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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.

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!

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!

written by johnnyw


  1. franty


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

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. jeffr


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

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  3. johnnyw


    Thanks guys : ))
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  4. 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!! :)

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  5. brandkow93


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

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  6. street_smile


    Holga will always be my first toy camera love =)

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  7. simonh82


    Great photos! Nice article.

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  8. 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
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  9. 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 :)

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  10. davidstafford


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

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  11. frau_inga


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

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  12. 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
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