Hello Holga: Holga 135 review

I’ve been wanting to give film photography a try for a while now, so last year made it my mission to shoot a roll of film – and I bought a Holga 135 to do it on.

Holgas are a brand of ‘toy’ camera first made in Hong Kong in the 1980s, similar to the Diana cameras that were really popular a few years back (although those originally came out in the 1960s). There are two types of 35mm Holgas: the 135, which is the one I have, and the 135BC. The BC stands for ‘black corners’, as it produces vignettes at the corners.

Whichever Holga option you choose, they’re cheap, plasticky and known for producing images with vignettes, unpredictable light leaks and a soft-focus blur. I’ll admit these don’t sound like a selling points, but it’s all part of the charm – you never quite know how your photos are going to turn out.

This being my first roll, I was expecting mixed results – and that’s definitely what I got. Holgas don’t exactly have a whole lot of settings to play with, which is part of what attracted me to them in the first place. It’s film photography for dummies! That being said, I still messed up half the film thanks to its pesky bulb switch.

Although the Holga has a few settings, they don’t really do all that much – apart from, that is, the bulb switch. This nifty setting allows the shutter to stay open for long exposures when taking photos at night or in low lighting, which is not what you want when you’re taking a standard photo in daylight.

It also just to happens to be on the underside of the camera, which means it can be easily switched to the ‘B’ setting by accident – especially if, say, you chuck the camera loose into your handbag without a case on it.

I’m not giving up, though! I’ve got a black and white roll to snap with next – and I’ll be checking that damn switch before clicking the shutter.

Tips for shooting with a Holga 135:

  • Careful with that bulb switch! Learn from my mistake and make sure you check that sucker every time you take your camera out, or you’ll end up with half a roll of blurry, over-exposed shots like I did.
  • Tape up the camera. If you’re not a fan of the light leaks, Holga pros recommend taping up the gaps in the camera casing with black tape.
  • Remember to wind the film (or not). This sounds so simple, but I found it hard to get into the habit of winding the film on and ended up with some unintentional double and triple exposures. So I’ll be (intentionally) playing with that more with my next roll.
  • Have fun! I was a bit too precious with my film, saving it until the ‘right’ time, so it took me ages to finish the roll (and half the shots were still rubbish anyway). The results are so unpredictable that there’s really no point in being precious – so, to paraphrase Nike, just shoot it!

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