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My not a review of the Holga 135bc and a roll of FP4+


sonny rosenberg

8/2/20233 min read

I was about to describe that somehow I've never managed to own a Holga, when I realized I was about to tell a lie. I do have a Holga a 120s, but it's so highly modified (it's a motorized 360° panoramic camera now) that I consider it a unique specimen. Even the lens is non Holga. So for conversations sake, I'm going to consider this new camera my first Holga.

I had a birthday last week (my 690th) and my overly kind brother sent me an overly generous Amazon gift card. Seeing as I didn't really need anything, and I consider it somewhat of a crime to buy practical stuff on one's birthday, I started to dig around Amazon for film and stuff. Most of their film is way over priced in my book, but a 5 pack of Ilford FP4+ wasn't, about the same time I ran across the FP4, I stumbled upon a camera I'd never heard of before, the Holga 135bc. When I searched for photos taken with it I was intrigued. What's not to like? A Holga that gets 36 exposures per roll sounded good to me.

Today was my first opportunity to take the Holga out for a shoot, so this isn't a review just my first impressions of the camera. I've read nuerous comparisons of the Holga and Diana cameras. I did have a Diana for a while, and while I liked the photos it took and it's form factor, along with the camera's inherrent cuteness and small size, the problem for me was that it was a really flimsy camera. Every time I used it I was just sure I was going to break it. After a while that feeling really began to wear on me and I gave the camera away, fun little flash with colored gels and all. I know it's a toy camera, but it was too much of a toy for me.

In comparison, the Holga feels really sturdy for a plastic camera. If that sounds like an oxymoron, it somewhat is. I doubt the Holga could survive many drops, but everything fits and feels solid, not like it's about to break at any moment. I've heard that the 135 is a little bit better built than the 120 Holgas, that seems like it might be true, in my book, it feels like a decently built toy camera should. I also haven't had to tape it to prevent light leaks. I did have a big light leak, but it was caused by user error, me opening the back before rewinding was finished. Not that I would necessarily tape it up anyway.

I won't list all the Holga's attributes as I'm sure you've seen them elsewhere and the specs are very similar to the 120 Holgas. One shutter speed plus bulb, an aperture switch that does nothing. The shutter even feels nice, not too clunky, it makes a solid, but reassuring click when you take a shot. Focusing is via zones, which I have an affinity for. I'm somewhat impressed that the film counter even works well. Oh, the bc designation is because there's a little film mask just behind the lens that induces vignetting in every shot. I guess most people take that out, but I'll leave it in place for the time being.

Most importantly, it comes in bright red! I'm fed up with cameras that only come in black. Unless they're old cameras, that's a reasonable excuse to be monochrome.

I'm not sure what I think of the FP-4. It seems ok, not outstanding in any way that I can discern. It was a bright sunny day (at least it was in the morning when I was out) but these shots seemed to lack contrast (maybe it's the lens?) so I boosted them a bit in Lightroom. One nice little plus about FP4, is it lays really flat in the holder for scanning.

Not to whine continuously about never finding a 100ish speed film that I can really bond with, but that seems to be the story for now. I just had the bright idea of using one of my more favored slower films, Maybe Agfa Copex in the Holga and pushing it to 100 or so. That might be interesting?

Anyhow, here are the photos. They were developed in a fresh batch of Cinestill Df96 monobath.