Holga 120 CFN - Staff Review

2008-06-07 17

Light-leaks, vignetting, lo-fi appeal – these are some of the endearing qualities of the Holga 120, an inexpensive, medium-format plastic camera.

1982 saw the birth of the Holga. It was made in China, to make medium-format photography available to the mass-market. The name was derived from the term “ho gwong” meaning “very bright.” When these plastic cameras made it to the West, it was sought-after for the surreal, lo-fi images that it makes. Thus, it earned the moniker “The Plastic Fantastic.”

There are different Holga models, starting with the 120S (now discontinued). Some models are equipped with a glass lens (120GN, 120GCFN, 120GFN), but a huge part of the Holga charm comes from the plastic lens, which yields soft-focus images. On a sunny day, expect some vignetting (darkening) around the edges of your photo. The most recent addition to the Holga family is the 120CFN – with a built in colorflash. Turn the dial and choose from four colors (blue, clear, red, yellow) and you’re ready to bathe your subject in a splash of color.

Plastic body, plastic lens. Holga is extremely lightweight and fuss-free. There are two shutter speeds to choose from – a standard 1/125 for daytime, and a “B” (Bulb) setting for long-exposures. Set it up on a tripod for sharp nighttime photos. You can even shoot multiple layers in one frame, thanks to its uncoupled shutter and advance.

To get the most out of your Holga, experimenting with film is necessary. That way you can discover which works for you and your Holga. Some prefer to use slide film and cross-process it, resulting in dream-like photos with unbelievable saturation and deep colors. Then there are some who go for the “film noir” effect and favor black & white film – the vignetting makes the images more dramatic and mysterious.

Each Holga is different from the other. Some may emit light leaks, others none at all. There are various ways to encourage these light leaks. It’s been suggested that lightly squeezing a finished roll of 120 will allow light to leak in. Taping it up with black tape, or painting the interiors with matte black paint can keep the light leaks at bay – this is called “flocking.”

Another reason why Holga has a cult following – it can be easily modified. Masks can add an extra character to your images, and with a few simple techniques it can even use 35mm film for the Holga “sprocket hole” effect (showing the entire surface of 35mm film).

Currently, there’s a wide variety of Holga cameras to choose from, dressed up in different colors. No matter what you choose to do with it – paint it, customize it, tinker with it inside and out – it’s guaranteed to give you unexpected results every time.

Check out the Holga family’s microsite here

written by shhquiet on 2008-06-07 #gear #mf #120 #staff #review #holga

17 Comments

  1. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Fantastic cult Camera, I love it so much!! I discovered lomography through the plastic eye of Holga, and the day I had it in my hands changed my life!! :)))

  2. begoniac
    begoniac ·

    I strongly agree with you.To me this camera is an absolute treasure...and I also discovered lomography through my Holga,first camera I used and will keep using forever.

  3. lazyrabbit
    lazyrabbit ·

    Seems this camera has taken many lomographers virginitys! i am proud to be 1 of them, this camera helped me re-discover my love of photography and film, i now can never be parted from the chunk of plastic!

  4. makeyuu
    makeyuu ·

    when i discovered lomography, i thought the lca was too expensive. thats why i bought the holga. the effects it gave also tickled me. it was a great time, shooting the first roll and it is still great.

  5. cheeso
    cheeso ·

    I love the Holga, and I am glad I haven't mastered it. I took some shots and got unintentional double exposures that I really liked!

  6. registradus
    registradus ·

    It introduced me to the world of LOMOGRAPHY.

    It is an expensive habit though...

  7. jogintas
    jogintas ·

    yep, shocking good cam! plastic fantastic!

  8. bbg_mae07
    bbg_mae07 ·

    great cam!

  9. makeyuu
    makeyuu ·

    One of the cornerstones. So unpredictably catchy.

  10. darius24
    darius24 ·

    It was my first camera, and also my favorite.

  11. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    my second love after fisheye 2 but this holga is my everytime lover :)

  12. pedro_bautista
    pedro_bautista ·

    I love my hooooooooollllga!!!!

    :)

    yeah!

  13. oscarnewlove
    oscarnewlove ·

    Yep a great lomo. and my starter.

  14. tommynorth
    tommynorth ·

    gives you pictures you couldn't dream of with a digital cam, a great starter i love it

  15. zaharzahari
    zaharzahari ·

    cant wait for my holga

  16. delina
    delina ·

    my first lomo camera <3

  17. delina
    delina ·

    my first lomo camera <3

More Interesting Articles

  • Fresh Lomo LC-A 120 Picks From the Community

    written by lomography on 2015-12-07 #gear
    Fresh Lomo LC-A 120 Picks From the Community

    A year and a few months since it was introduced, the Lomo LC-A 120 continues its exciting journey around the world—from busy streets to scenic far-flung places and everywhere else in between. Here are just some of the many places and faces encountered by this trusty, compact medium format camera (and their adventurous owners, of course!) in recent months, in photographs.

    2015-12-07 3
  • Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    written by Lomography on 2015-11-26 #news
    Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    With an expanded field of view and its ability to produce high quality images and capture minute detail, medium format photography has become the top choice of many photographers. Lomography is working hard to make sure that it keeps going with the continued production of medium format film and cameras. The current issue of German magazine FOTO HITS focuses on medium format photography. And with this rumble, we want to prove why medium format photography is king. Take your Diana F+, Holga 120, Lubitel 166+ or the new Lomo LC-A 120 and show us your best square shots!

    2015-11-26 2
  • Reviews on Rewind: Lomography Ringflash

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-11-27 #gear
    Reviews on Rewind: Lomography Ringflash

    Looking for a reliable flash? Consider the Lomography Ringflash, which throws an even burst of light around your subject! We scoured the Magazine and found these community-written reviews for you to peruse.

    2015-11-27
  • Shop News

    The Lomography Bazaar

    The Lomography Bazaar

    We constantly search far and wide, meticulously seek out, hunt down, and hand-pick some of the most experimental and alternative gear out there - and we've now gathered them all in one easy to browse shop category, ready for the picking! In the Lomo-Bazaar, you canalso be part of our process of collecting fresh new products, rare treasures, and crowd-funded creations to sell on the shop - after all, they’re all for you! Get in touch with us to share your suggestions for amazing gear - go on, we’re all ears!

  • My Favorite Places in Buenos Aires: Feria de Mataderos

    written by Lorraine Healy on 2016-07-13 #places
    My Favorite Places in Buenos Aires: Feria de Mataderos

    Lorraine Healy is an Argentinean writer and photographer. A long-time fan of plastic cameras, she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. Here, Healy shares one of her favorite places to photograph in her native Buenos Aires.

    2016-07-13 7
  • Robin Rimbaud Shoots with the LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-10-05 #people
    Robin Rimbaud Shoots with the LC-A 120

    Robin Rimbaud is a UK based artist, record producer, and composer who works under the name "Scanner" in reference to his use of mobile phone signals and police scanners in his early performances. He has worked on soundtracks for films, sound installations, radio, dance and theater. Robin also has a passion for medium format photography, owns a Holga camera and has a unique photographic style. Get to know him in this interview, where he talks about his personal work as well as his experience with the Lomo LC-A 120.

    2015-10-05 1
  • Memories for Forever: Lomo'Instant Wide Showcase with LINNEY

    written by katphip on 2016-09-07 #gear #people
    Memories for Forever: Lomo'Instant Wide Showcase with LINNEY

    Caitlin Linney, the singer-songwriter of the new electronic phenomenon LINNEY, shares with us some of her memorable journeys through the LA district captured by the Lomo'Instant Wide Camera, and how these photos are for the moments that really count.

    2016-09-07
  • Shop News

    Introducing the Lomo'Instant Milano

    Introducing the Lomo'Instant Milano

    Named for the Italian city situated in the Lombardy region, overflowing with art and culture, say hello to the colorful aesthetics of the new Lomo'Instant Milano, the latest member of the Lomo'Instant family!

  • Black and White Photography: The Forms of the World

    written by lomographymagazine on 2016-01-19
    Black and White Photography: The Forms of the World

    Colors may be amped to look unreal, like nothing of this world. Shots may be doubled, cross-processed, post-processed, mixed up into collages. The possibilities are infinite, yet some photographers still prefer black and white. Even in 2016, it is an ode to classic values of precision and balance. Light and shadow must be one pleasing dance. And just like in a well-choreographed piece, forms are obvious or playing coy. It all depends on how you're looking.

    2016-01-19
  • Monday Moodboard: Dawn of Autumn

    written by lomographymagazine on 2016-09-26 #culture
    Monday Moodboard: Dawn of Autumn

    Things are about to get "chiller" as the fall season begins. Even the usually stressful Mondays will start to feel easy-going.

    2016-09-26
  • Lomo Locals: New York City's Street Photographer Collective at Lomography NYC

    written by lomographynyc on 2016-09-26 #news
    Lomo Locals: New York City's Street Photographer Collective at Lomography NYC

    Take to the heart of New York City with this dedicated street photography collective, meeting once a month here at the Lomography NYC Space!

    2016-09-26
  • Shop News

    Introducing the world's most advanced automatic instant camera, The Lomo'Instant Automat! Back us on Kickstarter!

    Introducing the world's most advanced automatic instant camera, The Lomo'Instant  Automat! Back us on Kickstarter!

    We’re proud to be back on Kickstarter to present: the Lomo'Instant Automat! Meet the world's most advanced automatic Instant Camera. Focus on being in the moment and let this baby capture everything and anything every time! Back us on Kickstarter now!

  • Jonas Bendiksen: Behind the Lens as a Magnum Photographer

    written by lomographymagazine on 2016-09-26 #people #videos
    Jonas Bendiksen: Behind the Lens as a Magnum Photographer

    Norwegian photojournalist and former president of Magnum Photos, Jonas Bendiksen puts the camera down as he shares his life as a photographer.

  • Get Creative with the Lomo'Instant Automat: Set the Sky as Your Limit

    written by Lomography on 2016-09-26 #news
    Get Creative with the Lomo'Instant Automat: Set the Sky as Your Limit

    Can’t wait to get your hands on your very own Lomo’Instant Automat camera? Follow our quick tricks so you can master and get the most out of your instant camera once it comes knocking at your door! The Sky is the Limit!

    2016-09-26
  • This Week on Lomography

    written by Lomography on 2016-09-25 #news
    This Week on Lomography

    Need a quick refresher on the LomoHomes and photographs that were on the spotlight this week? Curious as to what your fellow Lomographers have been up to on the Shoutbox? Or want the latest scoop on the most exciting Competitions? Find all these and more in this weekly recap!

    2016-09-25 5