep this site going. Any help is much appreciated!

You can get rolls of Velvia 100 in 120 size here, Ektar 100 in 120 size here (5-roll pro packs), and Ilford HP-5 400 in 120 size here (10-roll pro pack).

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