Holga Wide and Tele Lenses, Part II

Time to get down and dirty, eh? As I wrote yesterday I ran two rolls through the Holga with the new lenses to get a feel for the images they produce. I did some shots just switching the lenses, and then a couple of shots varying the focus. Let’s have a look at the former. It’s wide lens left, normal Holga lens in the middle, and the tele on the right. I’ll spare you the technical details, since there aren’t many. See for yourself. I’ll venture some guesses at why I think the results are as they are. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Holga, Wide and Tele

Excuse the awful colors, it’s my stupid scanner’s software. I’m not at all happy with how it tries to automatically balance the colors. Even turning off all the available options didn’t help. Sucks. It also makes it a bit hard to tell if and how much light the lenses block from getting inside the camera. Usually these attachments reduce the light, but I guess I’ll retry with black and white film, where my scanner won’t screw up.

Holga, Wide and Tele

As you can see, the tele lens vignettes insanely. I even dare say that it creates round pictures, which nicely confuses scanner software, while we’re on that topic. There’s also a pretty weird distortion on the lower edges. But most of what’s visible seems to be without blur. Seems reasonable since the blur usually is on the outer side of the picture, hidden here by the vignette. The odd distortion seems to be the only visible sign of the normal blur, but in this case increased by the lens and its loupe-ishness. Most of the picture looks in focus. Let me crop that for you.


It does however do a nice job of being a tele lens. Comes in handy when you need that extra bit to zoom in. Obviously depending on the distance to the object it makes it a bit harder to guess what’ll be in the picture, but hey, it’s a Holga.

The same is true for the wide lens, it distorts quite nicely on the edges, but even more noticeable is the barrel distortion. When you look at the lens you’ll notice the convex lens causing it. Not really a surprise, being a really cheap wide lens. It also gets a lot of blur on the outer edges of the photo. Looking closely there’s not much that really looks in focus here, seems to be just the center.


Now, for the focus tests, I’m not sure if it’s worth it putting up the photos here. I put another Holga about a meter away from the one I shot with, dialed through the four different focus zones and fired away. The manual for both lenses suggests to put the focus on infinity. Which I did for all the shots above. The most important thing to know when you’re deciding against it is that there’ll be even less light coming in, and the vignette will be even more noticeable. That’s especially true for the wide lens.

The wide lens really is wide. I consider the normal Holga lens to be quite wide already, but this definitely adds a nice 0.5 factor. However I’m not too fond of the barrel distortion and that fact that nothing is in focus. But then again, it’s Holga. I’m not mad at the lenses, they’re fun in their own right. Considering what they cost you can’t ask for more, but also not for less, they are just right.

Holga, Wide and Tele

I’ll repeat the experiments with the focus, especially with the tele lens, it was hard to tell what was in focus at all when doing a “close-up” shot of an object only one meter away. More on that next week then. I’ll be sure to use a tripod too, because this round wasn’t exactly a professional endeavor.

The lenses look like neat new toys, but obviously they don’t come without new caveats. It wouldn’t be Holga if they wouldn’t. They do however come with pouches with a big Holga logo on it. I found those to be rather cumbersome though, because it’s not easy to fiddle out the lenses. You do want to keep on the lens caps though, because the outer lens element has quite a big surface and at least looks a bit delicate. But I’ll leave it up to you to try out how scratching it affects the pictures.

The crazy vignette on the tele lens is almost too much for my taste. I do like a good vignette, but in this case it’s too round. Maybe it’d work better with black and white, we’ll see about that. Get them if you feel like playing, and if you don’t, get them anyway. They’re a nice accessory, and sure come in handy from time to time. Do keep in mind though that they take away some of the Holga’s constraints by adding features. For some people, the constraints is what it’s all about. That includes me, but I also like playing from time to time.


Holga Wide and Tele Lenses, Part I

Summer has returned, and I slept in, because I took our international guests to the airport very early in the morning, but when things finally started rolling I decided to take the new Holga lenses for a spin with the Polga back (or Holgaroid, if that’s what you prefer).

Not knowing what to expect I also took a Holga without a back to take some film comparison shots as well. A good call as I soon found out. Now the film shots will have to wait till tomorrow, but let’s have a quick look at the Polaroid shots.

Polga Wide

Polga Tele

As you can see, you can’t see much. I was wondering how they’d turn out, and it didn’t really surprise me that only a small part of the film was exposed. Why? When you use the Polga back (I really prefer Polga over Holgaroid :), you need to add a lens that makes up for the added distance of the film in the back to your lens. It’s further away than normal film, and the lens is there to correct it.

When you add another lens on top of that you make the distance even longer, therefore making the tunnel of light reaching the film even smaller. I put the wide and tele lenses on top of the Polga converter, the other way around doesn’t seem to work very well, since the only way to get the converter on either of the lenses would be with a lot of force, and I’m not interested in breaking it. So if you have a different Polga back (I have the original Polaroid one), your mileage may vary.

I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s not great, but of course it was only a test, and I’m glad I did it, because now I know that Polga and the lenses don’t mix. The wide and tele lenses sport a hole not as big as the one in the converter, and it’s obvious that the small hole is pretty much causing the much smaller tunnel. But zooming in, you can see the effect of the lenses at least. More details tomorrow.



A Summer Trip to an Empty Airstrip

A few weeks ago we left Berlin for a day to visit J’s parents. That usually means getting up a bit early, but it was a perfect summer day, and I had something in mind for us to do. Not too far from where they live there’s an empty airstrip, these days pretty much used by paintball warriors, model airplane pilots and people trying to max out their cars and bikes.

The cow monologues

It’s also inhabited by heaps of cows, which as you’ll surely agree, is definitely a plus. We left Mari with her grandparents and took a nice bike ride out to the airstrip. It used to be a local military airport before the wall came down, but ever since it has been unused and pretty much left all to itself. There were empty buildings, warzone-like buildings, big piles of tires, much likely burned out on the tarmac, lone trees, vintage East-German chairs, people shooting paintballs at each other, and obviously long runways.

Prepare for liftoff

It just called for a film photo extravaganza. J took the Spectra out for quite a spin, giving into my recommendation of going a bit crazy with Polaroid film for once. We had a blast, I can say that much. We took a lot of pictures of cows obviously, but the airstrip and the little tower on it were worth the trip alone. The clouds were good to us too, and there was pie after. What more can you ask for?

A Lone Tree

It was also a good opportunity to give my Holgaroid back a thorough beating, and I gotta say, with the modded Holga it was a blast. Finally enough light to touch the film. Sometimes you just have to waste some film, just for the heck of it. We sure did that day.


News Quickie

Do people still use the word quickie? No idea, anyway, I do.

As a Holga fan I’m sure you’ve noticed a dip in the Holga matrix just recently. That’s because the Holga manufacturer has unleashed no less than two accessory lenses upon the mind-blown toy camera photographer world. A wide-angle and a tele lens, sweet stuff. I immediately ordered mine, since they were available on ebay on the day of the announcement. The awesome peeps over at the Holgablog got all the inside scoop, so head on over there and read all about them. If you want to buy some, search ebay for “holga tele lens” and “holga wide lens”, and you’re golden. They’re frickin cheap too.


In case you missed it, a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Fuji would discontinue its Fuji Pro 800Z film, updating the post that Fuji may have changed their minds. I’m happy to say that they apparently did, and that this awesome film is here to stay. It’s my favorite 800 speed film, and I don’t mind that I now have three five-packs in my fridge. It’s a good film to have at the ready, and it’s just perfect for shooting in slightly lower light during winter.

If you haven’t tried the film, you really should. It’s a nice fit for the Holga in lower light, though it even works during the day when you’re not shooting right into the sun. I can’t blame you for trying, since one should just shoot into the sun from time to time, but you probably wouldn’t be all too happy.

Also, let me just go ahead and recommend Four Corner Store, my new favorite dealer for expired film, and toy cameras for that matter. But the last order I did was just film, a whole big box full of it. So much looking forward to stuffing all my cameras with all kinds of different film, some of it expired back in 1993.


A whole lotta good news, eh?


I can’t say I’m well-travelled, but I have seen my fair share of boring places. Even though there’s always something in those cities that especially a photographer can make of. But it’s usually not much, and there’s some cities that just stand out, and not in a good way. There’s just nothing.

Nothing you can happily point your camera at, only things that you shoot rather unwillingly, knowing that you gotta at least try to shoot a bit, if only for the fun of that. I’m afraid Offenbach near Frankfurt/Main is one of them. Some even went as far as calling it Awfulbach, and they were right.


There’s one weapon that is some sort of help in capturing the melancholy, the boringness and the emptiness of places like these: black and white film. Both shades usually make up for whatever awful things you see. The black hides what you don’t want to see, and the white pulls out of the darkness whatever light you can find, whatever will at least make the photo a tiny bit special. I was close to saying pop. but that just doesn’t fit here. It’s also a term lomographers use, so we’ll pretend that didn’t happen.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love black and white film in lots of situations, it’s so nice to shoot even during summer with the sun shining, but it’s just such a perfect fit for dull and boring places. If anything it brings home the melancholy better than any other kind of film. Throw in underexposure, and the only better way to give in to the melancholy is to not shoot anything at all, but really, what fun is that? I also like accidental double exposures with black and white film, they make up for some of boredom with more light exposing the film, and mixing two boring elements together into one maybe not as boring photo.


Anyway, Offenbach. I went there for a conference last week, and I already wasn’t very happy with the location, but what can you do. I gave a talk and a tutorial, and afterwards we went out for a photo walk. The weather was awesome all day, but of course being the Frankfurt area what it is, a thunderstorm came through and pretty much ruined it. It started raining, but we still walked around in search for food and something to shoot.


I’m afraid there wasn’t much we could find in both camps. I’m not much of fast food fan, but this night I gave in to Subway.

Sort of knowing what I could expect from Offenbach I brought the Holga (freshly modded) and some Rollei Retro black and white film. Even though it was really cloudy I decided to use the 100 speed film to really bring home the melancholy of this place. I gotta say, I wasn’t wrong in doing so. In some situations it was just too dark, but it sort of worked.


Now, I won’t make up any good memories from these photos, but that’s not always necessary. I consider it more as an exercise and playing around with film, which I want to do more. Otherwise you just don’t get to know your tools good enough to decide when to use what.


Black and white film has the nice quality of being rather flexible when it comes to over- and underexposure, and that’s what makes it just perfect even when the weather is so bad that you only get a wee bit of light to play with. The film will at least pull out some highlights, if there were any. I’ve never really tried that before, so this was really the time and the place to do so. In that regard the rain was sort of helpful because it reduced the available light by several margins. Of course you can just do what I did and just expose one photo thrice.

Lessons learned: Bring black and white to places where you know there’s not gonna be much to make of. If anything it’ll bring out their dreadfulness even more, which in turn can be sort of an inspiration, but only sort of.