Widelux 1500 Revisited

The Widelux 1500 is one of those cameras that I sometimes have to pull out of the mothballs. It’s a wonderful thing that deserves to be used. That’s easier said than done, because with its two kilos it’s not a camera you casually stick in a pocket. But I girded my loins and dragged it with me on a cycling trip to Lunteren and a trip to Amsterdam.

For once, I actually put the film in right. Usually, when I put the film in the camera, I fumble about a bit and lose the first shot. This time I had more patience and I read the instruction manual. It’s actually printed on the back of the camera, so it’s pretty stupid of me that I don’t do that every time. Out of a kind of misguided arrogance, I often skip the manual, and as a result, the first bit of film senslessly advanced. Anyway, this time I finally did it right.

Now the Widelux is a temperamentful beast, so there’s still enough that can go wrong. For lack of tripod, let alone a big, heavy tripod, I always shoot out of hand. Now, the Widelux rotating lens delivers quite a recoil, especially in the fast (1/250 sec) mode, and because the camera is so heavy, that almost always results in motion blur – or rather, some kind of double exposure. What helps is a) don´t use the fast mode and b) put the camera on top of some handy wall of bench or something.

The first photo I took (the forest creek) I shot in fast mode, but even the ‘slow’ photos were doubled this time. Strangely, only the photo I took out of hand (on the office buildings) did not get double exposed. Despite that, I kind of like the pictures. The one of the Rijksmuseum shows the chaos of the masses of tourists, and the golden office buildings are also nice (certainly nicer than they really are). These are my favorites from the roll, which show that the Widelux is a good combination with architecture and street photography.

Next time I’ll try redscale, see what that does.


Small but Good: Olympus OM-1

The Olympus OM-1 shot with a Yashica 109 and Lomography CN 400 film.

The Olympus OM-1 shot with a Yashica 109 and Lomography CN 400 film.

In the ever changing ranking of favorite SLR’s, the Olympus OM-1 consistently scores well. It is a very pleasant camera to work with. It’s slim and well-crafted, without feeling too light and fluffy. Made in stylish and sturdy metal, it is feels good to handle it.

Made between 1972 and 1988 (different models that differ slightly) this has been the smallest and lightest SLR on the market for years. My version is an early one, from 1972-1974. I can tell because it’s doesn´t have a motor drive connection. It’s a full manual camera, so without auto mode. Shutter speeds range from 1 to 1/1000th second. It has a light meter powered by a PX 625 battery. I have one standard lens that fits it: the 50 mm Zuico Auto-S 1:1.8. My lens does look a bit spotty (one of the risks of getting a camera from a junk sale), but the pictures look fine, so I’m not too concered about that.

It’s a nice camera in use. The fact that it is so light is definitely an advantage. It postpones getting a stiff neck when dragging the thing along all day for a walk or bike ride. The various buttons and rings are easy to use, and especially the shutter has a pleasant light operation. Plus, the rewind button is not, as is often the case, situated at the bottom of the camera, but on the front. This makes it easy to make double exposures by pressing and holding the button.

All in all, there isn’t one big obvious reason why I find the Olympus OM-1 such a nice camera, but all the small advantages – lightweight, stylish, easy operation – make sure I regularly grab the OM-1 if I need a SLR.

Holga Saga II

Santiago de Chile, Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Lady Grey 400 film.

Unsharp Santiago de Chile, Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Lady Grey 400 film.

It’s always something, with those Holga’s. Life with my favorite camera is not all roses.

Some time ago, my green Holga seemed to have finally kicked the bucket due to a broken advance button, so I bought a new one. Of course, I took it on vacation and shot half a dozen rolls in country far away where I may never visit again (Chile). After developing my first rolls, I found out that all my photos were unsharp. Ahrg! What happened? I soon realised that for the biggest part of the trip, my camera had been in in B mode.

A pretty bad beginners error, of course. But after giving it a bit more thought, I have decided it’s not quite a sign of early dementia. It was simply a coincidence of two peculiarities:

The Holga is not entirely consistent in what the correct position of the two setting switches should be. With the diaphragm switch, you will see the setting that is being used inside the switch. So for the right hand setting, slide the switch to the left, and vice versa.

diaphrama switch

Fot the shutter switch, on the other hand, the setting is visible above the switch, and you slide the switch towards the desired setting. So for the right hand setting, you slide the switch to the right, and vice versa.

time switch

If I think too hard about this inconsistency, I sometimes start doubting wether I have set it right.
In this case, the overthinking was triggered because the old Holga sounds different from the new one. In pressing down on the shutter button, Holga the First would say: “click” when in the N-position, and “click-click” when in B-mode. Holga the Second does the exact opposite: “click-click” in N-mode, “click” in B-mode.

Combine the confusing switches with th econfusing sounds, and there you go. Recipe for disaster.

Let’s just say that’s one mistake I’ll never make again…

Pinholes à la Holga

Holga PC 135 and HEMA CN 400 film.

Holga PC 135 and HEMA CN 400 film.

In a fit of madness, I once bought a Holga 135 PC. After several DIY projects, I wanted a “real” pinhole camera for a change, with a decent shutter and a proper advance mechanism. Now there are brilliant pinhole cameras on the market, made of wood and copper, a joy to behold. Rather on the pricey side, though. So, cheap as I am, it became the plastic Holga PC 135.

Holga PC 135, shot with a Yashica 109 and Lomography CN 400 film.

Holga PC 135, shot with a Yashica 109 and Lomography CN 400 film.

To be honest: I don’t really care all that much for this camera. I find it hard to use. Being a pinhole camera, you always need a relatively long shutter speed. So you always need a fairly solid surface, because handheld long exposures (1/30 second and up) seldom goes well. In the absence of a sturdy tripod, I am always dependent on walls and fences and the like, which limits the composational possibilities. In addition, the Holga is made of light plastic, which is nice when you have to carry it about all day, but also tends to lead to motion blur if you don’t have a steady surface to place it on.

Still, I have made some beautiful pictures with the Holga 135 PC. It may not have the charm of a homemade pinhole camera, but (unlike the Holga CFN) it also lacks the light leaks. The lightflares it produces are beautiful, and I have made some pretty neat flower photos. I would not call it a total misconduct.

In general, I think that the Holga PC is most suitable for (extreme) close-ups, for example of flowers (that is, if it’s not too windy). You only have to take care of enough light.

Accessories: Holga Lens Filters

Macro snail. Holga 120 CFN with macro filter and Fomapan Creative 200 film

Macro snail. Holga 120 CFN with macro filter and Fomapan Creative 200 film

The Holga is a sturdy brick of cast plastic. It doesn’t do interchangeable lenses, you’re stuck with the plastic lens it came with. That lens is beautiful, so why look for anything else? But every now and then it would be nice to get a bit closer with the Holga. A beautiful flower in close-up, a distant mountain a bit nearer. For these situations there are accessories for sale.

In my collection I have a set of close-up filters, a few macro filters, and a telephoto lens. Thus, my Holga is fit for all situations. In theory, that is. Those filters and lens are nice to play with, but it takes a lot of practice to actually get good pictures.

The telelens, for example, brings the image 1.5 times closer. The thing consists of a plastic case with dito lens that slides over the Holga´s lens. Make sure the camera is in the infinity (mountain) setting. A side effect of the telelens is extreme circular vignetting. It does have a certain something, but you should keep in mind that not everything you see through the viewfinder will be in the actual photo. More than ususally, make sure that the subject you want in focus is in the middle of the image.

The close-up and macro filters give a strong vignetting as well, but less than the telelens. They are much flatter filters, that you put on the front the lens (again with the camera on infinity). I am most fond of the close-up variations, which allows you to make photos at 50 cm, 25 cm and 12 cm, distance. Especially when using the smaller distances you should not depend too much on the viewfinder, because the lens is of course a few centimeters lower.

The macro filters allow a distance to your subject of 6 or 3 cm. In theory, these make for great extreme close-ups, but there are a few points of concern.

For example, at this distance – even more than when using the close-up filters – the viewfinder is completely useless. You will just have to look over the top of your camera and aim the lens at your subject. This takes some practice, and I have several pictures with just a bit of subject matter at the bottom of the picture to prove it.

Also, if you are this close to your subject, mind that it is not too dark. You can quickly block the light with your camera. You allready have an extra layer of plastic in front of the lens blocking light, so be sure to have enough iso, an extra lamp, or use the flash.

It is important for all filters to use the correct focus distance, because the depth of field is narrow. A measuring tape or ruler will probably come in handy. Or choose a subject with enough depth so that there is always something in focus.

Holga Saga I

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

Random Holga picture. Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

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!

Crummy tablet picture of Holga the First and it's new Formcard advance button.

Crummy tablet picture of Holga the First and it’s new Formcard advance button.

I ♥ Holga

Holga 120 CFN shot with a Praktica MTL3 and Kodak Ektachrome E200 film.

Holga 120 CFN shot with a Praktica MTL3 and Kodak Ektachrome E200 film.

For a long time, I doubted wether I shoud buy a Holga. I liked the pictures made with a Holga and the camera is pretty cheap, but did I really need another camera? And when I actually saw one in a photo shop (as opposed to on a stand alone picture in a web shop), it looked very big and clumsy to me. But in the end I succumbed. I bought the gorgeous plastic box camera that is now known among my friends as the big green monster.

It’s a simple beast. I have the CFN-version, with plastic lens and coloured flash (white, red, yellow and blue). In theory, has two apertures, cloudy and sunny. Due to a construction error, it only has the larger aperture (f13), flipping the aperture switch has no effect. Shutter time is either 1/100s of B. Included with the camera are two masks, either to fit 12 pictures on a standard 120 roll, of 16.

It took a bit of getting used to at first. The sponges that kept the film tight in the camera were immediately eaten by the first film I shot. Film is now being helt tight by some random bits of cardboard. Soon afterwards I found out that red-scale at a dark party was not a good choice in the Holga. Or any kind of low iso film in moderately dark situations. And when it is light enough, stubborn light leaks make covering the edges of the camera with black tape necessary.

But soon enough, I got used to the peculiarities of my new treasure and my Holga became absolutely indispensable. For one thing, you can pull all the ususal Lomography tricks with the Holga: double exposures, microclicks, panoramas, colored flash, it’s all fun. But the real power of the Holga is in the fantastic plastic lens. A flashy party picture with different color layers is great, but my favorite Holga pictures are regular single pictures, with their unique dreamy appearance that no Instagram filter can equal.

It´s a great holiday camera, too: not only produces it great pictures, it’s also sturdy enough to be tossed about in a backpack, and the cheap plastic look doesn’t attract thieves.

The best spent 69 euros from 2012.