The Holga and avoiding it

From the same people that brought you the Lomo, the Holga is pretty much the same thing, but this time in medium format!

According to the Holga web site the camera is designed and engineered in 1982 in China. The name is derived from Cantonese; Ho Gwong, which supposedly means “Very Bright”.

There are two models of the Holga; The Holga 120 S features an extremely dark lens (f8), fairly wide angle (60mm) and that’s it. The Holga 120 SF is identical, but has a flash. 


According to the web site, the Holga has “soft focus, double-exposures, streaming colors, intense vignetting, and unpredictable light leaks”

Not such a great thing, after all…

The Holga is a complete joke, pretty much like the Lomo, but for different reasons. Yes, it is fun to tinker with, but the entire point of shooting medium format in the first place is to get significantly better picture quality.

The fact that the Holga has a f8 lens is worth shedding a tear over (even single-use cameras have f8 lenses, and they are basically thrown at you). I cannot imagine everything they must have messed up to not being able to squeeze any more brightness out of that lens.

Also, the soft focus argument is rather depressing. Of course, soft focus can be fabulous, but shouldn’t you, the photographer, decide when your camera decides to use soft focus? The same goes for the rest of the list of “features”.

The Lomo had something called the “tunnel effect” which really was due to horrendously bad lens quality. For the Holga, they have at least got the sense to call a spade by it’s real name, and call it vignetting. However, vignetting is never a good thing. Streaming colours, double exposures (providing you cannot control them) and unpredictable light leaks are all signs of a camera that is seriously flawed.

I ran a few films through the Holga the other day, and I must say I was curious if I should laugh or cry. I decided to do the latter. The camera I tried (A less flawed model than the average, according to the owner) was the worst camera I have handled in my life.

It costs £18 brand new, what do you expect?

Well, I really expect people not to fall for that. If you look around a little, you should be able to get a decent TLR for about £25 in an antique shop or used photo dealership. You will be getting something far more reliable, far more fun, and far more exact than the Holga can ever be.

For pete’s sake – if you are going to go with medium format, at least get something where you have any advantage of the format at all! The Lomo is fun, because it offers you to see the world from a different angle. The camera even has a decent lens and a fair chance of taking good shots. The Holga is absolutely worthless.

All in all; I recognize the fact that flaws might “make” the picture. But – and this is important – you should at least be able to control the flaws to a certain extent. Do yourself a favour and avoid this thing!

Still curious? Check out The Holga Website

What do you think?

Have you tried one of these things? Do you think they are worth trying? Is my review fair or completely out there? Drop us a comment!

For your reference, lomo stuff covered on Photocritic before can be found by doing a tag-search for Lomo!

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