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What Is a Holga Camera?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2014
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A Holga camera is a camera produced in China by the Holga company. The Holga was first introduced in 1982 as a cheap camera which was designed to be accessible to most Chinese families so that they could get started with photography. However, the Holga camera quickly began to acquire a cult following because of its unusual design and quirks, and today these cameras can be found all over the world, including in the camera bags of professional photographers. Camera supply stores sometimes sell Holgas and they can also be obtained used.

The Holga camera is made entirely from plastic, including the lens, and designed for medium format 120 film, although more recent models have been equipped with 35mm film. The original Holga camera had no controls or settings; the user simply aimed the camera and hoped for the best. Newer models of the camera have added some controls for functionality, but the controls are kept extremely simple.

Because these cameras are cheaply produced, each one is slightly different. Holgas may vary in aperture size and speed, and many leak light through their cases. These are normally traits which would be undesirable in a camera, but photographers have instead embraced them. The images produced by a Holga camera can have ephemeral qualities; they may be vignetted, ghosted, or streaked with chromatic aberrations, for example. The focus tends to be soft, and the same subject photographed with two different Holgas can look markedly different.

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A skilled photographer with a Holga can turn the seeming disadvantages of the camera into useful tools which can turn images into works of art. Some photographers enjoy the lack of control and unpredictability involved in working with this camera, and remarkable examples of Holga photography are displayed in art galleries and printed with news stories. The effects this camera produces naturally may be things which people would struggle to add with photo editing software.

Photographers who work with the Holga camera may also make modifications to the camera. The low cost of the camera encourages people to take it apart to learn more about the workings and to play with various modifications which can change the way the camera performs. People can turn Holgas into pinhole cameras, modify the camera to be able to change aperture size and exposure length, or even add better lenses to the camera. Other modifications can include sealing the case to address light leakage issues or making other changes to the camera body.

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Photographers who work with the Holga camera may also make modifications to the camera.

The low cost of the camera encourages people to take it apart to learn more about the workings and to play with various modifications which can change the way the camera performs.

People can turn Holgas into pinhole cameras, modify the camera to be able to change aperture size and exposure length, or even add better lenses to the camera.

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