Thursday, January 06, 2005

Fun with a 20 buck camera

Lately, I've been taking some photos with my recently aquired Pentax spotmatic II and having fun with it. It's a great old camera that is almost as old as I am. For some reason, I really like that about it. It's completely manual, apature, shutter speed, everything, so it's had a learning curve, but it's been a lot of fun. Well, like I always do, I did a google search on the camera, and found some photo blogs that used it, or displayed images that I admired and aspire to be able to take one day. Well one of these photo blogs, Shutterbug in the about section, listed a camera, I had never heard of. So of course, I figured it was some high-end camera that I couldn't hope to ever use let alone own. A holga! Well, I googled searched holga, and found some interesting stuff.

What's a Holga
In short, a holga is a plastic toy camera, that uses medium format film. The long of it, a holga is a camera constructed almost completely of plastic, with the shutter mechanism being the only exception. It's made in the Peoples Republic of China. The shutter only has one speed 1/100, and there is "two" apature settings, f8 and f11, but actually, it's just f8. Yes, the lens is plastic too! The lens cap is a rubber plastic, that feels like the top of a can of peanuts, just not as thick. Being that a holga isn't construction from "exotic" materials, like aluminum and glass, they are really pretty inexpensive. I got my from HB Photo including shipping (USPS 1st Class) for $20.65. Not bad for a "Medium format camera". (Side Note, I don't know how it worked, but I got the cheapest shipping that HB Photo offers and the holga showed up in two days! I ordered it tuesday around 10am and it got to the house thursday at 11am.)

Why a Holga
Holgas take some very interesting and beautiful pictures. There is something about the way the images taken with the holga vignette around the edges. Or the way that that images seem to have a nostalgic feel to them. And for the prices, it seemed like a great way to get to play with medium format film, and just play with photography. The more I looked into it, the more sites I found on modifying your holga. I loved this, it's 20 bucks, and you get to modify it! Sign me up! From what I read, you really need to modify your holga to get some consistent results. For example, there are two little holes in the top of the inside of the camera that leak light. Also the inside of the camera is fairly shiny, so it needs dulled down a little bit. Also, if you don't have velcro, or a rubber band or something that back of the camera can fall off.  I loved that! The fact that you had to modify it, even better!

Modifying my Holga
I found many sites on how to modify your holga. So armed with some web tutorials, a holga and some hobby tools I went to it. First thing was my holga needed a tripod mount. Armed with a cordless drill , a 1/4 by 20 nylock nut and some epoxy, and ten later my holga had a tripod mount. So feeling pretty good about this, I kept going. Next I "flocked" the inside of the camera. Basically this is painting the inside of the camera with ultra flat black paint. Now it's starting to look like a real holga, well from what I saw online anyway. Next I had to modify the shutter. Now with a normal camera there is no way, I would even thing of it, but this is a holga. After some google searches, I found this article on modifying the shutter. Basically, if you can use a piece of wire coat hanger to switch between shutter speeds of 1/100 and "bulb" (the shutter stays open as long as you hold the shuter button down). I also added velcro to the sides and back to keep the back on, and a piece of velcro for over the exposure window for light leak control. I also modified the film gate so that the camera with take pictures in a 6'X6' exposure. Now, I did have one part that didn't go so good. There is a modification to make the camera have two apature settings. Well, I used a little too much epoxy on the back of the apature arm, and it broke the first time I tried it. This is where the holga being a 20 buck camera comes in to play. I just said, well, I guess I don't need it, and just pulled the arm out. It was a lot of fun. It was like putting together a model car when you were a kid, except after you are done you can take pictures with it.

If you don't want to perform surgery to get your holga to work, Holga Mods offers holgas modified in ways you wouldn't think possible, with good prices.

In the end, I find this camera to be a lot of fun. It looks like a toy camera, so you can't take it or yourself to seriously while using it.


PixieStitch said...

Its the McGuyver Camera!
Now if I have a wire hanger I can make it to this. And watch, if I take a bic pen . .
hehehehe, its a McGuyver Camera!

Russ said...

Yeah, basically it is a McGyver camera, and that is what I love about it. It's not a camera for everyone, but it sure does make taking pictures fun.