Holga 120N camera review

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The plastic beast

 

I have been thinking about writing a camera review for a while now, but cameras are kind of difficult to review so I decided to start with the most basic camera that I own, the Holga 120N. There is no camera that is more basic than this plastic, fantastic camera from Hong Kong and for such a small lightweight camera, it has a huge cult following around the world.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

What’s in the box? Well for a camera this cheap, I am surprised that they had so much in the box.

 

The camera is very cheap and very cheaply made. When you buy the camera, it will arrive in a very basic box, with a tiny manual, a camera strap, a film mask for shooting 645 and finally the camera itself.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The focus settings and the shutter button can be seen on the side of the lens

 

The camera is very basic, it is completely made of plastic, has a single 60mm F8 lens, no real focus mechanism, a rough viewfinder, a shutter trigger and a film advance nob. This is basically a plastic box which exposes film but that is what all cameras are, a light-tight box that exposes film and you cannot fault the simplicity in its design.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The plastic lens, which is supposed to be an f8/f11 lens, but I tend to think it is just an f11 lens as I don’t see much of a difference between the two settings when you look at the film

 

The heart of any camera is the lens and this camera has a single fixed lens that is completely made of plastic. The lenses of the lens are made of plastic, the lens barrel is made of plastic, the focus ring is plastic, everything except the cold shoe is plastic on this camera. The camera is supposed to offer the aperture setting of f8 and f11 that you can select from the top of the camera but I am not really sure it does anything because the photos seem to have the same depth of field and exposure when shooting with the different settings.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The film advance knob can be seen on the top left corner of the camera. This is a completely manual camera and you have to advance the film yourself after each shoot.

 

The lens has 4 focus zones shown in pictograms, and hopefully, you will get a sharp-ish image when you select the correct focus zone. The lens focus ring is stiff and takes some effort to adjust, but it is not really like manually focusing, it is more like zone focusing and hoping that you guessed right. To the right of the lens, is the shutter button, which will expose one frame, but this camera is completely manual and after a single frame, you need to use the film nob on top of the camera and advance the film yourself. This mechanism means that it is really easy to accidentally shoot double exposures, so be careful when shooting.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

Accidental double exposure.

 

The shutter is very quiet, you can hardly hear it, so this camera is good to shoot street photography. The lens is said to be around f8 but it is really hard to know if this is true. There is no information about the shutter speed but it seems to around 1/100 and it cannot be changed. The lens can be a little sharp in the center but it is soft in the corners and vignettes a lot.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The simple shutter mechanism for the camera can be seen here. It is controlled by a simple steel spring so shutter speeds will be different across all the cameras. It could be anywhere around 1/100th of a second.

 

The inside of the camera, you can insert the film mask to shoot 645 with the film mask. With the film masks, use 6×6 for 12 shots and 4.5×6 for 16 shots. I have only used the 6×6 mask on this camera. Next, to the film spoils, you will notice some foam inserts and they help to keep some tension on the film and hopefully flat when you shoot a shot.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

You can clearly see the lens vignetting in this image. I think most photos shot with the Holga are best to be composed with the subject in the middle of the frame. The lens is sharpest there and the vignetting will not impact your shot.

 

The top of the camera is very basic, just the film advance nob and the cold shoe on top of the camera. Really basic and a good camera for people to learn with.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The film advance knob. Make sure to check the film counter in the red window at the bottom.

 

The back of the camera is very simple, just a basic plastic back plate and a red plastic window that allows you to view the film number when you are shooting.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The back plate is made of plastic and with the film viewer in the lower portion. You can adjust the switch to either 12 frames or 16 frames so you can read the film correctly

 

The red window has a selector switch but this has no effect on the camera and just displays the right film counter on the film paper. You need to select the correct frame type, as you will get 16 shots when shooting 645 and 12 shots when shooting 6×6.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The film window with the frame selector seems to be the main source of light leaks for many Holga cameras so be careful with this part on the camera and tape it up if you’re having problems with light leaks

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The insides of the camera. Pay attention to the foam inserts

 

The back plate is completely made of plastic and the camera has no light seals, so if you are lucky, the camera will be well made and seal well, but most cameras don’t and they will have some kind of light leak but these light leaks give Holga its unique look and fell in the images that it creates.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

You can clearly see the foam inserts and the metal shutter. This is about the only metal part in the whole camera.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

Make sure the film viewer window line up with the correct frame numbers printed on the back of the film

 

The back plate is held in place with some simple metal clips, and they are not very strong. It is very easy to bump them and the back plate can come off, so be careful with the clips. Lots of Holga shooters will tape this clips up to make sure that the backplate does not come off.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The metal clips that attack the back onto the camera are not very strong so if you are gonna be a little rough with this camera, i suggest that you tape them up.

 

 

The viewfinder of this camera is in the top left-hand corner and it is not even close to being accurate, At best that you can hope for is to shoot everything in the center and hope nothing is strange on the edges of the frame. If you want to shoot precisely composed images, then this camera will drive you crazy.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The viewfinder is plastic and it is just a guide more than an accurate composing tool. This is a camera meant for fun, so make some mistakes with it and enjoy your time shooting.

 

At the end of the day, a camera is just a light tight box, and one box is the same as all others, so a Leica box is that same as Nikon or a Holga. The lens and the film give the camera its feeling and look, and the way you feel when using the camera is the most important thing. This camera is simply fun to use. It makes people simile when they see it, it looks like a toy feels like a toy and can make some interesting images.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

The center is sharp enough but looks at the edges of the frame and everything is soft

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

This is a fun camera, take it with you when you are goofing off and playing around with your friend.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

You will get surprises from this camera and have no idea what is going on. I have no idea why there is the line in this shot and that is what makes Holga unique.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

I have used this camera at work and it is fun but don’t expect anything sharp from this camera.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

Shooting a concert with a Holga always gets many smiles.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

I think that the Holga is best suited to color film. With black and white, it loses some of its magic.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

A shot like this, what do you set the lens to focus on…….. I had no idea and just took a guess. Not sharp at all but the photo still has its charm. Not every photo has to be tack sharp to be good.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

When you get the focus and exposure right, the center of the frame can be very sharp for a plastic lens.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

I often use the Holga as a manual point and shoot camera while I am traveling around China. If I see something interesting, I can pull it out and take a quick shot. No one pays much attention to you shooting when you are using a plastic, toy looking camera.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

Being a 6×6 medium format camera, you can get some bokeh but getting the focus right when shooting something close to the camera is not easy and parallax errors can drive you crazy at times.

 

I am very happy that I bought my copy of the Holga 120N. In 2015 the cameras went out of production but you can still buy them online, but I am guessing that the prices of them will slowly creep up. This plastic camera is a great tool to inject some fun back into your photography. It is really not designed for serious work and trying to use it for anything serious, defeats the purpose of this camera. Buy one, shoot it, smile, and enjoy your shoots once they are developed.

 

DSC_3921-1024x683 Holga 120N camera review

I am not sad that I bought a Holga and I have enjoyed my time with the camera. I don’t use it often, because film costs more than the camera does but it still puts a smile on my face when I use it. Any camera that can make you happy when shooting is a good camera in my book.

 

To give this camera a final rating is so difficult, the build quality is…..uh……not great, the lens is …..uh…..no great, …….it does not give you a lot of control but what it does give you is pure fun and any camera that can give you a lot of fun is a good camera in my opinion. So my final score for this camera is 80%.

 

 

 

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