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A Question for Holga Lovers

OK, when I was last in NYC I should have bought a few of these suckers so I could have different ones adapted to different circumstances, but as I only have one at the moment and dont want to tear the spring off the shutter to convert it to bulb just yet, I was wondering if anyone among our rapidly increasing membership has ever just used a Holga exactly as is out of the box — it just occurred to me that all the images I have ever seen involve some modification — at the very least a conversion to square format by ripping out the frame for 6 by 4.5.  Has anyone on LS ever just shot images with the Holga in the rectangular format?  I assume the characteristic vignetteing will disappear somewhat, but otherwise everything else should be status quo.  Anyone?

by Jon Anderson at 2005-12-13 04:42:24 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Santo Domingo , Dominican Republic | Bookmark | | Report spam→

I used a Holga out of the box a few weeks ago.

I was going to cover a tattoo convention and just bought one on a whim.

Mine came with the 6×4.5 insert separately, so I was shooting in 6×6. It came out OK, (apart from quite a few duff frames) and you can see the results here:


Just go to the ‘tattoo convention’ thingy…

by [former member] | 13 Dec 2005 06:12 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Hey Sion, yeah I like those alot, but my question is basically whether or not using the adaptor for 6×4.5 might also yield some interesting results.   To my knowledge everyone always shoots square, but what about the rectangle?  I want to take some pix of old sugar plantations here, and the rectangular format would be quite useful.  well I will just give it a try and see what comes up.  I can always add a bit of the vignetteing effect in the lab.

by the way, when you shot in 6×6 did you pad the edges around the frame at all?  And did you seal the box for light leaks — it doesnt look like you had any leaks in those shots.  I want some leak actually, so I am going to experiment with selective taping.

Just read all your blogs btw.  nice stuff.  I have thought about doing something similar, though not focused on photography, just on my adventures in this crazy island.  But the stuff I have written is being prepared for a book and i dont know if I want to circulate the material in blog form — maybe a few samples.  so many choices. . . .

by Jon Anderson | 13 Dec 2005 06:12 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Great pics, Sion. And thanks for the heads up on your blog about the LOC’s  Bound For Glory exhibit. Looks like I’ll need to make a trip to DC in the new year.


by Wayne E. Yang | 13 Dec 2005 06:12 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
hi Jon, I’m not sure if you ever looked into my ‘weddings’ folder, but at least the firs 2 photos are what you are talking about. http://ericamcdonald.myphotoalbum.com/view_album.php?set_albumName=album06
I never did anything to my Holga, no conversions, no tape, nada. Somewhere I have other images, but they are all like these, no really wierd light, just a general softness..I still use it as it came out of the box, so if you want me to do any experimentation, let me know. be well, e

by [former member] | 13 Dec 2005 07:12 | Brooklyn, NY, United States | | Report spam→
Erica that basically answered my question.  But it does seem to me that the Holga effect I am after is more fully rendered by the square format, so I guess i will take out the adapter.  Now, if someone will give me some tips about how to adjust the innards to as to prevent scratching of the film (because the "walls" of the film chamber are rather sharp edged and I think i have to put some padding in there), I’d appreciate it.  Thanks everyone.

by Jon Anderson | 13 Dec 2005 08:12 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
 It helps to put a little cardboard, like the folded ends of your 120 film box, under the rollers of the Holga. This keeps the film tighter as it winds and will lead to less scratches, although I have never found this to be too great of a problem. The carboard does help to wind the camera faster though, but do not cram it in as it will then be too tight to wind as the camera advances. One small piece, folded once, should do the trick and will make the roll film tighter in the end, to lessen your chance of leaks as you remove the film, a "fat roll" I have heard it called, very loose.
  Good luck

by Jeremy M. Lange | 13 Dec 2005 08:12 | New York, NY, United States | | Report spam→
Yeah Jeremy, thanks, i was aware of that trick.  I am still a little worried though about the film riding over the edges of the frame of the image area.  I have read that it requires some kind of padding.  Well. It is all about experimenting.

by Jon Anderson | 13 Dec 2005 08:12 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Hi Jon,

I just took the thing outta the box, and started shooting.

There wasnt any light leak I think, because the venue was VERY dark…and so no light to leak – most of the light is from my flashgun.

This site might give you all the Holga modification info you need:


I’ve only used the thing once, and for certain things I think its definitely worth exploring. I’ve shot the odd roll since, but havent got round to devving it up…so maybe I’ll get to see the light leaks then.

Thanks for (with Wayne and Sean Carman) for reading my blog by the way – that brings my international cross-platform multimedia audience up to about er…4…one of whom is me, so I don’t think Rupert Murdoch is panicking just yet…it too was like the Holga purchase…a spur of the moment thing, so cheerrs for taking the time to read.

by [former member] | 13 Dec 2005 10:12 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→

I really like those photos. They are really crisp for the Holga. What did you use to scan them?

by [former member] | 13 Dec 2005 11:12 | Washington DC, United States | | Report spam→
Jon. The person who sells Holgas at this site http://www.holgamods.com/ offers up some mod tips as well. I bought a couple from him a few years back, and as I recall he was quite approachable in regards to advice. Different cameras have different weaknesses (strengths) in terms of light leaks and such, and sometimes it might take a couple to get the pleasing faults you are after. For me, it was a great big lesson in frustration. Though using one w/o a lens as a means of advancing film for pinhole exposures is still on my list of want to do’s.

by Jethro Soudant | 13 Dec 2005 12:12 | Buffalo, NY, United States | | Report spam→
Jon I shot these withthe camera out of the box:



But as you’ve already mentioned yourself the Holga effect comes across better with the square format.

I’ve never had any problems with the camera scratching the film.

by Jason Kaye | 13 Dec 2005 13:12 | Tacoma, Washington, United States | | Report spam→
i really love holgas.  i have shot both formats…  here is a link to a photo in the rectangular format…

that holga is very light-leaky, i have had it for 15 years and you never know what you will get with it.  i always seal them with black tape but i don’t put cardboard inside, never had a problem with scratches or focus….

i got a new one this year at freestyle in l.a., i still tape it up but it is much less leaky…. here is a self portrait with flash with the new one…

by perri pivovar | 13 Dec 2005 14:12 (ed. Dec 13 2005) | New York, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Roberto,

I dropped the film off in a lab and got some basic scans made, so don’t know what the scanner was. I used flash in most of them which might account for the ‘crispness’…they’re really not sharp if you look at the negs.

I also bumped the contrast and saturation up a bit in Photoshop which might account for the crispness also…and I shot one test roll to try and get some idea of the focussing distances on the lens.

About a third of the pics were duff….bad exposures or the focussing was really off, or both.

by [former member] | 13 Dec 2005 18:12 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→

that’s helpful. thanks for the details about the post-processing. i probably need to play with my Holga photos a bit more in Photoshop.

by [former member] | 13 Dec 2005 18:12 | Washington DC, United States | | Report spam→
Jon! :)))…okay…here are some thoughts, although, Im totally not certain how useful they are. I also love Holga, but its not about the recent trend (seems to me, "holga images" are now every where,)…but about the relinquishing….I love toy cameras for the same reason I used to love the early generation digital cameras…i loved the madness and the pixelation….now, in our death-wish for clarity (thinking of Oppenheimer), digital sharpness depresses the hell out of me, really, its a sad soreness for me…though, I understand why its dominating everything. I love that Sion wrote in his blog (yes, I read the blog too) that he wanted to do something different to escape, albeit briefly, the often anesthetized  world of digital aesthetic…

but, im thrilled youre exploring Holga and I would encourage you to look at other "alternative" cameras: make a pin-hole, play with older camera’s that are not "stable"…Ive seen some gems…and as a person/photographer who believes, profoundly, in relinquishing control over certain details (buddhist in me), I think your Holga shots might bite deeply into…can I gently (with friendship for our future date over Carribean rum) nudge about jumping in feet first for whatever happens…forget other’s advice ;))…shoot, see what happens…(by the way, Sion, I also like you’re tatooed shots, ‘cause they felt more out-of-control than a normal Touhig photo, and believe it or not, I like when your out-of-control (reasonably ;)))) )….)

anyway, Jon, I wanted to offer you something else. This evening I was looking at Sally Mann’s magisterial new book "Deep South"…im not sure if you had a chance to see her last book or the accompanying exhibition "What Remains"…but, can i show you some images…of course, Mann is not using a HOLGA, (instead an old 8×10 camera, using glass negatives and tea-toning)…but…she and her recent work (im thinking of her photos of her children close up from What Remains, the photos from Antedium) and this new work is an example of what a photographer can accomplish when they turn toward the light of broken things….this can be accomplished with a HOLGA, or Leica, or Nikon, or 8×10 from the 19th century….thinking of your description of "old sugar plantations", i wanted to show you Mann’s work….

this aint much advice concerning your new HOlga, but, I take it, if you drink tonight, you’ll see why I wanted to point to this ;)))…cheers, bob (no poetry in tonight’s post, as Im running for errands)

from Mann’s Deep South Series:




by [former member] | 13 Dec 2005 18:12 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
>>> but, im thrilled youre exploring Holga and I would encourage you to look at other "alternative" cameras: make a pin-hole, play with older camera’s that are not "stable"…Ive seen some gems…and as a person/photographer who believes, profoundly, in relinquishing control over certain details (buddhist in me)

Marcy Merrill’s site is one of my favorites on "junk store cameras."



by Wayne E. Yang | 13 Dec 2005 18:12 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
Sion, great pictures!!! I ask for forgivness of my ignorance, but what is a “Holga” ?

by claudio gonzalez | 13 Dec 2005 21:12 | buenos aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
The Holga is a basic, inexpensive plastic 120 film camera. The shutter speed is fixed at 1/100 and aperture choices are f8 and 11. It sell for about $20US. It’s a cheap way to get a big negative for big prints, but it requires a lot of trial and error to get the focusing right.

check out this link: http://www.holgamods.com/
this guy modifies Holgas for people who don’t have the time or expertise to do it.

If you can’t find them in Argentina, let me know and I will bring you one when I am there in February. seriously.

by [former member] | 13 Dec 2005 21:12 | Washington DC, United States | | Report spam→
Claudio, aprovechate de esa oferta, amigo porteño, por que la camara es algo chevere.   Muy divertido, y ademas te brinda la ocasión de investigar una nueva forma de fotografia.  ya tu sabes.

by Jon Anderson | 14 Dec 2005 09:12 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Who? Holga? You slept with her too? The ‘original good time, had by all’?, yeah, that dirty bitch, she gave me all kinds of infectious….
Whoops!, wrong person. Sorry, you’re on about a camera? I thought you were on about Olga, or was it Helga? Stay away from both of them. Made my life hell. Don’t know anything about cameras. Sorry.

by Mikethehack | 14 Dec 2005 09:12 | | Report spam→
hola Jon. 
En mi galeria de LS tengo algunas fotos hechas con una Holga (sin modificaciones).
Esta camara esta hecha para experimentar y ver que sucede. asi que como tu dices:
"Es cuestion de experimentar".

Espero que las imagenes te sirvan para ver algunos posibles resultados. 
Man. K.

by Manu Mielniezuk | 14 Dec 2005 13:12 (ed. Dec 14 2005) | Mallorca, Spain | | Report spam→
Mike, I dont know Olga or Helga, but leave those northern climes for the tropics and I will introduce you to Maria, Yulisa, and Altagracia, and you will think you have achieved the Muslim heavens (as long as you can overlook the fact that they are certainly not virgins).

To everyone who offered up samples of their pix, I thank you, they confirmed that I should shoot the square format instead of the rectangular.

The holga craze has been on for a long time, and I have resisted it (just like the panoramic craze); however, I am finding instances where I could really use this format (and panoramic as well), so since in my book the themes justify the form, I am stepping in where long ago others have preceded me (but what do you expect from a dark horse?).   I am thinking of both some landscapes of the old sugar plantations (the very first in the New World) and headshots of the cutters — but with a minimum 3 foot focussing distance (or is it 5, seems to be some argument about that), I may have to settle for head and shoulders or torso type shots.  Good enough.

Anyway, Bob, I am a big fan of Sally Mann, and her early work pushed me to become a photographer, while her later work still feeds my imagination.  Though her choice of camera is different, as you point, out, the idea I am after is a little bit the same, but different enough to be safe from contamination.  I have a four by five down here, but I have just been shooting polaroids with it (lovely images).  I may one day lug the thing into the street and shoot the Colonial caminos a la  Atget.  But not yet.

I think I am going to work in full daylight for a while and then rip the spring out of the shutter and use bulb for some night shots.  I dont want to overdo it, but since my theme is nostalgia (in the larger sense, saudade and so on), tradition, history, the holga makes sense in order to establish the context.

Manu, que chévere que estas en Mallorca, ¿como lo encuentras?  ¿Interesante, verdad?

by Jon Anderson | 14 Dec 2005 15:12 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
One of the best sites that I have found about little things you can do to your HOLGA, and general information is


My images improved quite a bit by spraying the inside of the camera with matte spray and covering up the sources of any stray light with black gaffers tape. It also has a lot of different images from other photographers who have used the camera on different assignments.

best of luck

by Brett Flashnick | 14 Dec 2005 16:12 | Columbia, SC, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Jon!

I’ve shot my holgas in both 4.5×6 and 6×6.

The results with the 4.5×6 insert were sharper in focus, as the film is wound tighter and thus flatter. But it lacks the vingette effect of the full frame 6×6, and therefore loses much of the appeal of a holga.

Here’s the instructions on how to modify your insert, so that the film is wound tighter, but still full frame. I’ve been meaning to try it.


Also, I’ve had one holga that worked nicely “straight of the box,” but others needed taping.

Note: holgas with built-in-flash seem to have less leaks because the internal electrics are inserted into the holes… little or no tape required.

Has anyone used a WOCA (holga with a glass lens) ?

by Louisa Kirby | 17 Dec 2005 17:12 (ed. Dec 17 2005) | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Jon: spent the last 2 days shooting with my HOLGA, straight out of the box, with old (expired) TRI-X  (2 rolls) and an old roll of PXP-125….once negs are developed, i’ll let you know results….how have your expeditions with the light-weight demon been?…bob

by [former member] | 10 Jan 2006 16:01 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Hey Bob, havent had a chance yet to try it out, because Xmas intervened, which I shot entirely in digital (results coming on Flickr),a nd now I am recovering from a serious bout of amoebas and bronchitis.  Once I am back on my feet I am instantly heading to Engombe and Palave and will let everyone know the results.  I decided to take out the insert, but I am toying with the idea of padding the inside edges since I read somewhere that this was  a good idea, and i dont want to scratch the film.

by Jon Anderson | 10 Jan 2006 17:01 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Like the tatoo shots. Talk a bit about your flash technique for the holga. Or is that private info? I’d probably shoot manual at 1/8th power for F8 or F11. That sound about right?

by Paul Treacy | 10 Jan 2006 18:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Jon-(per the original post) I’ve used’em ‘as is’ and I’ve taken out the insert and taped up the light leaks. Either way the thing is wonderful fun. I do recommend stuffing the spindles so the film winds properly, but besides that, throw some tri-x in it and let it fly. Control shouldn’t be the priority here (at least for me), I can control my other cameras.

by Morgan Hagar | 10 Jan 2006 19:01 | Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
I’ve just got a Holga that is fitted with a Polaroid back – still getting to grips with it. This model has the built in flash. Like others say it appears to be better made with no light leaks, but the flash is weak and only useable to about 2 metres with 100 iso film. The the non flash model with an external flash unit would be a more viable way of working I think. If you are in Europe this is a good source for Holgas and film  http://www.unsaleable.com/instant_photofun/

by Rod Purcell | 11 Jan 2006 06:01 | Alexandria, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
hi Jon,
I use holga 120 CFN
you have everything there: both B -shutter and 1/100
4 colours of flash ( just funny, not very useful stuf…but you have it)
In my opinion in 6×4.5 ,no holg spirit no nice vigneting…
but always good fun

by Rafal Milach | 11 Jan 2006 08:01 | warsaw, Poland | | Report spam→
this was just pased on to me, haven’t read it, but maybe some useful info:


by teru kuwayama | 14 Jan 2006 16:01 | NYC, United States | | Report spam→

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Jon Anderson, Photographer & Writer Jon Anderson
Photographer & Writer
Ocala Florida , United States
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Jethro Soudant, Photographer Jethro Soudant
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Jason Kaye, Photojournalist Jason Kaye
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claudio gonzalez, Photojournalist claudio gonzalez
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Louisa Kirby, Louisa Kirby
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Paul  Treacy, Photographer Paul Treacy
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