Old school photographers have probably grown up with using a film camera or two, and if you ask them about a Holga, they’ll probably reflect fondly on the toy camera. Now, that toy camera is becoming digital.
A toy camera is coming, and it’s one for people who grew up with retro photography at a time when it wasn’t regarded as “retro”.
You might look at Instagram and see that as old school photography, but several cameras have been keeping that retro focused dream alive for some time, and one of these has been the Holga camera.
Often described by people who’ve used it as “the cheapest camera they’ve ever owned” that frequently needs to be repaired with duct tape (we’re not kidding), the Holga was essentially a plastic box with film spool, a cheap plastic or glass lens, two focus settings — close or far — and two aperture sizes, with frame settings to change the format from being wide or square.
Holga cameras weren’t just cheap for being cheap, though, as they took medium format film, a larger film stock that tended to attract cameras that weren’t exactly inexpensive. Think Bronica, Mamiya, and Hasselblad, and you’re on the right track.
As such, someone who owned a Holga generally did so because it afforded them the ability to work in medium format without paying excess money to do so, working with a budget plastic camera that captured images on big film without big dollars being brought to the table.
Things have changed over the years, though, and while some people are still shooting on film, most photographers have traded in their rolls and spools for Compact Flash and SD cards, or something even smaller, as digital cameras have taken over, offering clarity, speed, and an almost infinite storage supply of photos that definitely goes beyond the rolls of 10 to 36 you might have used in the past.
With clearer quality, however, comes clearer images, and that’s not what everyone is after.
Indeed, the amount of people using retro-inspired image applications like Instagram and VSCO has shown that there’s still room for people who want to capture images that look old and weathered.
And that’s where the latest Holga comes in.
Announced this week on Kickstarter, Holga is planning to reinvent its plastic “cheapest camera ever owned” with a digital version.
Forget the film spools, because this one will take an SD card, with support for WiFi cards thrown in so you can get your images from the camera to a tablet or smartphone easily, because otherwise you’ll need a card reader of some sort.
The camera will essentially be your same typical toy camera body, with two frame sizes for 4:3 (rectangle) or 1:1 (square), two aperture selections, and a viewfinder and shutter.
Oh, and there is no LCD screen, which is probably a good thing, since this has been designed to emulate the feeling of shooting with a Holga, much of which leaves you with no real clue as to what the image is going to look like, except for maybe the expectation that it’ll be either too light, too dark, or have some colour fringing somewhere.
Previous Holga accessories will be compatible, we’re told, such as lenses and Holga’s colourful flash head with colour filters to sit over the light, while the prices of the camera sits around $80 or higher to back, with an expected ship date of early next year in January.
One thing we haven’t been able to confirm is the size of the sensor, with Holga’s Digital team not really answering this one. Given the price and toy camera design, we have to expect it’s somewhere between 2 and 5 megapixels, but your guess is as good as ours on this one.
As such, this won’t be for everyone, appealing to people who have used a Holga in the past and love the idea of keeping one nearby, but without needing to keep film stock in the fridge for use at a later time.
If that’s you, you’ll find more information at the Holga Digital Kickstarter page, which has already made its money ($59,621 with only $50,000 needed) and still has 45 days to go.