Days of HOLGA (HL-N)
(April 5, 2011) After encouraging remarks by my grand guru, Master photo-journalist Angel Franco, I decided to embark on a exploration. Lately, there has been much hoopla in the media and the trade journals about the use of mobile devices and plastic cameras out on the field and in creative photography. Two prominent products are the Hipstamatic (a digital photography application for the Apple iPhone) and the HOLGA (a medium format 120 film toy camera). Their appeal seems to rely principally on a cyclical social appetite for nostalgia and/or sobering simplicity.
One of my “Seis Del Sur” buddies posted a link on FB about the HOLGA lenses available for DSLR (Nikon and Canon). I have a Nikon D-70 DSLR that has been lying dormant in the “Born In The Bronx” studio. So with a little help from the change bowl, I got my hands on one.
The HL-N is a 60mm, F/8 fixed lens. Focusing is achieved by rotating the lens ring in four steps – 1m, 2m, 6m and infinite. Each step is represented by a symbol on the ring. Basically, the lens is a chunk of crafted plastic – no technological achievements here.
The hardest part of the project was actually deciding to go out on the streets with this thing and take pictures. Call me “old-school” but, the thought that I could potentially go out and come face to face with the photo-op of the century with only this chunk of plastic on my Nikon to rely on was to say the least troubling. Walk on the wild side.
After disabling all the auto functions of the camera, and putting the flash into manual, I was able to take a few test shots at my workstation. Immediately, I could tell that focusing was going to be the main issue here. Second, the fixed F/8 aperture made the HL-N a hog for available light (particularly, if you avoid using high ISO settings). Third, the HOLGA experience with the HL-N is one far removed from that of the HOLGA camera itself. There are some hacks that can enhance the HL-N experience. Perhaps, that may be something for consideration at a later time.
Among the images taken, so far, I have noticed a distinct rendering of light reflected from some surfaces through the plastic lens of the HL-N onto the image sensor of the camera. I am no physicist and I am reacting only to what I am perceiving visually on my screen. The effect is more pronounced during flash photography. There is a high-gloss, plastic-like look to the image. This is without help from any photo imagery software. I’ll leave it up to you. At any rate, I am driven to explore this phenomenon further.