Toy Cameras: Holga and Diana

There are many different toy cameras out there, the most common ones being the Holga, theholga 120 Diana, and the Lomo LC-A.  So why are these cameras referred to as toys?  Well, cameras of this class usually include bodies and inner workings made of plastic, often the lenses are plastic too, giving images from these cameras their unique ethereal charm.  The lenses are fixed focal length, with limited aperture settings and shutter speeds.  The plastic construction of the camera is nowhere near as mechanically reliable as the expensive commercial cameras from makers such as Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and others.  With the toy cameras, there is a coveted tendency for light leaks and the el-cheapo plastic lenses are obviously not as crisp as expensive glass. These characteristics vary in quality and quantity in each camera, even within units of the same model.
I use mostly Holgas, and enjoy all 4 that I own, each for their individual traits; the light leaks are in different areas and the molded plastic lenses create different vignettes, blurs and lens-flairs.  This is why I find toy cameras to be so much fun; you just never know what you’re going to get.

Let’s quickly discuss some of the differences between the Holga and the Diana.
The Holga has several models to choose from: they have built-in flash, hot shoe adapters or no flash models, modified versions that use 35mm film or standard as 120 film, there are an abundance of accessories you can purchase for your Holga, or a number of modifications you can make to your Holga.  I will get into more detail with all of this in future posts.  The Holga has 2 aperture settings, labled as cloudy or sunny, which are so poor, they usually make little if any difference in exposure; a fixed lens; 4 focusing distances, labled as: individual (3ft), small group (6ft), large group (18ft) or mountains (30ft – infinity); 2 shutter settings, approximately 1/60 sec or bulb; it also comes with 2 film inserts, installed from the back, called masks, that alter the final image size on the film; a 4.5cm x 6cm and a 6cm x 6cm, although I prefer to shoot without the masks as they can decrease the light leaks.

The Diana has 2 versions, the original version (produced from the early 60’s thru the late 70’s) and a Diana cameranew version the Diana F+ (A re-production that entered the market in 2004).  The versions are basically the same except the newer Diana F+ has a nice pinhole function.  The original Diana shot 4cm x 4cm frames on a roll of 120 film, these cameras can still be found online or at flea markets, thrift stores or garage/estate sales, but because of their popularity, they command a premium price if the seller is aware of what they have.  Like the Holga, the new Diana F+ comes with film mask inserts, a 6cm x 6cm, a 4.5cm x 6cm, and an additional third mask, a 4cm x 4cm.  The Diana has 3 aperture settings, bright sunny, partly cloudy and cloudy, the Diana F+ has all of these plus pinhole; the Diana’s lens is a fixed lens, the Diana F+ has a removeable lens, so you can purchase different lenses and use them interchangeably; it is also possible to purchase a 35mm adapter back for the Diana F+.

I am so excited to share my love of toy cameras with you all.  Please come back and see what’s new.  I will be posting toy camera tips, tricks, holga and diana camera mods.  If there is anything in particular you want me to address add a comment to let me know.  See you soon!

Is Film Dead?

Gary Reed, General Manager for Reed Photo-Imaging has been participating in a lively discussion on Rolls of filmLinked-In regarding the supposed obituary for traditional film.

There were 120 posts with a total of 36 Linked-In members responding. Nineteen of the members either were still using film in their personal work or had moved back to using film in their professional work as a “Retro Look.” Eleven members were completely committed to digital and weren’t looking back. In a nutshell, “Film is Dead, move on.” There were six members who were non-committal and more interested in scanning and other aspects of archiving images. Most of the members who were positive as to the future of film were also nostalgic about the look and feel of film as a media. There was discussion about the effects of freezing film.

There were people who felt that you should shoot the film right away to get the maximum color effect. Some members disagreed and thought you should wait until it was partially thawed. It was not only informational but also hilarious at times. A big concern was the future of film processing and the continued manufacture of film from Kodak and Fuji. Gary Reed commented, “As a lab guy I can tell you that our film processing (E-6, C-41, B/W) are way up over the last 2 years. A large part of that is the toy camera market like Holga’s and Diana’s which we believe will help keep film alive as well as the large format people still shooting landscapes. Granted many labs did stop processing film so it tends to funnel to those of us still processing. Fuji tells us that although they discontinued color neg film this year they still have strong sales of transparency and even their B/W films worldwide. Kodak always did beat them up in the color neg arena anyway. Kodak announced some months ago a new 4×5 and 8×10 color neg film coming on-line, Ektar. Go figure. We have been predicting the demise of film for many years but any more I believe it’s going to be around for some time yet. We have also seen the overall quality of photography go down since digital became king. Mostly just sloppy shooting and “I’ll just fix it in photoshop” attitude. The best digital shooters are the people who started with film, hands down. Long live silver halide! “

Gary Reed said, “We sell Kodak neg film about 10 to 1 over Fuji and Fuji E-6 20 to 1 over Kodak’s. Fuji’s black and white never did much but they are staying with it. We figure they have a good market in Japan or somewhere to justify keeping it.

As far as scanning, color neg film generally scans very well but it’s like anything else, you need a good neg to start and a good pilot to get you there. It can be a little tougher than transparency film. When Fuji came out with their pro digital camera all the wedding portrait people loved it for skin tones and that it’s duel chip it could handle contrast like black suite and white dress better than Nikon or Canon. It is a Nikon body but the guts are Fuji. I have not heard anything about a next generation camera. They are however expanding their line of instant cameras which were a huge hit over the past couple years, go figure!“

In conclusion, members who were positive about the continued availability of film expressed the belief that the price was going to go up and that film was going to be a niche market item. Members who were negative about the future of film believed that one day it was just going to be gone due to economic factors that precluded the profitability from both the manufacturer and the labs that process the film.