Flashy Holga

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

One of the advantages of the Holga 12 CFN is the built-in flash. Not just any flash, but one with four color modes: white, yellow, red and blue. You can do fun things with a flash like that.

In general, don’t use the flash that often. With the simple cameras and flashes I prefer, when you use the flash you can easly kill a photo by flooding it with hard light. A colored flash in itself is not necessarily a bonus either. It can all too quickly lead to an monochrome flood of color. Maybe fun at start, but I quickly grow tired of it. This is actually the main reason why I was disappointed at first when I got my Colorsplash camera.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography  CN 800 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 800 film.

But unlike the Colorsplash, you can make double exposures with the Holga CFN. And then those colored flashes do become fun. By shooting a few layers while flashing with a different color each time, a festive mix of colored layers is created. Especially in party situations, this works very well, as if you are recording the disco strobe. But a harsh camping trip also can also be improveved with some colors.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography  CN 800 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 800 film.

It works best when it’s dark. In theory, you could also flash in daylight and make multiple layers. However, with too much light, the different color layers don´t really come across.

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

A variant is advancing the film al bit between each layer you shoot. This will give you a more elongated photo in which the time passes in different colors.
It’s a simple trick that gives a spectacular result.

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

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.

Book: Holga – Life Trough A Plastic Lens

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Provia 400 film.

Random Holga picture. Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Provia 400 film.

In the series of books that come with Lomography cameras, I have the book Holga – The World Trough a Plastic Lens. I got it when I bought Holga the First from the Lomography Shop. I got Holga the Second from a diffrent shop, so no book with that one. The book is not a publication of the Holga manufacturer. It was written/compiled by Adam Scott, a Holga enthusiast who got Lomography to publish his book. It is more or less the same book that comes with all Lomography cameras: lost of photos in bright x-pro colors, tips on tricks that you can use with the Holga, and mini portraits and testimonials of Holga users from the Lomography community.

It’s all not terrible exhaustive. It’s a nice little book if you’re not yet familiar with toycameras and Lomography. However, the seasoned lomographer does not find much news in the book. These are the same tips I have read in half a dozen other books: multiple exposures, colored flashes, endless panoramas… That a lot of tips appear in the book several times (first ‘officially’, then repeated in the chapter with tips from Holga users) does not really help either.

Still, it’s nice to browse through the book for the pictures. It can get a bit tiresome, all those hysterical colors and extreme points of view, but hey. It does contain some really nice pictures. So we probably just shouldn’t look the gift horse too deeply into its mouth.

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.