It is #TuesdayTips time again, and this week we are talking about a cost effective way to get that analog or classic look in your photography without using filters. In 1982, the Holga toy camera was introduced in China as a low-cost way for working class families to record important events. The camera used black and white 120 film and was considered medium format. A couple years after its introduction, many photographers began using it for landscapes and still life images. The Holga was considered a low fidelity camera and was adopted by a multitude of impressionistic photographers. The camera has a huge cult following, but unfortunately in 2015 the manufacturer ceased production of this beloved camera and all accessories. How does an old black and white camera help me get that cool analog low-fi look in my digital images you might ask?
With the beloved Holga lens! The Holga system originally came with a lens, but many experimental photographers (like yours truly) modified their Holga cameras, removing the lens and putting a large piece of tape with a pinhole, which allowed us to have a marginally light-tight camera to make pinhole images with. Because the company that made the Holga were fully aware of the popularity of the pinhole modders, they not only manufactured the Holga lens, but also a Holga pinhole lens for Canon and Nikon cameras. These lenses are still widely available on Amazon (links below) and are not only cheap, but a lot of fun to play with. I always have my Holga lenses in my bag, and many times I pop the lenses on and shoot a few frames after I have gotten all the compositions with the “big boy” lenses.
The 60mm lens locks you into f8, so I find that it works best either outside for landscapes or in well lit or long exposure still life compositions. As you can see from the examples, the resulting images are certainly lo-fi, but I think they have a dreamy quality about them. Yes – you can use them for portraits as well. The 60mm lens can be used hand held easily and anyone with a DSLR will find it fun and easy to use. You set the focal length on the top of the lens, by rotating the focal ring to the pictures of the mountain or the person for portrait or landscapes – no autofocus. As of this writing the 60mm lenses are available on Amazon for 16.99 USD.
The Holga pinhole lens is a bit of a different animal. Even in bright sunlight, you are looking at 15 to 30 second exposures, since the lens has an effective aperture of f64. Get a tripod or better yet just set it on the ground and let it sit for a while. You will be surprised with the results you get. This lens, because of the long exposures cannot be hand-held. If you look at the Amazon reviews, this is the biggest complaint. It is the nature of the lens though and works well if used properly. As of this writing, the Holga pinhole lens is only available for Panasonic and Olympus cameras. Check your local camera store for Canon and Nikon versions.
Since the Holga and accessories are no longer being manufactured, I would suggest grabbing one of these fun little lenses while they are still available.
The sample images in this article were shot at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado with a Full Frame Canon 5dmkIV, but the Holga lens also works very well on my crop sensor Canon 7d. The pinhole image was around 30 second exposure time. I did no post-processing, as I was happy with the color saturation and dreamy look of the image.
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