Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Humble Holga

Ah, the Holga. Behind this simple plastic body, fixed shutter speed, an aperture setting that arrives to you basically DOA, and a molded plastic meniscus lens, beats the heart of a quirky little camera. The back regularly falls off, the sides tend to leak light, loading and unloading the camera takes an iron will, and even when you do everything right, it is impossible to predict how your shots will turn out. Yet it is that serendipity that makes the camera so much fun. You see, no matter how hard you try to be consistent, if you were to take three pictures of the same thing, you'd have three very different pictures. The way I shoot, I take exactly ONE photo of a subject and then move on (unless it's a portrait project). In the era of pixel-perfect pictures, it is refreshing to use such an unassuming camera. Plus, If you've never worked with medium format film, I can tell you that it is a singular joy. The negatives, compared to 35mm, are HUGE.

So, this here is my first and currently only Holga camera. We'll call this one Mark I, just to distinguish it from any future Holga additions to my stable of cameras. One of the first things I did was screw a threaded step-up ring into the end of the lens barrel. This lets me use the standard filters that I have for my Nikon. Make sure whatever step-up ring you get has a beginning size of 46mm. Mine goes from 46mm to 52mm. To get it on there, you basically just shove it into the end of the Holga's lens barrel while twisting the threads into the plastic. It's tight, but it works great and that sucker is going nowhere.

Also, I had a spare lens cap from an old Nikon lens. Pops right on there, with a little lanyard to keep it handy.

Now, I also flocked the inside of the camera. When I got my Holga, the inside was shiny black plastic. If there's too much light bouncing around the inside of the picture chamber you're likely to notice reduced contrast and errant glare (which may be a look you're after, I don't know.) There's a great article about flocking a Holga here at Squarefrog. Basically, you mask off the bits you don't want to get paint on 'em (frame counter window, shutter mechanism, and foam pads) and hit the inside with some matte black paint.

Also, I did the aperture mod—again, found here at Squarefrog. Now you may already know this, but the Holga, upon arrival, comes with an aperture plate that swings over the shutter mechanism. The hole in the aperture plate, however, is LARGER than the one in the shutter mechanism. It doesn't pinch off any of the light coming through the camera because the hole behind it is bigger. Here, you can see the aperture lever set to cloudy/indoor to let in all the light it can.

So, really it's as if you were looking through a peephole in a door, and someone held an innertube on the outside of the door so that it went around the opening. Would any of the light be blocked from coming through the peephole? No, because the innertube is much larger than the peephole.

Basically this mod takes the innertube and puts a smaller ring inside of it (in this case a metal washer), lowering the amount of light coming into the camera.

And here the aperture lever is set to sunny. You'll notice I didn't paint the washer black. I kind of like the bright halo effect I get in some pictures that have strong light coming into the lens, it doesn't happen every time, but when it does its usually a pretty neat effect.

So there's the Mark I in a nutshell. Oh yes, I also removed the stop on the lens so that I can twist it a bit further than normal, allowing me to focus in closer.

I'm contemplating what other mods I'd like to do if I were to get another Holga. The good thing about cheap-as-dirt photography is that it's so easy to hack and tweak your equipment, and if you end up breaking something, it's hardly the end of the world. I can do things I'd never try with, say, an antique TLR or my Nikkormat.

Happy snapping!

1 comment:

Ashley said...

Wow. As a beginner... I can't wait to get my hands on one of these bad boys. I love taking things apart, a lil mod, and presto! Better than new. Great instructions. Keep 'em coming!