Help with a Holga 120 camera!
December 14, 2010 8:18 AM   Subscribe

I just impulse purchased a Holga 120 camera (well, one for me, and one as a gift). I know next to nothing about this camera. My questions are: What else should I have in order to get this most out of this fun little camera (accessory wise)? What type of film should I purchase? Any tips you have about interesting ways to use the Holga? Any other must know information? Thanks in advance!
posted by muxnaw to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A few things to remember.
-The shuter speed and aperture are always f11 1/110th second the only thing you can change is the film speed unless you modify the camera.
-400 or 800 film that is color process (c-41) is best for quick turnaround unless of course you are dipping and dunking your own.
-The camera comes with light leaks, you can either tape the camera up to avoid them or embrace them.
-Throw away the lens cap

More here:
posted by WickedPissah at 8:27 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to be clear, a Holga 120 uses 120 film and not 35mm film. Before you start shooting, track down where you can get the film processed and how much it will cost you. If you are in a big city, you can probably still find a local place otherwise start searching online. Film can easily be found at online retailers like B&H and Adorama.

If you have a scanner that can work with this film then you may not need prints which will save money on processing.
posted by JJ86 at 8:33 AM on December 14, 2010

I've always been a fan of Kodak T-Max for B&W film.

It doesn't produce that signature "Holga Look," but I've always been a fan nevertheless. Its color sensitivity is markedly different from other B&W films.
posted by schmod at 8:45 AM on December 14, 2010

Squarefrog's site is the definitive Holga resource.
posted by Gortuk at 8:46 AM on December 14, 2010

This book is excellent and well worth the money. Check it or the websites referenced here by others for isntructions on how to modify the camera to shoot 35mm and to accept filters on the lens. they're both really simple procedures and can lead to great results.

As a general rule, unless you are sure you'll be photographing in very bright light, don't use any film slower than 400; 800 is usually ideal.
posted by newmoistness at 9:07 AM on December 14, 2010

I would highly recommend that the first thing you do is flock the interior of the camera. That is: buy matte black spraypaint (you want a real matte paint, here. no shine), pop open the camera, put tape over the shutter, and paint both the inside of the body and the inside of back. This will increase the contrast of your images considerably, and for the better.

I could list the films I generally use, but such choices tend to be made for very idiosynchratic, particular reasons, so it's probably better for you to just try out several film types and see which you prefer. Note: B&W and reversal may be slightly more difficult to get developed, depending on where you live. Then again, B&W is easy to develop yourself if you have access to a darkroom.

The links above are a good starting place for modifications and the such, so I am not going to be redundant and make any suggestions on my end, save one: remember - this is a $30 camera. It was meant to be modified and tinkered with. If you break it, whatevs - you can buy another! If a particular mod is permanent, but you also want to do other things, whatevs - you can buy another! If you want to have one black holga and one sparkly, bedazzled one, whatevs - you can buy another!

Amassing a small army of holgas = many days of happiness, indeed.
posted by vivid postcard at 10:03 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

My suggestions would be, use your first roll (or couple rolls) quickly and get them processed! You'll figure out what little quirks your camera has (light leaks etc). I know I use my Diana way differently than my "regular" camera. It took a few rolls to figure it out. Try color and b+w. Also, gaffer tape works wonders for temporary, non-gunky sealing up the seams if too much light leaks through!
posted by Swisstine at 10:57 AM on December 14, 2010

Funsavers are cheaper and usually getting 35mm film developed locally is easier. Plus you start with a camera that is light tight, as opposed to one that isn't. It's easier to poke holes in a funsaver than it is to seal a Holga. Plus you get (IMO) a more accurate, clearer viewfinder. I think you can still get a waterproof funsaver for less than a holga, too.

Here's one of my fav funsaver mods: clicky clicky!
posted by Brian Puccio at 12:51 PM on December 14, 2010

Touching on the B&W thing again. Just buy the C41 black and white film. It's not quite as good as using true black and white but it is cheaper to process and faster to process and well, it is a Holga.

Oh also, have fun. And if you really like the 120 film thing you may want to eventually consider one with moveable settings, check out some of the old TLR's. I have an old Czech model that I got for cheap money that has been wonderful. Although Holga's are great too.
posted by WickedPissah at 7:04 PM on December 14, 2010

Thirding the suggestion to try C-41 b&w film, especially if you're interested in b&w photography but would prefer not to process your own film for whatever reason. (And of course you can always get started with developing film later on.)

Be sure to check out this the comments in this previous "Holga Help?" AskMe. There's also a few more AskMe threads tagged "holga" that you might find handy.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 8:46 PM on December 14, 2010

I bought a Holga 120 in March. I putzed around with 35mm in it for a bit (bought a kit and everything). Don't bother. Leave that for Holga 201, when you get bored with 120.

I just shot my first roll of Kodak T-Max 400 a few weeks ago, and I dug the hell out of it. Otherwise, shooting standard 400 ISO negative film should be fine.

One silly-sounding advice that's worked really well for me for compensation for the difference between the viewfinder and the lens is to line up your shot, then take your camera and place the back -- the part with the red indicator window -- on your forehead (without moving your head, naturally). This gives you the shot (for the most part) you had intended. The further away your subject is, the less this matters.

If your Holga has a B and N switch (it's under the lens on mine), watch that like a hawk. It likes to move from Normal to Bulb on it's own, and can make your camera see double if you don't realize it's on.

On, and expired film is cheap film. From what I understand, it's always a YMMV thing, but here's a shot I took on eight year old film I bought for ¥10.
posted by gc at 5:37 AM on December 15, 2010

Oh yeah, take stupid pictures. Do what Swisstine said and burn through a few rolls to get an idea of what you can do.

Also, my new from the box Holga didn't and hasn't (with one exception, I think) required any sort of taping or flocking, and seems to have less light leaks that many have expected. This FAQ backs me up on this, but again, I suspect this is a YMMV sort of thing.
posted by gc at 5:45 AM on December 15, 2010

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