Holga vs. The World

Posted by Scott

I’ll be leaving January 3rd for a month (Tokyo – Thailand -Amsterdam -  Stockholm – Prague – London).  I lost half my shots from this summer’s trip to a faulty Lomo LCA.  This time around I’m bringing my Nikon digital, but I still want a lofi film camera to capture the more personal stuff.  After seeing some beautiful shots like the one above by sMacshot I’ve decided to go with a Holga this time and ditch the LCA (which was my third Lomo to break).  I know the Holga is probably just as prone to breakage, but it’s only about $40 instead of whatever outrageous price they are charging now for the Lomo these days ($300?). 

Any tips for using the Holga?  Does it have a similar auto-exposure mechanism to the Lomo or is it all manual?  Any reason why I should stick with the Lomo?  I also really like the prospect of shooting in medium format with the Holga, something I’ve never done before.  Anything special about MF for beginners?  I am thinking of going all cross-process this time, excited to see the results.

Sound off in the comments >

Just stumbled on this Holga site, some nice info there.

22 Comments Leave A Comment


Philip Wagner says:

December 13, 2007 at 2:19 am

The Holga is all manual. You pull the trigger as long as you want. And thats all. Pretty simple, but requires a bit of knowledge of photography.

There are several Version out there, even some with glas lenses. But with a holga, there is no better. So you can stick with the cheaper plastic lenses. But it’s always good to have a flash, so my prefered model is the 120 FN.

Every Holga has it’s own character, everyone is as beatiful as the other…


Forrest says:

December 13, 2007 at 2:36 am

As a frequent Holga user, I would say it is a definite and resounding yes to purchasing one. For myself, I love the diversity, I can shoot MF (my first MF camera) and also 35mm which can create some super cool effects, as well as pinhole photography! As Philip mentioned, it is all manual, but the results are incredible. I have the 120N ($20) which doesn’t have a flash, but a hot shoe in case I am ever interested in shooting with one.

Because you are familiar with the LCA, the Holga should come pretty easy to you, and the only downside to MF that I have come across is only 12 frames per roll. But the quality makes up for that.

Sorry to babble on, but the concept of you joining the Holga family is exciting and inspiring! I have some shots from my Holga on my site if you are interested. Good luck deciding!


Scott says:

December 13, 2007 at 2:56 am

Thanks for the info guys….the fact that it’s manual-only is pretty daunting but shooting manual film is probably a good thing to learn. Do you always use a light meter or is it some sort of zen like thing where you just hope for the best? I never liked relying on the internal meter of the lomo so perhaps this would be best.


lau says:

December 13, 2007 at 3:04 am

Hi guys…
If you want some information about Holga an LCA or just tak a look you can go there :
Ok it’s a french website but there are many cool guy who speak english and some of them are great artist too ;-)

PS : Still waiting for my poster 3 weeks now it’s very hard to wait for them…


Forrest says:

December 13, 2007 at 3:06 am

With the Holga, you have two apertures (approx. f/8 and f/16 if Im not mistaken) and two shutter speeds to chose from, aprox. 1/125 and B. Though the limitations may seem daunting, you learn quickly about judging a shot. And I have personally never used a light meter with my Holga because of having only two shutter speeds. Just shoot with film that has a wide exposure latitude and you will be fine.


Cliff says:

December 13, 2007 at 7:00 am

The squarefrog site is an amazing resource, a lot of good stuff over there. I think you’ll really enjoy the Holga. Somehow even with the almost total lack of control you are still able to produce some beautiful images. Happy shooting!
p.s. Love the new single, thanks.


Antonio says:

December 13, 2007 at 8:22 am

Scott, you’ll really enjoy the Holga. I use to only shoot with the Lomo and the Holga but have recently abandoned film. Cross processing MF film shot with a Holga is also a wonderful experience. You will get great results. I use to shoot on Fuji Velvia 50 slide film and had it crossed. You can see some photos on my site:

As for it being manual, it really isn’t. You can’t really control much, you just have a toggle that you switch based on the type light you get, Sunny or Cloudy. After that you just point and shoot but that’s the beauty of it. You might want to do some mods to it though. The first one I would do is convert it to a 6×6 square format, unless you like that 645 format. Then I would increase the spool tension, this is easily done with pieces of a film box, and add black electrical tape on the outside window to prevent light leaks.

Here are some sites that show you how to do these mods.

Good luck and enjoy. Post those pics when you get back!


drew kora says:

December 13, 2007 at 9:48 am

This is great info. I’ve decided to get a holga for my trip to europe next summer. I still plan to bring a digital camera and don’t have cash for a Lomo jstu play around wtih. The Hoga seems like a good alternative…perhaps even better.


Derek says:

December 13, 2007 at 11:12 am

Scott, Holga’s are great. There isn’t much as far as exposure features go… you get a cloudy flip and a sunny flip. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same as a disposable. Only the images look better. Use the Fuji Velvia 50. They still make it for medium and large format cameras.

You’ll also want black electric tape to hold it together and reduce some light leak. And remember to advance the film. That was my only problem was either over advancing or under advancing the film. but under advancing leaves you with some cool looking shots :)



Shud says:

December 13, 2007 at 2:19 pm

holga’s are made to be ‘point&shoot’. don’t worry about anything, just shoot and be excited with whatever randomess you get back. that is the fun of holga’s, you never know what you’ll get back!

couple of things…
make sure you keep a nice piece of adhesive on the back so it doesn’t pop off and expose your film(which it WILL if you don’t tape it down).
also, i personally never get prints, just the film developed and then you can scan your negs and tweak all you like. more personal preference than anything..


Ned Howard says:

December 13, 2007 at 3:28 pm

I don’t know if anyone has mentioned the HolgaMods website yet, but they offer ‘tweaked’ Holgas at a very reasonable price. I’ve enjoyed my modded Holga for about 5 years now. Someone mentioned taping up the back, which is great advice, but I’d suggest using painters tape instead of electrical tape — no messy residue. I also have a Dacor Dinga, which is similar to a Holga except it has a glass lens instead of a plastic one. It also doesn’t seem to have all the light leak issues, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.


Alex / HeadUp says:

December 14, 2007 at 8:41 am

I am now inspired to go out and get one of these….my digital camera, which is really only for on-the-go and out-with-friends pictures is doing nothing for my design efforts. This Holga is not only cheap but it looks like it takes just the kind of shots I am looking for– and the dreary city streets here in Philly will make for some excellent shots.

I’m assuming they can be found at most camera stores?


Alex / HeadUp says:

December 14, 2007 at 11:18 am

UPDATE: I hit Ritz Camera, they didnt have it but guess who does? Urban Outfitters (go figure)! They had a bunch of cool cameras, I got a Holga package for myself, and a Lomo for my brother for xmas.

They have a bunch of options (at UO’s usual inflated price, but not tooo bad). I can’t wait to get started!


Stuart says:

December 15, 2007 at 10:57 pm

Can you just have the film developed at any shop? (and make sure they don’t try to correct anything?!) Has anyone had problems with this?


Alex / HeadUp says:

December 17, 2007 at 11:17 am

I tried bringing my 120mm to a pharmacy and the girl there said she had never even seen 120mm medium format film…duh. So I’d say avoid pharmacies and the like.

I brought my 120mm to Ritz Camera and/or Camera Shop, Inc. today, hopefully it will come out…Saturday, I tried bringing a roll of 35mm I modded in (very easy mod), and nothing showed up, I’m not sure if the film got exposed (I don’t think it did, but who knows) or what….

Both times, however, I let them know it was done on a Holga and is supposed to be “messed up”


Tim says:

December 17, 2007 at 1:40 pm

I’ve been using a holga 120n for nearly two years and love the results. Mine has two settings, one for sun and one for clouds. I would overexpose if you’re in doubt because even with decent light my exposures can be pretty dark. A flash might help, too, for close range stuff the second the sun starts to set.

I don’t tape mine closed and I’ve never had a problem. Some times the light leaks make the shot cooler than otherwise, but I’ve treated my holga pretty good so the leaks are minimal.

I’ve posted some shots from Paris, Colorado, and Tennessee at



Jason says:

January 4, 2008 at 5:37 pm

I just posted this over on the “Diana” post and thought it might serve well here too:

About the Holga:
If you want consistent (for a Holga) results, you have to disassemble the camera and spray the inside of it with flat black paint. Even if you tape the outside, many times light will still enter and when that happens it will bounce around all those shiny surfaces and onto your film. I don’t remember the procedure exactly, but you can probably find it on one of the Holga enthusiast sites. I suspect a similar thing may happen with the Dianas. You also cannot trust the red window on the Holga, even with black and white film. Keep black tape over it and only view it briefly in the shade as you advance the frames. I even fitted (with tape) a lens hood to mine to further control unwanted chromatic abberations (funny to say in regard to a Holga, I realize). Everyone in my photo studio class cracked up, but I have never had an unexpected result with my Holga. Although I have probably missed countless wonderful unexpected “mistakes” for which these cameras are known.

I would also suggest 400 speed color negative film as it is very forgiving and even responds positively to slight overexposure. I second the notion of increasing the spool resistance using a torn-off piece of paperboard under each spool. Also, the “aperture” setting is pretty much useless. Just load it with 400 speed film and fire away (use a flash or experiment with “bulb” exposures at night or even combine flash and long bulb exposures–this can create some wonderful effects).

There are a lot of sites out there for Holga support. It seems complicated compared to digital, but once you learn the peculiarities, it really is a fun camera to work with.



dpw says:

January 29, 2008 at 11:12 am

you should def. check out …

I had a holgamod with the works that i loved dearly. I lost it in a drunken packing session one morning, trying to catch a flight out of chicago that i woke up way late for. Its only a few bucks more but it turns it into a way better camera. same awesome color and vignetting but without all the light leaks and well… you can read up on it yourself… i wont bore you. I just want to say that i really get inspired by your photos and art and would love to find out about you doing a little something for my band. We do rock stuff and your aesthetic completely fits.