Holga 120 CFN

Holgas are a piece of shit. You don’t want one. Yeah I know, you might THINK you want one, but you don’t. Don’t buy it off Amazon, don’t buy it from your local camera store or even that overpriced package deal at Urban Outfitters. While we’re at it, don’t buy a record player from Urban Outfitters, either, those Crosleys are just foldable trash. If you want to fold trash just grab something from the recycle bin at work, fold it, and be done with it.

I suppose a little background would be helpful. I have a Holga, two actually. They are fun cameras that take shitty photos that are all soft-focused vignettey things that Instagram made you want. “Gotta get a Holga, I can make real pictures like the sort I make with Hipstamatic on my cell phone. I can get my Holga and sit on the curb with my Smith-Corona typewriter, drinking $7 coffee while writing my memoir and listening to Arcade Fire albums on my foldable Crosley trash.”

Holga is in a class referred to as “toy cameras,” all plastic cameras (lens included) made cheaply in China back in the 80’s, using 120mm film, which was widely available to the Chinese working class. By the late 90’s art photographers got hold of these, they loved the unpredictable nature of the cameras that made unique photos. Light leaks and loose closures were sealed up with electrical tape, it was very DIY and created unique, dreamlike results.

The hipsters aren’t the reason I’m angry at my Holga. Hipsters are fine, they can do what they want it doesn’t affect me in the least. Here’s the deal, sometimes I can go out for a day armed with a Holga and bring back pictures like this…

Then on the next roll of film they come back looking like this…

This was from a roll I shot at the Breadloaf School in Ripton, VT a couple years ago. They would probably have been neat shots but, you know, Mr Holga decided otherwise.

I can’t tell you how many rolls of film I ruined on my Holga. Six bucks for the roll of film, plus another 7 or 8 to process that roll of film, and I’m out 14 bucks and a roll of images that I might have really loved, had they worked. Then I put the camera away, only to take it out a year later for “one more try” and I get some great photos that I’m happy to have taken the chance on. So I can’t just throw this thing away, because while the possibility for critical failure is huge and always waiting to pounce, so too is the possibility for some one-of-a-kind treasures.

I guess if you MUST do the Holga, go ahead. Just don’t spend too much on it (35 bucks. If you’re paying more than 35 bucks on a new Holga, look for another one), expect failure, and bring a second camera with you – you’re probably gonna lose the ones you shoot with the plastic Chinese toy.