With fantastic timing, a few weeks after it was announced that the production of the cameras would be stopped, my Holga gave up the ghost. A sad moment, because the Holga is high in my top five of all time favorite cameras. Even my digitally minded friends found it a cool thing, and nicknamed it The Big Green Monster. I did see it coming a little bit. It had been slowly crumbling ever since I bought it a year or five ago.
Now the whole Holga charm is that it’s a cheap Chinese plastic camera, so small wonder that it’s not top quality. Moreover, I did not treat the thing very gently. It was dragged halfway around the world, loosely trown in a backpack, trough rainy northern swamps, dusty Mediterranean islands, hot and humid Asia… All this time losing small bits of itself and producing gorgeous photo’s.
The foam-rubber cubes that kept the film tight in the camera were the first to go, with the first roll of film that I ever shot with the Holga. The foam was rolled into the film, leaving sticky glue residues inside the camera. I learned that those bits of foam are superfluous. Film can be kept tight just as well with some pieces of cardboard.
During a trip to Ireland, I then lost the lens cap. A pity, but no drama.
It was a lot more annoying when, on a next holiday in Corsica, the glue that kept the advance knob in place melted. With some difficulty I could still push the knob down on the shaft and advance the film. When the groove in the shaft was worn out, the knob no longer had grip and didn’t work anymore. I had to try to re-attach the knob. Different kinds of glue all failed because no glue could stand the forces working on the knob when advancing film. For a while, I used pliers to grab the shaft and turn it. In the end, it seemed like Sugru, a kind of instant rubber did the trick to hold the knob in place.
Next, the nib that held the film spool in place broke off. A little more cardboard solve that again.
The light leaks became slightly larger, but some more black tape along the edge of the door helped to correct it.
Then the advance knob came loose again. There were some pictures left on the film, so I thought I’d use the pliers again for a while to finish the film. Then I’d try to fix it again with fresh sugru. But this time I squeezed too hard and the shaft broke off. This really seemed to be the end of the camera.
I just bought a new Holga the Second.
Then one day I came across a crowdfunding thing for a new repair product, the Formcard. I’m a fan of the rubbery Sugru, but that wasn’t strong enough for the knob, especially with only small bit of shaft left to attach it to. The Formcard is a hard plastic that you heat in water, and then it becoms mallable. When it cools, it hardens again. I saw possibilities! Of course, I hadn’t trown Holga the First away, because you never know. A few weeks after later a couple of credit card sized bits of plastic arrived in the mail. No green unfortunately. But black kind of fits the wear and tear on the camera, so black it was.
And lo and behold! It works! Out of the hot plastic I formed a little knob (without burning my fingers too much), pushed it on the Holga (with a piece of aluminum foil underneath so that it would stick to the shaft only and not to the camera body) and waited until it cooled and cured. Pretso! A working knob! It´s may not be the best looking knob, and I had to carve away a bit with a knife to make it run smoothly, but it works.
Holga the First lives!