The Holga: There’s no on-board flash. No PC connector for an external flash. There’s no shutter speed selection. You get (approx) 1/100 of a second and deal with it. It offers only two F stops: f. 11 and f. 8 (“sunny” or “less sunny”) — you switch a little plastic lever back and forth to choose which one you want. There’s no tripod socket (you can rubber band it or drill one in if you want). The lens is plastic and fixed at medium wide 60mm. The film advance is iffy at best. (The typical solution? Jam a folded piece of cardboard from your film’s box under the spool to hold the film tight.) Here are the focus options:

Focus: 3 feet, 6 feet, 9 feet, or “infinity.”

So what’s the upside? It discourages fiddling around with camera-settings and encourages you to just shoot without thinking too much. The “problems” with the camera also create light leaks and vignetting that can create gorgeous, retro-looking shots.

Plus, it uses professional medium format film which yields dramatic results. David Burnett won top prize in a News Photographers’ award ceremony for this Holga shot of then presidential nominee Al Gore. Burnett said the Holga forces him to simplify, slow down, and “lets you concentrate on what’s really important in a picture.”

Backpacking with a Holga
I remember backpacking through Southeast Asia with a Holga back in 2002. I had another camera that I used for most of my shooting. But the Holga came out every once in a while.


In fact, it started to take on extra meaning. It’s a genuine pain to load so you start to value every Holga shot. A scene would have to earn it’s way into Holgadom. When I came come across a great vista or interesting characters or cool shapes, I’d pull it out. Otherwise, it stayed in my backpack.


When I did use it, I tried hard to make every shot count. I’d carefully consider the composition. I’d take my time looking at different angles. I’d walk all around the scene. When I settled on a location, I’d shoot one or two shots and be on my way.


Also, focus and shutter speed and aperture melted away as considerations. What mattered was the thing I was shooting. It made photography elemental.


The Holga D
Digital cameras usually force you into the opposite mindset — endless options, unlimited shots, etc. So it’s neat to see Saikat Biswas, an Industrial Designer from India, come up with the concept for the The Holga D, a digital version of the Holga.

According to the site, the biggest feature of the Holga D is its lack of features. It offers the “absolute bare minimum feature set that you need for unobtrusive photography.” There isn’t even a display for viewing images as you shoot.

holga d

Think no one wants a feature malnourished camera like this? Think again. According to Biswas, the response has been overwhelming.

Within [the] next few hours mails started pouring in about Holga D. Within one day it was all over the net! It was on En-gadget, Wired and and many more web sites! Most surprisingly BBC contacted me to feature it on a program!!!

My mailbox got flooded with hundreds of mails. The daily traffic to my website shot up to from around 50 to more than 12000 in just 2 days!!

Although I was not planning make this concept public so early as I was still drafting out a plausible production plan I am really happy and overwhelmed to see it’s resonating with so many people out there! Although I knew a camera like Holga D has potential but I must admit that the response is way beyond what I expected…All your overwhelming response re-assures that there is a real demand for such camera.

Thousands of camera manufacturers are out there trying to outdo each other in the digital space. More megapixels, more features, fancier lenses, etc. They’re all scrambling to the same spot though.

Even if the Holga D is just an idea, it shows the opportunity you can find by going in the opposite direction — by doing less and focusing on the elements of what people want.


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