Taking the Brave First Steps into 120 with the Holga 120N


Having been familar with the use of 35mm, I decided to take my brave first steps into medium format with the Holga 120N to discover how rewarding shooting Medium Format could be.

I’d been shooting film with my Fisheye, and my Diana Mini for a long time but was put off by the difficulty of obtaining and shooting medium format. I’d read horror stories about ruining whole rolls or not being able to get the film processed! But after watching my girlfriend have the time of her life with her Diana F+, I knew I had to take the plunge and give it a shot, so I chose the plastic Holga 120N as my travelling companion!

Photo via Four Corner Store

Something about the old black and white medium format photography of my favourite photographer, Diane Arbus, inspired me to finally give it a chance. The Holga 120N had an air of mystery, a certain charm that came with such a simple plastic toy camera with such a huge cult following. I loaded it up with a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 that had been bundled with the camera and wandered into the streets of Nuneaton, my home town, to play with my latest toy.

Credits: johnnyw

The results blew my mind! For my first roll of 120 film I got a near perfect roll of 10 out of 12 shots all with their own little Holga ‘look’. I was an instant convert and my Holga has joined me on my travels for the last 6 months ever since!

Credits: johnnyw

I was worried that the Holga’s viewfinder being set at in an awkward position, at the top left of the camera, that I would have some issues with parallax error, but that wasn’t the case at all, and 90% of the time the photos came out exactly as I visualised them in the viewfinder. With the super fast zone focusing dial on the barrel of the lens focusing was a simple issue and only having to decide between f11 (sunny) and f8 (cloudy) simplified things even further leaving more time to take pictures rather than worry about the setup of my camera. A couple of pounds extra on a collar meant I could also hook up a shutter release cable to my new toy and a built in tripod screw took care of shooting long exposures for me!

I finally managed to pick up some Ilford HP5 Plus film and while the results were not quite what I expected the dramatic black and white grain of medium format film captured my imagination and I can’t wait to expand my experiments further!

Credits: johnnyw

written by johnnyw on 2012-03-27 in #reviews #holga-120-film-medium-format-fujifilm-superia-x-tra-ilford-hp5-plus-nuneaton-disneyland-paris-paris-black-and-white-square #lomography #holga-120n #user-review


  1. franty
    franty ·

    i still don't have one, this review made me want one ever more.

  2. jeffr
    jeffr ·

    holga 120n was my first 120 camera too! great article and i love the photos!

  3. johnnyw
    johnnyw ·

    Thanks guys : ))

  4. blablabla-anab
    blablabla-anab ·

    I just bought one myself, and am very intrigued with the results. I'm thinking of going for a wide-angle lens and some macro rings :) Thank you for the review!! :)

  5. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    Great review, I really like the Blakc and white gallery, i broke my 120N :(

  6. street_smile
    street_smile ·

    Holga will always be my first toy camera love =)

  7. simonh82
    simonh82 ·

    Great photos! Nice article.

  8. johnnyw
    johnnyw ·

    @blablabla-anab i've just got the wide angle lens, it's pretty good. i've only taken one photo with it so far though, got a whole roll of wide angle photos to get developed. I've also got the macro attachments, but the photos i've taken with them haven't turned out very well...
    @everybody else thanks for the kind words :)) xx

  9. blablabla-anab
    blablabla-anab ·

    @johnnyw yeah, i assumed the macros would be the harder, but i have been searching for some tricks around on flickr and such and found some nice data that made me want to try them out :)

  10. davidstafford
    davidstafford ·

    I am desperate to try 120 format but unsure whether to go with a holga or a diana :-/

  11. frau_inga
    frau_inga ·

    Great article, great shots (especially the black and white pictures)!

  12. johnnyw
    johnnyw ·

    @davidstafford - it depends what your attitude to cameras is, there are so many more ways to accessorize and customize a Diana (lens', backs e.t.c) that somewhat pales in comparison to the ways you can accessorize and customize a Holga, for the extra money a Diana might be worth the investment. I just brought my first Diana :).
    @frau_inga - Ahhh thank you : D x

More Interesting Articles

  • My First Lomo Affair: Jourdanlynch and the Holga 120N

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-11-20 in #lifestyle
    My First Lomo Affair: Jourdanlynch and the Holga 120N

    Jodo and his friend used to make fun of the Holga 120N's plastic body and doubted its capability to take even simple photographs. After shooting a roll with it, he instantly got impressed by the artistic portraits it produced. Have a glimpse of these photographs that led him to have a change of heart!

  • Marvelous LC-A 120 Photographs from the Community

    written by chooolss on 2014-12-19 in #lifestyle
    Marvelous LC-A 120 Photographs from the Community

    Lomography has previously shown you the kind of shots that one could take with the new Lomo LC-A 120. Now, with the first batch already shipped out and arriving to their lucky owners, it's the community's turn to show everyone what they've been shooting with this awesome camera!

  • Lovely Squares Courtesy of the Lomography Color Negative 400 (120)

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-08-02 in #gear #news
    Lovely Squares Courtesy of the Lomography Color Negative 400 (120)

    Have a look at these bright and beautiful medium format photographs from the community shot with the Lomography Color Negative 400 for 120 cameras. While you're at it, find out how you can earn piggies and have your own CN 400 (120) snaps be featured on the Online Shop!

  • Shop News

    The Lomography Experimental Lens Kit opens up a new, creative photographic domain!

    The Lomography Experimental Lens Kit opens up a new, creative photographic domain!

    Satisfy your hunger for creative snap-shooting with this lens package made especially for Micro 4/3 digital cameras! Don't miss the 20% discount!

  • Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-04-06 in #gear #reviews
    Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    There are quite a few perks that come with working for a film photography company, and the best perk of all is testing out the latest cameras. I can remember buying my LC-A back in 2009 and being really inspired to shoot film again. When the LC-A 120 came along, I couldn't wait to try it out around London. Join me as I test out this super medium format beauty.

  • Me, Myself and the LC-A 120: Daniel

    written by shhquiet on 2014-10-11 in #news
    Me, Myself and the LC-A 120: Daniel

    The LC-A 120 camera has inspired Daniel to take his medium format film stash from the fridge and start shooting again!

  • Me, Myself and the LC-A 120: Kaho

    written by shhquiet on 2014-10-10 in #news
    Me, Myself and the LC-A 120: Kaho

    Kaho clues us in on the wonders of shooting medium format photos with the LC-A 120 after taking it for a spin on an exotic coastal trip and wedding ceremony!

  • Shop News

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    written by pripri2000 on 2015-04-22 in #gear #news
    Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    Capture the world and all its contours in vibrant, wide-angled photographs any time, any where! The LC-A 120 is an adventure of its own with lots of exciting functions to experiment with, like seamless long exposures or full ISO control. It's also super-fast and ultra-compact - perfect for your everyday. If you're worried about the Medium Format film, don't be! You are free to use any 120 Film you want and there are plenty to choose from. In fact, that's what makes this camera so versatile! Scroll through this gallery for a little taste of the glorious shots this nifty invention is capable of.

  • 18 Awesome Belair X 6-12 Squares

    written by shhquiet on 2015-03-13 in #gear #news
    18 Awesome Belair X 6-12 Squares

    Having a Belair X 6-12 feels like owning more than just one camera. It's a medium-format camera, but paired with its special accessories you can shoot 35mm or instant photos with it, too! The versatility of its 3 photo formats also offers more options to suit your shooting needs. Here, we present to you some of the most gorgeous Belair X 6-12 photos in classic 6x6 format. Enjoy!

  • Something New: Use 35mm Film in Your LC-A 120

    written by efrost on 2015-02-25 in #gear #lifestyle #tipster
    Something New: Use 35mm Film in Your LC-A 120

    What’s something you have to try right away with a new medium format camera? Exactly - put 35mm film in it and take some awesome shots with sprockets on them!

  • Shop News

    Standard Photo Development Services

    Standard Photo Development Services

    Done shooting and want your films to be processed? We can process your colour and black & white 35mm, 120 or 110 films! Development, prints and scans are also included. (Service availability depends on your markets)

  • My First Lomo Affair: Sonjay and her Holga 120 CFN

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-05-23 in #gear #lifestyle
    My First Lomo Affair: Sonjay and her Holga 120 CFN

    Sonja started her analog adventures during her teenage years. She took her first film photographs when she was 13 and has been in love with the magic of the process since. Her idea of a perfect day involves developing film rolls while listening to jazz and having a cup of tea in between. In this interview, she recalls about her experience with her first Lomography camera, a Holga 120 CFN.

  • Shooting Parades with a Sprocket Rocket and a Bunch of Holgas

    written by Lorraine Healy on 2015-07-20 in #world #lifestyle
    Shooting Parades with a Sprocket Rocket and a Bunch of Holgas

    An Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest, Lorraine Healy is a long-time fan of plastic cameras and is the author of "Tricks With A Plastic Wonder," a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available in eBook form on Amazon.com. In this article, Healy shares two recent photo outings where she used 35mm and medium format films.

  • Esbo and her Weapon of Choice: LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-11-13 in #lifestyle
    Esbo and her Weapon of Choice: LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400

    An ardent globetrotter, esbo takes pride in having been to different places and documenting each of these trips in analogue. Aside from her boyfriend dopa, she considers the LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400 as her most trusted companion in making her travels more magical. Read on and discover how she makes her photographs perfect with this fantastic film!