This post looks at my orangest camera, the striking, shaky, yet surprisingly solid Holga 120N.
Another remake of a classic
Holga 120 CFN
First Film: £5
The Holga 120N is another modern Lomography remake of a classic lo-fi, plastic Hong Kong-made camera, it uses 120 medium format film. The original could only shoot 6×4.5cm images, but this restriction is removed in the remake allowing full 6x6cm shots to be taken, although with noticeable vignetting (darkening of the corners). It has a plastic lens, a sun-and-cloud aperture setting, shutter speeds of 1/125″ or bulb (manual) and the focus is the usual three rough areas, 1m, 2m and 4m+, represented by icons of people.
aperture and focus controls
Rather than being a modifiable system camera like the Diana F+, they have gone the route of making many different models available with different film formats and lens types, mine, the Holga 120 CFN has a built-in four-colour flash. Perhaps as a result of me always aiming for the cheapest option, it is a bright red-orange one.
All taped up
exposure window and select switch
tape over the red window
Prone to light leaks, it actually came with a roll of black tape in the box, used to seal the edges of the case. The catch which holds the back on is worryingly easy to open, so that got a liberal supply of tape, plus I made a little flap to cover the film advance window on the back. Once that was done, it was very simple to use – the shutter had a solid feel, maybe a little too solid as it makes it hard to hold the camera still while pressing it.
Format/Type: 120/Colour Negative
Full Total: £10.57
Cost per shot: £0.66
My Rating: 7
Not terrible but nothing really stands out. The detail is good in some areas and blurry in others, it has a less-forgiving depth of field than other cameras I’ve used. Sometimes this can be used to good effect, but when you only have a viewfinder to compose the shot rather than a view through the lens, it’s difficult to visualise how shots will turn out.
There seems to be a bit of a mix between in-focus and out-of-focus, even within the same shot at differing distances, so it could be the variability of the plastic lens rather than issues with setting the focus in a particular way. The vignetting is more obvious in some shots than others, and with the bright paint job tends to stand out a little bit more than it probably should.
Format/Type: 120/BW Negative
Full Total: £7.78
Cost per shot: £0.65
My Rating: 5
Again, there is a mix of good and bad elements, although the balance is more towards the disappointing end here. For this camera I’ll have to look closely at the bits that worked well and try and take shots with that in mind.
Its strong points are the massive film area and square frame capture pretty much everything you see in the viewfinder, but its seemingly-random lack of clarity and sometimes distracting vignetting can be challenging. It’s probably best to spread your bets by trying to fill the frame with as much interesting and obvious detail as you can rather than try and pick out smaller details in a less busy frame – that way you still get an interesting shot even if not all of the elements are in clear focus.
Not the 120 I am looking for?
The faster shutter helps with slower films, but it’s still tricky to get shots in good focus. It may be the lens is not very good, or that I should have used a tripod more. I think I will experiment with other medium format cameras before coming back to this one.