In the last couple weeks I’ve been back on a camera buying binge, only this time it’s been buying plastic Soviet-era cameras. I snagged a FED50, a Smena 8m, and a Smena Symbol. As I run film through each, I’ll have write-ups on them. However, in the last couple of days I’ve had the urge to do some photo walks. I’d been stuck in a rut recently, filling my living room and emptying my bank account buying up guitars. It’s an unhealthy obsession, but such a sweet-sounding one. So I took some film cameras out this past week or so. I broke (and fixed) the Olympus XA, grabbed a couple nice camera shots, and today I dusted off the infamous FrankenHolga. After spending some time browsing cross-processing and lomography photos, I really had an itch to scratch. I wanted to practice the art of cross-processing with digital… at least until my new Holga Multi-color gets here from Hong Kong.
The FrankenHolga opens some doors that my other cameras don’t. First, it forces me to use ISO 6400 if I want anything to remotely come out usable. That means grain. The Fuji renders grain at high ISO in a very natural-yet-uniform way that tends to give the photos a film feeling. It also means there is a lot of vignetting — depending on the light conditions and how much post-processing is done.
Lightroom has 3 built-in cross-processing presets. One is very cool, one is very bright, and one is very warm. I personally like this cool-blue one tweaked to warm up the yellows a bit. You’ll notice there are some specks all over these pictures; they are a byproduct of a plastic lens with dust all over it and a defect in the plastic. In this set, unlike previous sets, I removed the large black gunk from the top-right of the images, but left the others to keep it organic.
Another thing about Lightroom and faux cross-processing is the way I can tweak highlights and drop the blacks while still keeping the vignetting light. I’ll be honest a lot of this is just me putzing around until I get something I like visually. This is almost always a crap shoot because I’m doing my editing on a horribly uncalibrated laptop screen, proofing them on my phone, and writing the articles on my 24″ desktop screen. But this only adds to the fun since it means, like the anticipation of waiting for prints, I don’t really know how they’re going to look from one device to the next.
The FrankenHolga has another really nice quality, its fuzzy focus. I don’t mean fuzzy all over – that kind of photo you throw away. I mean fuzzy in parts, sharp in others. When you factor this in with some cross-processing in Lightroom and the high ISO, you get some nice film-like photos. It really can mimic the Holga/Lomography stuff really well. It’s a nice break from the analog. Don’t worry, though, I’ve got 10 rolls of HP5 for my Leica and 5 rolls of Ektar 100 for the real Holga.
It really is a joy taking this camera out. I had a horrible love-hate relationship with the X Pro, but now that it’s been reborn with a cheap plastic lens, I think it’s getting more use. Although, I did have the batteries out of it long enough that it reset to factory when I put new batteries in.
Having a camera that can take crappy photos on purpose is really nice. It offers the opportunity to get back to focusing on composition and just enjoying the act of pushing the shutter release. With something like my FrankenHolga, I can’t even chimp because the images are generally too dark. And playing with cross-processing gives me a much-needed artistic freedom with my photos I don’t usually afford myself.