Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter
The Holga camera was originally produced in Hong Kong in 1982 and uses 120 roll film because at the time it was the most widely available film in China. It’s name purportedly comes from the Chinese phrase ho gwong meaning “very bright.” Unpredictable results and a toy-like price have made it popular with photographers who like to have fun. In a day in which digital SLRs are technological wonders, the Holga is the anti-camera.
The Holga is most famous for its optical imperfections. A combination of the camera’s basic construction and 60mm plastic lens produces the vignetting, blur, light leaks, and distortions that have endeared Holga to the world. The lens has aberrations and vignettes like crazy; of which practitioners of Holgaraphy prize greatly.
Purist alert: If you like to shoot large format photography and into precision and predictability, please read no further.
One of the easiest ways to create digital Holga images is to buy a Holga lens for your digital SLR. There are companies, such as HolgaMods, that will slice and dice that optically imperfect lens right off a Holga body and mount it onto a body cap allowing it to be attached to a digital SLR. Prices vary based on the cost and complexity of making them work and they are real Holga lenses but without any light leaks caused the body. Focusing uses the same scale-type method beloved by Holgamites everywhere but who cares about focusing; it’s all about having fun with your photography
How do HolgaMod’s Digital Body Cap Lenses work? Pretty good. The above is a portrait of my wife made using a Canon EOS Rebel Xti and the HolgaMods lens. Camera was in Aperture Priority mode and since the lens is about f/8, I set the ISO at 800. That produced a shutter speed of 1/25 sec. Since the Holga lens lacks contrast I boosted the blacks (without increasing contrast) by using Power Retouche’s Black Definition plug-in and lightly burned the four corners of the photograph with Photoshop’s Burn tool. But since the Rebel has a 1.6x multiplication factor, much of the trademark vignetting is missing that a full frame camera might produce but, then again, maybe not.
It’s been said “Each Holga is like a fingerprint and no two are alike.” My friend Matt purchased a lens for his Canon digital SLRs and got completely different results than I did. If you read my previous post about the three phases that photographers experience, a digital Holga takes you back to the fun of Phase I.
Joe Farace is the author of a new book called “Studio Lighting Anywhere” that’d available in all the best bookstores as well as Amazon.com.
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