Diana and Holga Cameras


General Photography

One of the cameras I brought with me to Pittsburgh on the plane is my Diana - a plastic camera made in the 1960s (or so). I guess there are two main reasons why the Diana and its sister, the Holga, have become fairly popular.

First, because of the fairly crappy lenses of those cameras the photos look… well… let’s just try to be neutral and say they look different. Depending on what you like about photography, they look either totally shitty or great. They’re somewhat soft-focused. What’s more, light tends to fall off *a lot* at the edges of the lenses. All this makes the Diana/Holga a good camera for fine arts photography - provided you manage to get those light leaks under control.

Second, the Diana and Holga are fairly cheap. The Diana isn’t produced any longer so you either get them at yard sales for really cheap (if you’re lucky) or you buy them on Ebay for around US$25-40. The Holga is still being produced and you can get one for under $20. That makes those cameras perfect for aspiring and poor photo students. The majority of Diana/Holga fanatics would probably throw their Diana/Holga out of the window if only they had the money to buy an expensive camera but, of course, that’s just me being cynical. It’s probably not too cynical, though, to claim that the number of photographers who really know how to get good photos with a Diana/Holga is *much* smaller than the number of Diana/Holga users. But I guess you can say that about any camera. What makes the Diana/Holga people so irritating is the fervour with which so many of them proclaim how much they love their Diana/Holga even though it’s completely obvious they’d rather use a Leica or some expensive SLR. If you don’t believe me check out those photo communities on Livejournal, say (try “toycamera” or “photophile”).

BTW, if you want to check out some really good photography with that kind of camera have a look at Don Brice’s toy camera photography.

Anyway, I brought my Diana to do architectural photography. I figured the camera’s “bad” optical properties would go fairly well with all those old and semi-decaying buildings here in Pittsburgh. One of the problems I ran into right away was that I didn’t know where to get the film processed. Dianas/Holgas use 120 film and photo shops usually send that out to Kodak - which means you have to wait for around two weeks to get fairly shoddy prints back. I might have found a good pro lab now but I have to take some bus there so I can’t drop off film that easily. And so far I haven’t processed my own film. This past weekend, I had an idea, though. Why not shoot digital Holga photos? Here’s how it might work. First, one would need to place a screen inside the camera at the position of the film. That should be relatively easy. Then, the camera’s shutter needs to be removed and the camera needs to be fit into a dark box. One could then use a normal digital camera to take photos of the images on the screen. I am planning on doing this once our new apartment is set up.