Fun with a Holga Lens

Author:  Sara Goodnick

If you are a Nikon or Canon photographer and would like to have some fun with an inexpensive little lens, try out a Holga lens. It sells on Amazon for $30. Alternatively, you could go out and get a Holga camera, which uses film, for $40, also on Amazon. This is my experience with just the lens.
It is completely manual. You have to use your histogram to learn if your image exposure is acceptable. It works best at f/16 for me. When possible, I used the “Sunny 16” rule: on a sunny day outside, at ISO400, and f/16, set your shutter speed to 400. Or, match your shutter to your ISO at f/16.


The focus is soft in an old-fashioned way. I found that to be a nice change from the super crisp images we are so used to seeing now. You have a focusing ring that has one person, three people, a group of people, and a mountain to approximate your focus. I missed getting it right many times because I am so spoiled to auto-focus and am out of practice. Looking through the lens is best for focusing, but difficult under certain lighting conditions.


The vignetting is strong and somewhat irregular, which makes for some nice surprises. I could reduce it by using the DX setting for a cropped sensor on my Nikon D810 full frame.

I love the look it gives portraits with its soft focus, much like the soft focus filter we used to put on our lenses when using film to soften skin.
All in all, it gave me a chance to play like a kid with a Brownie camera! After downloading the images I thoroughly enjoyed processing them in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop as creatively as I pleased.
It’s summer-let the kid in you out to PLAY!