Category Archives: Holga

Holga 120S

My film camera collection is starting to be an obvious fixation. Last fall, a friend posted a comment on my Facebook page indicating that a local was selling a bunch of Holga cameras. The truth is, I saw the post a few minutes prior on another page and had already contacted the seller. Up to this point I knew I wanted to get a Holga, but didn’t feel like paying full price for plastic camera. When I met the seller downtown Salt Lake City, she told me that she had purchased a mixture of items from an estate sale. One of the items in the lot was a case of Holga 120S cameras. She decided to keep one for herself and sell the rest for $15 each. I purchased the last two from her, one for me, and the other for my friend Scott. They were both new cameras, each in a box, but one had been barely used. The seller told me that one of the two had been loaded with film and she didn’t know anything about it. When I met with Scott to give him a camera, I purposely mixed the boxes up, told him that both cameras were new, but one was loaded with film, and let him make a blind choice. Neither one of us cared because both were identical. I ended up with the camera loaded with film. I could see that the film had only been advanced to the second shot, but whoever had used it knew what they were doing because the body of the camera was carefully sealed with gaffers tape to prevent light from leaking into the film. The biggest part of the mystery was not knowing what film was loaded. How long had it been in the camera? Was it color or black and white? What brand and speed was it? I decided to take my chances and complete the remainder of the roll over the next month.

Holga’s history goes back to 1981 in China. The Holga was introduced to the Chinese as an inexpensive medium format camera. Despite Holga’s attempt to mainstream their 120mm camera, smaller and cheaper 35mm cameras dominated the market within a few years. However, the popularity of the all plastic Holga remained, and even grew. Holga sold more than 1 million cameras by 2001. The unique Holga look is created by a plastic lens, plus the possibility of artistic light leaks.

There’s really not a lot to say about the specs of the Holga 120S. It was the original Holga model produced in 1981, and has since been discontinued. It has a fixed shutter speed of about 1/100 sec, adjustable focus, a plastic 60mm f/8 lens, a two-position f-stop switch, hot shoe for external flash, and a 6×4.5mm film mask. It’s cheap, plastic, toy camera.

During the month of November, I took the Holga with me everywhere. Not knowing what film speed was loaded, I did my best to guess the amount of light needed. I used an old flash on a few shots. When I finished the roll, I found that the mystery film loaded in the camera was Kodak T-Max 400. My favorite images were done during a senior photo shoot. I admit that when I’m working on a paid shoot, I use my Canon DSLR. However, I’ve been slowly introducing film into my sessions. The next time I use my Holga, I’ll probably load it with some Lomography 120 film that I received from my wife and kids for my birthday.

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The FPP Plastic Filmtastic 120 Debonair Camera – Part Two

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After shooting the first free roll of 120 film in the FPP Plastic Filmtastic 120 Debonair, I was anxious to try something new. I decided to do some sprocket hole photography. What is sprocket hole photography? It’s a method where you use 35mm film in a camera that normally uses medium format 120 film. The result is a style where the image displays the sprocket holes in the 35mm film because the camera has exposed the full width of the film. To use smaller film in the camera, you can modify the camera, or modify the way the 35mm film is held in place. Either way, if the camera or spool is hacked, it’s critical to ensure film is centered as it passes behind the lens.

Before I loaded film into the camera, I took two pieces of black electrical tape and blocked out the red frame indicator window on the back of the camera. This is done because 120 film has a paper back, 35mm film does not. If the window isn’t covered, the 35mm film will become exposed to light. Without a number in the window, how do you know what frame you’re on? A little guesswork, but turning the takeup spool about 1 ¼ turns advances the film far enough to be safe without overlapping on the previous image. A 24 exposure roll should yield about 17 images. I was probably winding too far, I only shot 12 images on a roll of Kodak Gold 200.

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Earlier this year I purchased some adapters from Pinhole Printed. These 3D printed adapters attach to the 35mm film and center the film in the perfect spot. They allow the film to unwind from the canister and move to the take up spool without having to modify the camera. There are several hacks you can find on the internet that basically do the same as these 3D printed spools. I liked the idea of using the spools because they’re cheap and they fit snug on the 35mm film canister. The only problem I had is the size of the spools. They’re meant to fit in most cameras, and because they fit so snug in the camera, I had problems after the first eight shots. I found myself really cranking the camera to advance to the next frame. Before I use the adapters again from Pinhole Printed, I’ll need to sand them down and make them a little smaller. I found that storing the adapters in an empty plastic film canister kept them from getting lost in my camera bag.

Shooting sprockets on the FPP Plastic Filmtastic 120 Debonair was fun. I spent the day in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, with my family. I love the vivid blues and golden browns in my photos. This is exactly what I expected from a toy camera with 35mm film. In the past week I purchased a Holga 120N camera. I think I’m going to come back to the Debonair to shoot sprockets over the Holga. Why? The Holga back and body doesn’t seal as well as the Debonair. Without trying, I can see that shooting sprockets on the Debonair is easier than the Holga. On the Debonair, you only have to block out the frame indicator on the back of the camera. The Holga will require blocking out the window, and covering half of the camera in gaffers tape to ensure light doesn’t leak to the 35mm film. Removing film from the Debonair versus the Holga would be much easier too. Because the 35mm film is now on the 120 takeup spool in the camera, it’s necessary to manually rewind the film back inside of the 35mm film canister. This can be done using a film changing bag or dark room. I took the Debonair into my dark basement, opened the camera, and removed the 35mm canister with the adapters still attached. Next I carefully removed the 120 takeup spool and rewound the 35mm film back into the camera. Going back to my earlier comments about the Debonair versus the Holga. When I rewound the film, I was doing it in complete darkness. With the Debonair, it was only a matter of flipping the latch on the bottom of the camera and removing the film. On the Holga, I would need to remove all the gaffers’ tape, in the dark, before opening the camera and rewinding the film.

The FPP Plastic Filmtastic 120 Debonair Camera – Review Part 1