What is a toy camera and how does one choose the best one to buy? My answer to this question is that there is no best. The Holga and The Diana F+ (the F+ is a clone of the original camera and comes in an assortment of colors) are the frontrunners in this category and both are plastic with limited controls and unique to their brand. Creatively I've invested in both, years apart of course. I began with a Holga because I read online that they produced fewer light leaks (debatable) than the Diana F+. At that time, I considered light leaks equivalent to the devil, so I ran towards the Holga.
Light Leaks now, of course, is like spotting a rainbow on a sunny day. They're very cool. Another reason I chose the Holga over the Diana F+ is the distance settings, which I thought would be a bother. I read that these settings, also on the Holga, didn't work and didn't matter; so, for years I never set my Holga. This fun fact might have been true on the older Holga cameras, but eventually I found that on the Holga 120N, this feature works quite well, as did all of my shutters. To this day I am still amazed that I got images in my early days.
In 2018 I threw my first Diana F+ into my bag as an afterthought for a trip headed to New York. I didn't research this camera like I did the Holga because I bought it for fun and to compare it to the Holga. The Holga camera was an actual semester long assignment for school. I thought casually, that one plastic camera is just another plastic camera, right? Very wrong.
The entire trip I was set on Holga mode, I think I set my Diana F+ once, which is obvious in the image of the carriage driver. When I returned home, I realized my beginner's error, so the film sat undeveloped until 2021 when my curiosity got the better of me. I read images like I read a book. I think a lot can be learned from the good and the bad.
Last June I took my Diana F+ and accessories, which included a 35 mm film back, and interchangeable lenses to Coney Island, my first trip after the end of Covid. As with any toy or plastic camera, using it is always a craps shoot. I think that this fact of life can be forgotten when you've been getting roll, after roll, of good images, and then you just don't. On this trip the 35 mm film back did me wrong, I lost a lot of images, but without the 35 mm back, and in 6x6 format, pure gold (the first two images below are 6x6, images three and four are 35mm).
My mini user review of the Diana F+. Pro. I think that the Diana F+ lens is much sharper than the Holga. I shoot with both glass versions. Con. The Diana F+ is a delicate camera. The Holga is a thick brick of plastic. The Diana F+ is thinner and has levers that can be easily damaged, so I am mindful to take care and to use an insert in my bag.
The images in the gallery below are placed in present to past order, illustrating progression, knowledge, and growth. My favorite image from my Coney Island visit is the giant zombie which was a long exposure, I've placed it in the No Rules gallery (click to view larger; the slide show/galleries are all cropped).