Let me just say I love my Holga 120. If you’re not familiar with it already, it’s a Medium Format plastic camera with a meniscus lens. It fires at one shutter speed and one aperture. All of the shots have smudged edges and dark corners, light leaks and soft focus. They used to be available as prizes at midways, and in brighter times they were used in college film classes as learner cameras. There is nothing to get in the way of shooting with a Holga because you can’t adjust anything but what film you use.
And I really, really like my Holga. It has all the characteristics expected in a Holga, but doesn’t suffer light leaks. Of course, it also requires FILM. 120 film to be exact. The economic downside is the cost, which is around $4 for 12 shots. I tried other cameras to get the “Holga” feel. First with a Holga EF-S mount lens for Jen’s 450D. It sat in a box for a year. Then I tried the Takashi FX 521. It’s a big, fat, battery-chewing waste of money. It has a cool CCD and a plastic lens, but it’s just junk. I’ll do a review on it one of these days.
So I decided to build my own digital Holga. Yes, I’m serious. No, I’m not smoking any funny-smelling cigarettes. Laying in a box is a camera I’ve written about before, my Fujifilm X Pro 1. About 3 months ago or so I sold off the lenses (35mm f/1.4 and a 27mm f/2.8) and just let the body sit around collecting dust. So off to eBay I went and tossed a few bucks across the Pacific to snag a sub-$10 EF-S to Fuji X mount adapter to use with my Holga EF-S mount lens.
That’s right, folks. It’s a Fujifilm X mount camera with a Canon EF-S adapter for a Holga lens. The nerdy bits: the APS-C X-Trans sensor of the Fuji makes it a 90mm f/8 lens that I decided to shoot at ISO 6400 in full sun to emulate the grain of film. I took it out today at lunch, hopped down to the cobblestone landing and took some photos. I was more than pleasantly surprised.
Notice the soft focus ? Notice the smudgy edges ? Well, maybe not the smudgy edges but it’s clear that the lens works, and it emulates the real Holga pretty well. Of course, it’s a 90mm equiv so you have to stand 200 yards from anything you shoot, and parallax will defeat you.
Let me go into detail on the settings. I’ve got it set to ISO 6400 , DR 100, Auto White Balance, Noise Reduction -2, Film Emulation “S” (Standard), Highlights 0, Shadows +2, and the Vivitar Thyristor 2800 Flash set to Low Power. Nothing special. In fact, a few of these shots were at 1/2000sec due to how freaking insanely bright a winter noon sun is. The lens is just art and magic rolled up in injection-molded plastic, embossed with a “Passed Q.C. Made in China” gold badge (sticker) of awesomeness.
I can tell you it was a pure joy shooting with this lens and camera. I think this is the happiest I’ve been with the Fuji X Pro 1, or any digital for that matter. I am addicted to film, and being able to emulate it in a meaningful way is difficult. This lens really gives these shots the “I took this on vacation with a disposable camera in 1982” look. I can’t wait to get out and shoot some more with it!
If you’d like to give something like this a try, the Holga lens is available from several online retailers in Canon and Nikon mounts. Get them while you can. Holga closed its doors in 2016 and supplies are not getting replenished. If you want to do it the Fuji way, the X Pro 1 body runs between $200 – $300 and the lens + adapter will set you back another $30 or so with shipping.