About the Holga

Why and how this little toy camera, made entirely of plastic and worth almost nothing, can make better images than optically perfect lenses attached to high resolution cameras.

Almost right after I got the Bronica in my hands, I knew I'd need a second camera. It was too heavy and in general too inconvenient to carry everywhere with me, let alone strenuous hikes or backpacking trips.

I'm still not sure why, but I thought that the little Holga would be the perfect replacement camera. I got one. I played with it. And soon I realized that I was wrong, this wasn't a backup camera.

You can't expect the Holga to replace any other camera, or to create similar images to those you can produce with any camera built with quality in mind.

The negatives you get from the Holga are often blurry and / or soft, show strong vignetting, have heavy distortions, are affected by light leaks and many other defects.

It uses 120 film, so you get between 12 and 16 shots per roll, making it a relatively expensive camera to use.

Many of the frames will be bad, really bad. Light leaks might ruin your image (you can tape it to control them a bit more), and what you get may be very far away from what you were expecting.

The best way I can think of to describe this camera is: unreliable, expensive and very low quality.

Why then, would you want to use something like this?

I can't speak for everyone (some people have used the Holga for genres like street photography with great success), but the reason why I use it is similar to why I shoot in black and white.

This plastic camera forces you to think out of the box. You have to imagine how the distortion is going to work with straight lines. Visualize how the corners will be affected by the blurriness and the vignetting. What about the main subject? Will it be in focus, will it have enough contrast, will it be soft?

All of a sudden, you start seeing things you didn't see before. Your imagination starts to run wild, and your creativity increases. You realize you can make striking images even in the most boring places, of the most boring things.

You see that it's not about working around those flaws, it's about embracing them and using them to your advantage.

For example, you can use the blurriness and softness in the corners to better isolate your subjects. The vignetting will also help with this. You can play with multiple exposures, or shoot handheld while in buld mode to further alter your subjects.

Once you see the camera for what it is, a tool to create something different, a whole new landscape opens to you. Because as I said before, the real world can be boring at times and more megapixels and sharper images aren't going to fix that.

Now, I carry the Holga with me not as backup camera, but as a peer to the Bronica. Many times, I shoot the same scene with both cameras trying to create two completely different images.

I'd recommend you to give the Holga or any of these toy cameras a chance, they might surprise you and improve your photography in ways you never thought of.