The Holga Plastic Toy Camera
The Holga Toy Camera was introduced in 1981. It became a “cult” camera for photographers seeking the unique image it is capable of producing.
It features a fixed 60mm lens with two apertures: f8 & f11.
The shutter is almost identical to the Kodak Brownie Box camera first introduced in 1894. Nothing more than a spring-loaded disk! Left is the Brownie shutter and right is the Holga shutter.
The apertures are just the beginning of flaws that set the Holga apart from other cameras. The f8 (larger) aperture sits behind the f11 rendering it non-functioncal.
The vintage-photo-looking vignette effect is real (unlike the digital effect so popular BECAUSE of this camera)! It’s caused because the 120 (format) film doesn’t sit flat in the camera; the curve of the film creates blur from the change in light off to the corners. Adding to this effect is the cheap plastic lens!
Additionally, there are two small pinholes inside the camera which leak light. These cause two small spikes in the corner…typically a thumb or fang pattern. My earlier work features this and as the years have gone by I’ve moved away from it by taping these off with Gaffer’s tape. Here are a selection of image styles I’ve seen come from my Holgas.
From left: Arc, Thumb and Fang light leaks.
The lens is a “zone focus” type with these focusing markings:
My Holgas are modified by Randy at HolgaMods.com. Randy is able to fix the aperture flaw creating two useable apertures. I also have Randy modify the lens to focus as close as 2 feet. Randy’s 35mm modification allows me to shoot 35mm film resulting in a panoramic-style image in which the image flows right over the film’s sprocket holes.
I also asked Randy to push the limits and it works! He modified one of my cameras to f4/f8 – that is two full stops faster allowing me to shoot in lower, natural light.
The final modification is to gaffer tape the rails the film moves over to eliminate scratching.
My Holgas (and one Diana) with my Domke F1 Canvas bag. This was my bag as a working photojournalist. It’s nice to keep it in use!