The Holga Digital Camera

Yes, the digital Holga. Not the 120 film Holga, the 35mm Holga, not even the SLR add-on lens but the actual digital Holga. You know what it looks like – a smaller version of the 120 film version – so I won’t bother with pictures of the camera itself.

As for the specs – it is fixed focus with options for 135 (rectangular) or 120 (square) pictures, black and white or colour, and finally settings for cloudy or sunny conditions. No screen to view the images.

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Mine was one of those “too cheap to pass up” eBay purchases. It came with the original box and an adapter to take Holga add-on lenses, of which I already owned the wide angle due to a disappointing dalliance with a 120 film Holga.

For the purposes of this post I took a few pictures on my way home from work in the failing light of early evening so the camera was set to cloudy with low expectations. I have done no touching up of the images in this post, they are all right out of the camera. I deleted any that were too blurred to use (3 images) or completely blank (3 more).

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No wide angle lens.

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With the wide angle lens attachment.

Taking pictures with the Digital Holga is an experience similar to taking photos with most film toy cameras. The camera feels fairly plasticky and the viewfinder is tiny, giving you little more than a rough idea for framing.

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When you press the shutter you wait for a red light to come on in the viewfinder to indicate it has fired. This is not instant. You may be waiting a few seconds and even then it is only approximately when it has fired. You may well end up with a blurred shot where you moved the camera before or after the light.

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As for the images, they’re a mixed bag really. The lens is not exactly tack-sharp if that is what you’re after. Anything from a few feet away to a building across the street, or thereabouts, is probably going to be pretty much in focus. Please take note of how many qualifiers I have had to make that sentence true. Much closer and you are well out of focus, further away and it’s all pretty soft focus at best.

The images are pretty grainy in places and pretty low resolution, but if you went in expecting anything else you were always on a hiding to nothing. My phone has higher megapixel cameras on the front and rear than this so I wasn’t hoping for Leica quality here.

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If you use the wide angle attachment, as I did on some shots, be prepared for some serious distortion toward the edges (or even the slightly outside the centre). However, saying all that the performance in the early evening, fading light was pretty good. When it says “cloudy” it can deal with pretty dull light and still produce an image. The few blank images I got were in conditions my Nikon D3000 would have produced seriously noisy images in, even with the aperture wide open.

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So, that’s the Digital Holga. A mixed bag? Definitely. But it did produce a couple of images on my walk home that I like, in that lo-fi, lomographic kind of way. Will I keep it? As with every other time I have taken it out for a test-drive I remain unsure, one of these days I will have to make a decision.

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