Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Holga Digital - Review

Image © Holga Digital
When people think Holga, they mostly think of the 1981 plastic medium format camera that could be purchased cheaply.  It had plastic lenses and was one of the forefront cameras in the lomography and lo-fi photography groups.

As people changed so did the Holga.  120 film was not as common to find, so 35mm conversion backs were built as were peel apart Polaroid and Fuji instant films.   Now with us being fully into the digital age, T.M. Lee, creator of the original Holga has brought us into the future of Holga with the Holga Digital.

This camera originally started as a Kickstarter campaign.  This is where we learned of it, and for the price of a night out to dinner with the wife, I backed the campaign and received my camera early February 2016.

Here are my thoughts on the Holga Digital.


This is a small camera, almost too small for me.  If it were any more complicated with buttons or levers, it could be difficult for me to use.  Oddly though, as it is, it handles relatively well.  You turn the top right dial from Off to either 135(4:3) or 120(1:1), which is the aspect ratio.  There is a red LED next to the switch to let you know if the camera is on.

The shutter switch is a lever that sits next to the lens.  It weighs next to nothing so just gentle pressure on the plastic body is enough to keep it in hand.  If you need more grip you could always add a few pieces of gaffer tape or similar item to add friction.

The viewfinder is small, but there is an LED in there at the bottom that allows you to know when the shutter has been tripped.

There is no LCD, so you are not going to see the images you take immediately.  There is support for Eye-Fi cards, so if you have one of those and a smartphone - you can get quicker previews.

The camera uses 2 AA batteries, which is nice.  Battery dies, you can get AA batteries anywhere.  I've not tried the camera with rechargeable varieties.


Aspect Ratio:

As mentioned above, you have the choice of either 4:3 (135) or 1:1 (120).  This is set when you power the camera on.  Top right of the camera - LED light indicates that the power is on.  There is a small lag between the light coming on or going off after the switch is turned.


There are 2 settings - Sunny, which is f/8 and cloudy, which is f/2.8.  The switch is located at the top of the lens housing.

Shutter Speed:

There are 2 options, which is 1/60 or bulb.  I believe that the shutter release is a digital trigger.  Click it down and release, you get 1/60, click and hold it down and it will keep the shutter open for as long as it is held down.


Always fixed at ISO 100 equivalent, according to email conversation I had with Holga Digital team.


This is a fixed focus camera.  You get one setting which according to the documentation is 1.5m to infinity.


It sports an 8mp 1/3.2 inch CMOS sensor.  It provides a lo-fi experience as you would expect.  My thought on it is that the shutter must be all electronic as there is a high propensity for the images to have rolling shutter if they are moving.

Some people do not like it, but we are talking lo-fi photography here, so there is another "artistic" choice thrown into the mix that you did not have with the film Holga.

In all honesty, I've seen better IQ in a smart phone, but again, that is not the point of this camera.  If you want superior IQ, then this is not the camera for you and you know that going into it.

The sensor provides an adequate platform.

Other Miscellaneous Items of Note

EXIF information:

I've noticed the EXIF information to be a little weird at times.  From the documentation and website, you are supposed to get either 1/60th or BULB.  Looking at the EXIF, it is reporting something "weird".  I've not looked at trying to nail down how it is calculating exposure, but I'm pretty sure that 1/950th of a second and 1/10560 is not the equivalent of 1/60.

Rolling shutter:

This can be very pronounced at times, either shooting from a moving vehicle or making the mistake of moving the camera before the shutter is done.  It is very easy to get rolling shutter if you are not careful.

Add-On Lenses:

Yes, it is possible!  While the attached lens is not removable, there is an adapter to add on the original Holga plastic lenses.

Hot Shoe:

Yes, there is one and can work with Holga flashes or any hotshoe flash - although given the size and weight of the camera, I don't see people using anything other than the plastic Holga lenses on the camera.

SD Cards:

Not sure how large of an SD card you can use. Currently it has a 2GB Kingston in it.  It is supposed to be wi-fi card compatible, so we will test the Eye-Fi card sometime in the future.

Parting Thoughts

I really do like this little camera.  No one really seems to take it seriously.  Not seeing your images right away takes me back to the days when I was shooting with my Nikon N90s.  It can also be a little frustrating not knowing if you got the shot.  That can be mitigated, however, with the use of a wi-fi enabled SD card.

I will definitely be using this along with my other "lomo" type cameras.  It is something different and interesting for me.  Others may not enjoy it, but that is a subjective thing and I will let you decide what you think of it from the images I share here as well as the impressions above.

For the price, though - you can have this little camera for the price of a higher end meal.

Full disclosure: some images are straight out of camera while others have been tweaked in Lightroom.