The Lens Series: Holga HL-C lenses
I’m sure most readers are familiar with the work of photographers using Holga cameras. The medium format Holga was originally designed and manufactured in China in the eighties as a mass-market camera for the Chinese. However, the rise in popularity of cheap 35mm cameras meant that the Holga wasn’t an initial success. Somewhat ingeniously, the manufacturer hit on the idea of selling them to photographers in the west. Not as high quality cameras, but as ‘lo-fi’ cameras where the imperfections and aberrations of the plastic lenses became part of the image. This worked and the Holga became a commercial success.
Now, while Holga cameras are cheap, if you are not a film user they are also inconvenient. Not everybody wants to develop and scan medium format film. The perfect solution would be a Holga lens that works with a digital camera body.
Well, now you can buy Holga lenses for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony or Olympus digital SLRs from <a href=”http://shop.holgadirect.com/collections/digital-holga-kits”>Holga Direct</a>. There are also lenses available for Olympus Pen, Panasonic Lumix, Sony NEX and Samsung NX digital compact cameras. The photo shows one of the lenses mounted on my EOS 40D.
The Holga lenses take a little getting used to. They have a fixed aperture of f8 and this makes the viewfinder quite dark. There’s no autofocus – just four settings that you can choose from depending on how close you are to your subject. There is no electrical communication between your camera and the lens. This doesn’t effect exposure – you can set your camera to aperture priority and it will calculate the correct shutter speed to use depending on the ISO set.
I find I get the most effective results when I keep the composition simple, like in the above image. I use the Holga lens on my EOS 40D, which has a crop sensor, as there is too much vignetting on my full-frame camera. I often compose with the subject in the centre of the frame, as this is where the image is sharpest. If I want to, it is easy to crop to the square format in post-processing to imitate the look of true Holga cameras.