Holga TLR CF: First Thoughts


Are you thinking about buying a Holga? What about a TLR camera? You might want to read about my first experience of using either and both, through the Holga TLR camera!

Just under two weeks ago the Holga TLR (in sports car red) arrived at my door. I chose red, because, I can’t help myself when it comes to its ‘flashy’ color.

As a first time user of a Holga camera, and also a first time user of a TLR camera, I had no idea what to expect. But since I’m game for a challenge, I chose both rather than following the normal recommendation of a basic Holga N or CFN.

I won’t dwell too long on the things everyone expects from a Holga; the usual bullet focus and wild vignetting are all there. What did surprise me about my recent model was how it was quite robust. There are no evident light leaks (feel free to disagree looking at the pictures, but I’ll explain my theory in a moment), film wound tight, the back is firmly kept on by the metal clips. I did have to bend one a little to tighten it, but the camera feels like you could play soccer with it and it would survive. Time will tell.

My first major surprise, something that users of TLRs will of course know, is that the viewfinder reverses what you see — move the camera left and the view seems to go right, and vice versa! This is initially confusing, and I hate to say it, but after practicing I was not getting any better at it — woe was me!

Here’s a tip: I have discovered how to get around this. With a regular viewfinder, you move the camera as an extension of your face, your eyes. With a TLR camera, you should move your body around like a pinion, and keep the camera still. Once you start doing this everything flows nicely.

Onto the lomographs! Any new tool requires practice so I fed the Holga some quality Kodak Ektacolor Pro160 film and shot around the garden, house and local park. I played around with impunity, resisting the urge to take technical practice shots.

I used the colour flash (cross processing — without cross processing!):

Credits: adam_g2000

Turned it off:

Credits: adam_g2000

Got in close:

Credits: adam_g2000

And tried the shot from the hip (which with a TLR, sort of goes without saying!):

Credits: adam_g2000

I wouldn’t say I had any award winners, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well everything came out! One of my favorite things about the Holga bullet focus is the way it can frame a portrait. This camera doesn’t disappoint!

After a week and some practice, I was flying:

Credits: adam_g2000

Above I mentioned that there were no evident light leaks. The images above definitely show something resembling a light leak. Are those the classic red streaks? In this case I don’t think it is — those streaks are round, curved. My Holga is red. In these shots the camera has the sun on my left, and the red is reflecting from the lens side into the glass! So bare this in mind if you choose a colour. I’d be keen to see if anyone else with a coloured Holga has experienced anything similar? Anyone?

Pros: a great lightweight, solid, cheap, easy to use camera, brilliant shots without having to think, colourflash built in is massive fun.

Cons: Difficult to use the viewfinder, takes lots of practice, coloured case can colour the photos.

written by adam_g2000 on 2011-12-02 in #reviews #fun #colourflash #focus #tlr #kodak-ektacolor #test #garden #review #bullet #park #holga #tips #red #spring


  1. adzfar
    adzfar ·

    I really love the kid expression. Very nice!

  2. wuxiong
    wuxiong ·

    lovely pictures...<:)

  3. gvelasco
    gvelasco ·

    Good pix. I don't care for the camera.

  4. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    Well Done :D

  5. tomkiddo
    tomkiddo ·

    awesome photos!!

  6. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @gvelasco What are you talking about? The camera is beautiful! ;)

  7. iandevlinphoto
    iandevlinphoto ·

    where did you find said camera

  8. iandevlinphoto
    iandevlinphoto ·

    where did you find said camera

  9. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    I purchased it here in New Zealand on a web site called Trade Me.

  10. renenob
    renenob ·

    great photos!

  11. jeffr
    jeffr ·

    great review! i was very curious about this camera when i first found out it existed - though that was after i already had a holga and had just gotten a yashica tlr

  12. pangmark
    pangmark ·

    great pics (gotta love trade me!)

  13. ihave2pillows
    ihave2pillows ·

    great pictures

  14. josinuhe
    josinuhe ·

    Great to see a review about Holga TLR, mine it's a Holga 135 BC TLR. I agree you with the confusing viewer, but good results are possible with a little practice, congratulations for your pics and for choosing this cam! I think there are few people using them... :)

  15. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    Hi @josinuhe, it took a while for this to get published, I wrote it in mid-November, I might follow this up with another post use review as I've found it to be a wonderful camera, the viewfinder is now an asset and not a hindrance, it is probably my favorite camera.

  16. belaf
    belaf ·

    the pictures are lovely and the camera is amazing!

  17. lokified
    lokified ·

    Very cool. I want a TLR & am currently tossing up between a Holga 135 TLR or a Blackbird Fly.

  18. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @lokified I'd go for a TLR that actually uses the top lens to focus, as a viewfinder, it's not so great though not inaccurate. You can't take pics so fast.

  19. lokified
    lokified ·

    @adam_g2000 Then it seems the BBF is my BFF. (Ow. It hurt to make that joke)

  20. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @lokified don't look past some sort of Lubitel...

  21. lokified
    lokified ·

    @adam_g2000 They look nice, but the price puts me off, and I worry about shipping a delicate instrument like that all the was to Australia. :)

  22. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @lokified I did it twice and both were fine (to NZ). I ended up settling on the L2 from trademe and I then saved piggies for a Lomography one.

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