A few weeks ago I ordered a Holga 135bctlr (black-corner twin lens reflex) from Ebay in a great tomato red. I received it just in time for a test run last weekend. Prior to purchase I couldn’t find too much information on the web about the Holga tlr or work samples, so I was curious to see if it would be a major piece of junk because it’s no longer sold in the US - as far as I can tell. B&H in New York, and Freestyle Photo in Cali no longer has it.
I have two Holga 135bc cameras which are, in my opinion, useless. Both were taken out twice, and I brought back blank rolls in the 90 percentile. That was enough for me to shelve them. I used Ilford HP5 Plus, Holga usually recommends iso 400 film speed. My first roll from the tlr was promising although unusable.
The pros is that all 36 exposures came out which means that it takes pictures; consistently. I like the fact that this 35mm camera is just as large as the Holga 120 which allows for good gripping, and stability. The Holga is a camera that must be learned because each one has a different personality. It is important to remember that these plastic cameras are not cookie cutter cameras. They may all look alike but the mechanics are completely distinct. I was outdoors on a rainy overcast day and I used a diffused Sunpak flash set at 1/8.
The cons is that my first roll from the tlr was grossly overexposed. It shouldn’t have been because my other rolls in other Holgas came out fine - a good example of camera individuality. I thought about this and I concluded that on my particular Holga tlr the overexposure comes from the shutter. The N (normal setting double clicks) and the B (bulb setting single clicks) regardless of this setting both allows the shutter to stay open for as long as the button is depressed. A one second exposure fries film. So this week I’ll test another roll of Ilford. This time it will be Ilford Pan F Plus iso 50 with a 2 stop light reducing neutral density filter.
My Holga should now be around f-16 (no I don't trust the sunny/cloudy switch). With the addition of slower film and ND filter the overexposure dilemma should be resolved. If the subject was anything other than people, the cocktail would only be the slower film, no flash, no filter. There is a cool oddity particular to this Holga. The viewfinder is quite clear and bright, but if your subject is to your right you have to move the camera left to frame, and vice versa. This camera will take a bit of thought, and getting used to.
Part of my fun in using Holgas is that you are constantly being challenged. This camera does not embrace arrogance or comfort. The Holga keeps the photographer constantly on their toes. Guesswork bites, but solutions, when they work in Holgaland applauds imagination and elevates the cool.