A rainy morning with a Holga

My first film with the Holga 120N had been Ilford HP5+. It seems to be generally considered that ISO400 is a good choice, given the need to get a decent exposure in any lighting or weather conditions with only 1 shutter speed and two apertures. Although I’m a newbie with HP5+, it seems to be generally considered that it has a wide exposure latitude so even if it’s a bright day, it won’t mind a bit of overexposure.

However I have a tendency to go “against the grain” – just being a film photographer is an example of that. So I decided to try a slower film, namely Ilford FP4+, on what turned out to be a very wet and stormy day in the 13th-Century Caernarfon Castle.

I was prompted to try a slower film after seeing a Holga landscape image by the excellent photographer Matt Lethbridge, who produces great work using Holgas, pinhole cameras, and large format, amongst other formats. This particular shot was made with Ilford Pan F+, an ISO 50 film, and semi-stand developed in HC110.

I wasn’t ready to go as far as Pan F with the Holga but I decided to load a roll of FP4+ to see how I got on. FP4+ has been my “go-to” film for the last year or so and I’ve got lots of it in the freezer.

I also used semi-stand development with HC110 at a dilution of 1:160.

I was quite surprised to get any useable image out of the interior shot below. There was some artificial light but it was still pretty dull. I reckon a more normal exposure, on a camera with the relevant controls, would have been 1/30s at f4 and ISO1600. The figure is King Edward I, by the way, who built the castle (well, probably not personally !)

For good measure, to enhance the lo-fi aesthetic (ahem), I dropped the film on the floor when trying to hang it up for drying, thus adding more than the usual amount of dust and scratches. More worryingly, there are some horizontal scratches on several frames which suggest that the film transport mechanism of this cheap plastic “toy” might introduce it’s own scratches even without my clumsy interventions.

It’s hard to tell whether the use of a lower speed film has made much difference to the image quality. Conventional notions of image quality are pretty difficult to apply to the Holga, since the result is inevitably going to be pretty grungy. I think I’ll stick with HP5+ for use in the Holga, for a while, until I’m more confident in what to expect from the results. unless it is a very bight day. I might event try not to drop the film on the floor in future ….


  1. I am always torn about toy cameras and such – partly because I want perfection! But the fact is, these cameras can make some very provocative images because of their flaws. I think you did quite well and like the images!

  2. I likd these, enhance by the Holga despite the floor mishap.
    I dropped a couple of films, especially when trying to load 6×6 on a metal reel.
    Gave up and got a large changing bag which had the added benefit of keeping dust out while loading the tank. Dust, no matter how much cleaning I did, was my bête noire in Oman.

    • Thanks David. I had used some no-name reels which I was given when I bought my enlarger. I also had a plaster on my thumb which didn’t help. The reels have been thrown out but the plaster is still there.

      • I now use Paterson reels and gave up on the metal ones.
        I find Paterson great as the film can be pushed in rather than ratchet, just don’t get Photo-flow or any other wash aid near them.

  3. great post and some great results, I still have a Holga in my shelf, only shoot once Fimapan 400 with not so good results (due to I messed up the dev process)
    I guess there’s another film loaded so I should go out on street sometimes soon.

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