Those who have used a Holga know what a character it is; those who haven’t heard of it need to get one and try it out. The Holga is a gem. Medium format, 120 film. Completely plastic camera – plastic body, plastic lens. Operation is as simple as it gets – exposure is 1/100 or Bulb; focus distance is near, further away, quite far and really far. Aperture is Sunny or Cloudy (roughly f11 or f8). And the body will – as I found – fall open if you’re not careful. But it’s great fun, you’ll find photos all over Flickr and the usual places. I ran a couple of films through mine – Ilford XP2 and Portra 400 – just to see what it looked like. I got that typical Holga vignetting and I’m pretty sure I’ll be using it again. Oh, and it cost me less than $40 for the top of the range model with flash. Who says photography has to be expensive?
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I don’t know why I would go back to shooting film again. A couple of months ago I found my old F60 and it still had a roll of film in it, only half-shot. I wondered, this last decade of shooting digital, of learning how to shoot, had it actually made me a better photographer? Remembering the years that I shot only film, because there was no alternative, I also remembered the anticipation of waiting for films to come back from Boots the Chemist or wherever else I had sent them. That anticipation often didn’t measure up to the final product, sometimes I had blurred the shot, or shooting with flash I had never understood the concept of sync speed, leading to a portion of the shot being blacked out by the moving shutter. Had I actually improved as a photographer? Well, at least I now understand sync speed and can recognise the problem for what it was, so maybe the rest of my ‘skills’ have also improved.
The F60 is a pretty lousy camera by comparison with some of the others out there, and you can pick up a great film camera for very little money these days. When I knew the bug was back I quickly bought a F90x (N90s in the US) and a Nikon FE for next to nothing. Poles apart, but both in great condition and fully functional. It took me a while to stop looking down at the back of the camera after each shot (seriously!), but I realised that I do understand f-stops, and ISO, and exposure in general and I think this will be more than just a passing fancy.