The Three Hundred Dollar Holga

I bought the Instax back for the Lomo Belair, even though I didn’t have a Belair, after seeing how people were modding it to put on the back of all kinds of cameras.
@Jana had bought the Belair, and wasn’t happy with it, as were most people, and gave it to me.  I decided to see what people were complaining about.

Summary:  It’s a camera with tons of promise, but a crappy crappy lens.   If used very carefully, you can get good pictures from it.  With probably a bunch of failures.

Pros:
1) it has masks for 6×6, 6×9 & 6×12.
2) auto exposure with a light meter
3) it comes with 2 lenses & accompanying viewfinders  (55mm, 90mm)
4) It’s the only camera with an Instax Wide back.
5) medium format
6) very stylish

Cons:
1) Ive only tried the 55mm lens, but it only has 2 apertures.  F8 and F16.  Its a plastic lens, which is so soft and crappy that you should only shoot F16.  Always.  And stabilized.  With high speed film.
2) I’m not even listing any other bad things about it, because that one thing is the killer.

They do sell glass lenses you can use instead, but after spending $300 to find out that you have to spend more to get decent pictures, …I can see how people wouldn’t spend the extra $190 (?) for another lens, .when they feel bad about the ones they already bought.

So off I went to check it out.
First, I shot some Instax pictures, which were actually OK, once I figured out exposure.  They recommend using an accompanying thin plastic neutral density filter during the day, but it was a little overcast, and the first picture was so dark, I didn’t use it after that.

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Instax is ISO 800

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Getting there…

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Better

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Another problem is the viewfinder.  It may not sit exactly facing forward when snapped in, and you may be aiming a little higher or lower than expected.

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I was actually aiming to the right, with more sidewalk.

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I actually like how his head is cut off here a bit.  Its more interesting framing, but not what I intended.

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Finally learning to compensate for the viewfinder.

Ok. On to shooting film.
We went over to an abandoned building, where I didn’t wind correctly, so I got some overlapping shots.  However, exposure was good, and focusing went OK.
The lens has distance marked in meters on the lens, and I tried to always focus properly when using the camera.  In these shots, it worked out.     (Note, infinity is not in focus, which is another criticism of the camera.EBZ_379EBZ_380EBZ_382

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Yes, the graffiti says “KODAK FXER”

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A day later I took it to a backyard party, where I took 2 shots in focus, but then visited a burned out house nearby, where I totally focused incorrectly. Again, I’m trying to be very careful, and setting focus and aperture before every shot.

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I love this shot. This is my favorite picture from this camera.

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Ok, ^this one isn’t totally sharp.  My friend taking the picture may have moved the camera a little.

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Good

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Totally missed focus

A few nights later I went to a party where some people were spinning fire.  I shot some of that Kodak C41 black & white film (which they stopped making) , on 35mm film.  I used a few 3D printed cassette holders inside the camera to hold the roll in place.
I scanned the film as color, which for some reason made it blue.  It was a unique look, so I kept scanning it blue.
In these shots, I had the camera on bulb.
I actually was using a flash, but didn’t have it set high enough, so the flash didn’t freeze the person at all.    (Side note about the flash.  the camera has been criticized for its poor flash shoe.  Indeed, although my Vivitar flash was locked into it, it still rocked forward & backwards a bit, and didn’t fire all the time.)EBZ_420-2EBZ_420-3EBZ_420-4

Sunday, I was on Capitol Hill in Seattle, and tried some regular daytime street shooting.  I was shooting 6×6 to get more shots per roll, to get more experience with the camera.
Unfortunately, again, although I was focusing carefully, and it was a sunny day, many of the shots were not in focus.    It may have been a bit of camera shake, because I was using ISO 50 film at F/16.    So….that would be 1/50th shutter speed?   I should have used faster film.  These results are particularly disappointing.img_493img_494img_495img_496img_497img_498img_499

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I like this one.

This camera would have tons of promise, right?  Its almost a poor man’s medium format XPan, for god’s sake.  It’s so versatile.   3 frame sizes!  Instax! 2 lenses! Auto exposure!  In many ways, it beats the pants off a Holga.  And would totally be worth the money if it did.

So the question is………..can we mod it somehow, to get better results out of it.
I took it home, removed the film back,  and put clear tape over the film plane, put the camera on Bulb, and held different lenses in front of it, in place of the lenses it came with.  The shutter is in the camera body, so this would seem to be an ideal solution.  The trick would be to find a lens that fits the focal distance from the lens to the film.   So far, I haven’t found one.   I was very hopeful that my 15mm Voigtlander would do the trick, but no go. _If_ I could find an alternative lens, I’d gaffer it on and this could be one of my favorite cameras.

I’m still going to experiment and shoot with it.  But with a refined strategy of:
1) only faster film
2) only F16
3) only in daytime
4) stabilized if possible.  Using a tripod or set it down on things
5) be very careful about focusing

These strategies run counter to Lomo’s “shoot from the hip” philosophy.
I don’t want to give up on this camera, and I won’t, for a while.  Its a genuine pleasure to shoot.  Yes, its difficulties and its challenge make it enjoyable.  I’m convinced that I can consistently get good pictures once I get used to it and use it carefully.

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3 thoughts on “The Three Hundred Dollar Holga

  1. Absolutely, keep working with it. And yes ISO 400 will give you better results. That’s what I shoot in my Holgas. I’ve wondered about those Lomo folding cameras. But I have enough cameras (can one ever say that really?).

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