Fun with Holga
Last week I got watching some DigitalrevTV video with Kai running around with a PEN mounting all kinds of rubbish in front of it to see what effect you can get.
It was a fun video, but it got me thinking; I’ve never really tried any toy lenses or such before – what is out there for mu4/3rds?
It didnt take me long to stumble upon Holga. A horrendously cheap collection of lenses, with a whole bunch of do-dads to add onto them for nothing other than fun.
They have what they call their ‘Kitchen Sink’ kit (eg: everything including the kitchen sink <– tho it doesnt actually come with a kitchen sink). Its a ~$100 and I figured that I’ve certainly blown more than that in a nights drinking before – so why the hell not…
Here is a quick, nutshell, too long, didnt read version:
- Price: 10/10
- Build quality: 1/10 (It got a one because it didnt actually fall apart)
- Sharpness: 2/10 (It got a 2 because you can actually vaguely make out what the photograph is of)
- Colour: Lo-Fi
- Bokeh: The Bokeh of these lenses should come with a health warning. Luckily however, being locked to f8, odd are ‘most’ things will be in focus anyway.
- Fun factor: Turn that baby up to 11!
So what is it?
It’s basically a very, very cheap plastic made (yes, even the “glass”) lens from an old Holga 120 with a m4/3rds mount glued to the back. Thats it. It’s locked to f8 and kind of has a focusing ring, not that it does much.
This really is the definition of ‘plastic fantastic’.
So, what do you get?
I ordered the ‘[URL=”http://shop.holgadirect.com/collections/digital-holga-lens-kits/products/digital-holga-kitchen-sink-lens-kit”]Kitchen Sink[/URL]’ kit which is everything from their collection.
You get the actual lens, which is a 25mm F8, and a series of ‘add on’ bits such as Telephoto, Wide-angle, and Fish-Eye. There is also a set of ‘macro’ lenses and a set of ‘close up’ lenses (tho I’m yet to work out what the actually differences are between those two)
This is the actual lens, complete with classy QC sticker
It basically works like this, you have the ‘actual’ lens (the 25mm) and it works what I call ‘natively’. Then each of the other add-ons and lenses simply pop on the front similar to the el-cheapo macro/wide agle things you see on eBay.
So what is it like to use?
Well, it’s light – I’ll give it that. Being nothing but plastic it weighs next to nothing. I wouldn’t be too rough with it however. Not only is it plastic, it seems to be very cheap plastic. It mounts to the camera ok, but certainly there are tolerances involved here. It sits flush ok, but there is certainly some wiggle room in the actual bayonet fitting.
This set up is purely manual. There is no aperture control, its f8 or nothing. The focus ring gives you some little pictures to give you a rough estimation of focusing (A portrait, a group, and a Mountain <– take what you will from those). The actual focusing ring however is horrendous. I thought I was going to have to head out to the garage for a pair of vice-grips. Luckily however the sharpness of these lenses are so bad that being in or out of focus is really a matter of personal taste and pot-luck.
All thats great, but what are the photos like??
These are [B]very[/B] dark lenses. Expect to shoot at ISO 1600 to 3200 with a relatively slow shutter of 1/25 or 1/10.
I’ll run you through a few examples. All these examples are JPG’s straight out of the camera.
First up, just the native lens.
Firstly and quite obviously there is HUGE amounts of vignetting. But that is the style of the lens. Its a ‘toy’ lens after all. So I wont mark it down for that, its ‘meant’ to do that. Should you actually nail the focus it’s not excruciatingly bad in the centre. But then its all down-hill as you move further to the edges.
The colour rending on all these lenses is best described as ‘lo-fi’. Don’t expect any contrasty, sharp, punchy shots here. It’s all very 1970’s polaroid-ish.
Next, the telephoto. This lens (add-on) really shows what the Holga is all about. Take everything that a normal lens gets marked down for; this is it. Again, if you manage to get the focus right, it can be “ok” (read: stylishly mushy) in the centre, but then is goes all wild and crazy from there. It’s like the photo equivalent of an acid trip.
As an example, if you suffer from vertigo; I really wouldnt spend too much time looking at these photos…
Out of the options, this, the native lens, and the macro are my favourites.
But like I said, it’s all too easy to miss the focus by a mile. When taking this photo, even using the OM-D’s “digital teleconvertor” to help focus, I could have sworn I got this… turns out I didnt.
Bad focus, BAD!
Out of all the lenses, its the fisheye I was most disappointed in. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just expected something else.
The Macro lenses were the biggest surprise. They really do bring the whole Holga look and feel down to a macro scale. In using them however, the focus ring goes right out the window. Simply wind it all the way to the ‘portrait’ icon on the ring and then just move the camera back and forth until it ‘looks’ in focus and then ‘hope’.
The Holga Macro
Here is proof however, that with a good dose of luck, you can nail the focus.
So whats the point?
Well, two things.
A) Theyre just so completely different, theyre fun. There is no seriousness to be had here.
B) Although these photos shown here are rubbish by any measure, put your Hipster, Instagram hat on for a second and go play with some funky filters etc in Lightroom. You may just be surprised what you can come up with.
There you go then, my first afternoon with Holga.
Look, at the end of the day, these lenses are complete rubbish. On any kind of scale, they rate lower than the low.
But – they’re like a good Arnie movie. These are the lens equivalent to The Expendables.
They’re so bad, they’re good.
You wont get anything like the look and feel from any ‘normal’ lens out there. They’re great for just playing. Leave your pixel-peeping at home and just mess about.