5 Frames with Holga 120N and Kodak Porta 160

Is this Holga 120N a toy camera? It feels like it because it is all made of plastic including the lens and the construction of it itself is rather flimsy. However, in spite of this, this film camera is a serious 6×6 medium format camera which takes 120 size films.

Holga 120N will produce 12 images with a roll of 120 film, albeit it is also supplied with a 6×4.5cm mask, which will enable the camera to produce 15 frames to a roll.

The Holga 120N is notoriously prone to light leaks; due to the way it is manufactured. Also, each camera is likely to have its own unique characteristics, in terms of images it produces, because of the manufacturer’s relaxed QC or lack of it. Some avid fans of Holga cameras often own several of these, as each offers a slightly different look.

The camera has two shutter settings, one for approximately 1/100s (N) and the other for Bulb (B) setting. In addition, there are two aperture settings, again approximately f/8.0 and f/11. This lack of exposure controllability limits the lighting conditions you can use with this camera. However, you can improve this limitation by using black and white films or colour negative films as they tend to have wider exposure latitude.

The vignette of this film camera is a bit too strong for my liking.

To mitigate the aforementioned light leaks, I strategically black taped the camera in several places as illustrated in the image below. Even with all this masking, light leaks appeared on the two images (image 4 and image 5) posted here. Could it be due to the intensity of light? The first three images were made under subdued light whereas, for the rest, it was a bright sunny day.

Some say the light leaks are part of the camera characteristics but I prefer not to have them as they tend to appear where I don’t want them.

So far, I have put three rolls of film through this camera. Initially, I wasted quite a few frames. First off, I advanced the film after exposure not realising that I had left the lens cap on. This is a classic mistake with non SLR cameras! To avoid this from then on, I taped a small note by the viewfinder saying ‘Remove Cap & Focus’. It works!

Every autumn I repeatedly make similar images to the second one below, that is, fallen leaves on the ground. I just can’t help it because I love the repetition of shapes and autumnal colours.

Holga 120N, Kodak Porta 160, 1s, f/8
Holga 120N, Kodak Porta 160, 1s, f/8
Holga 120N, Kodak Porta 160, 1s, f/8

Snow makes everything look beautiful. It is a rare treat in the part of the country where I live in England. Tetbury is an old Cotswold market town in Gloucestershire with an abundance of charming Cotswold stone buildings.

Holga 120N, Kodak Porta 160, 1/100s, f/8
Holga 120N, Kodak Porta 160, 1/100s, f/8

I had such fun with this Holga. So much so that I have already loaded up another roll of film, this time a Fomapan 400.

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14 thoughts on “5 Frames with Holga 120N and Kodak Porta 160”

  1. I enjoy using this camera, too. And, like you, I don’t like light leaks. Taping up is essential. It might be worth looking up Youtuber Martin Henson who describes how he paints the interior of the camera with black paint and adds further internal masking to stop the problem. In my experience, having followed his advice, it solved the problem.
    The camera is a joy to use — a medium format point and shoot, though, like you, I added sticky label reminders to wind on after a frame exposure, and remove the lens cap!

    1. Thank you John for your feedback. It certainly looks like a very good idea to reinforce the inside too. I will have a look at Martin Henson’s video. Thank you for your great suggestion.

    2. You need to tape up the hole in the camera under the spring for Less light leaks too. Me , I just took out the spring and do drag shutter with flash. Even done magazine portraits like this back in the day. Set the flash for f8 and you good 4 to about 6 feet. The flash adds extra sharpness in the lens especially on eyes but still still has a nice softness. Try it 😸

      1. Hi Terrence. This is what I like about 35mmc. There are so many photographers with a wide range of knowledge and experience. Thank you very much for sharing your experience. Once I finish the film in the camera, I am going to investigate it.

  2. I have to ask — were those 1s exposures handheld? If so — wow! I struggle with old box cameras at 1/30-40-50 of a second hand-held to keep the images from looking like there is an earthquake happening! Even with the light leaks, it goes to show that photography can actually be pretty “simple” — the camera/lens/shutter does not have to be sophisticated, or of precise specifications, to capture a recognizable, and understandable, image on film. Thank you!

    1. Oh, No, Dana… I am sorry to disappoint you. I used a small travel tripod. My hands are not very steady either. The camera tripod socket was not very well designed, so attaching it to the quick release head itself was challenging but it was a lot more steadier than hand held.

      I totally agree with you. It makes you think more about photography when you go back to basics. Thank you for your kind words.

    1. Thank you for your message, Gary. Please note that here I was not trying to emulate the effects of anything at all. In my humble opinion, every method of image making has its own merit. Personally I’ve never seen or used any Lensbaby optics, so I can’t comment.

  3. Holga’s don’t generally leak light. The main problem is that the film doesn’t spool tightly on the reels and when you take the film out light leaks around the edges. The easiest solution is to take the tops of the 120 film box, fold it into a “v” and tape that inside the camera under where the film goes. If you look at most 120 cameras you’ll see a sheet steel spring under where the film goes. The box tops work well to keep the film rolling tight. It is still probably a good idea to tape over the red window though.

  4. The best picture I ever shot was with a Holga 120S. I love the simplicity and the way it renders images. To me, nothing is better than the magic you sometimes capture with little more than a fancy box and a roll of film.

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