I’ve spent over a year making pictures with the Holga 135 BC TLR, and here’s what I’ve found about the pros and cons of shooting with this camera.
My very first, hands-on ‘Lomography’ experience was with a SuperSampler. It was at a Lomography India organized monsoon photo walk in Bombay, and it took me all of 15 minutes to get through the 36 frames I had at my disposal (yeah, I’m kinda slow like that). No viewfinder, no sweat! It was one of the most liberating photography experiences I had had until then.
But when it came to buying my first Lomo camera, a few months later, it was not the SuperSampler that I seriously considered putting money on. No, I was very certain it had to be a ‘proper’ camera. Something with a viewfinder that I could see through so I didn’t feel completely at the mercy of the photo-gods!
I also knew it had to be a shooting format/ style that I hadn’t used before. I’d been shooting on film for over 15 years before my Lomo plunge and in that time I’d shot extensively on 35mm SLRs and the very occasional, borrowed medium format. So I knew that satisfying this criteria was probably going to be a lot more challenging than the first one.
Also, the Lomo feel had to be obligatory. Plastic construction, saturated colors, vignetting and distortion with hassle-free doubles and long exposures.
And, of course, it had to be reasonably cheap to buy and operate. I’m not a millionaire-in-waiting, after all.
After hours of looking through the online shop and browsing through reviews I finally decided to put my money on the Holga 135 BC TLR
I’ve spent over a year making pictures with the camera, and here’s what I’ve found about the pros and cons of shooting with this Holga-
1. Unlike the Holga 120, this one shoots on 35mm film. Now, in most places, this might be a bad thing. But in India, where I stay, this is fantastic because it’s so much easier to get 35mm film developed and scanned than a larger format
2. The Holga 135 BC TLR is plastic goodness personified. The plastic lens provides a good deal of ‘streaking’ towards the edges of the frame which lends an amazing, dream-like quality to the pictures
3. The black corner effect is very pronounced, especially on bright, sunny days, and I like the resulting images. I like how the vignetting frames the subject and adds a small dose of drama and contrast to the images
4. Even with slow-ish film, I’ve found this Holga adds a subtle grain to the pictures which makes for a suitably analog/ retro feel that I have come to enjoy
5. The zone focusing is a charm to use. Really, the focusing couldn’t get any simpler without a loss in control. Unlike some other Lomography zone focusing cameras, like the La Sardina, this Holga offers 4 focusing zones which gives the photographer a lot more control over the picture
6. Before this camera, I’d never used a TLR before. Over the last year or so I’ve found that every time I use this camera my entire image making process slows down. Composing through a small-ish waist level finder is not particularly easy, so I take a lot more time to compose. This slowing down has helped me to be a lot more deliberate and thoughtful with my image making
1. This camera has 2 aperture modes- sunny and cloudy. This translates to an aperture of either f/8 or f/11. I’ve found this to be quite limiting, especially in cities like Bangalore, where I stay, that have overcast skies 3 days out of 5. I find myself having to use higher speed films which severly restricts what I can do with the camera
2. The waist level finder has a default ‘landscape’ orientation which makes it very difficult to shoot ‘portrait’ format (vertical) pictures. Of course, there’s a handy drop-down flap on the finder cover which let’s you compose vertical pictures a lot more easily. But this is, essentially, just a plastic frame so it doesn’t approximate the shooting lens’ field of view. I’ve often found my vertical frames are considerably ‘off’ from what I composed. Despite a year of using this camera, I’ve never really gotten used to this though perhaps it may not be as troublesome for others
3. This Holga has a peculiar ‘clicking’ sound that’s bothered me quite a bit. When you press the shutter there is, of course, the sound of the shutter sliding open and close. But there’s another, louder sound when you release the shutter button. This is made by the movement of a linkage inside the camera body and doesn’t affect how long the shutter remains open. But the two sounds often confuses you into wondering whether you’re shooting in ‘Bulb’ mode. I’m used to it now, but it’s still quite discomforting everytime it happens
Overall, you will see that the pros are what make this camera the quitessential ‘Lomography’ device and the cons are, really, my personal reaction to some of the quirks of this device. The pictures I’ve made on this camera have given me tremendous joy and satisfaction and despite owning 8 other functioning cameras I find myself returning to this one very often.
Also, it is one of the cheapest cameras available on the Lomography online store, which doubles the satisfaction when you see a well made image coming out of it!
Verdict- two thumbs up. If you want mine, you’ll have to snatch it from my cold, dead hands!
The Holga 135BC (Black Corner) TLR Camera is both a twin lens camera and a 35mm black corner camera! Enjoy shooting 35mm pictures, bursting with healthy doses of colour and the much-loved shadowy vignettes with this camera, available in our Shop.