Holga Cameras: History of the Legendary Chinese-made Toy Camera

Holga Cameras: History of the Legendary Chinese-made Toy Camera
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The Holga Toy Camera

The Holga is a popular medium format toy camera. It is an inexpensive plastic camera made in China. The Holga is infamous, but also much loved for the poor quality of the camera. Due to the construction of the camera, vignetting and light leaks on images are fairly common. Soft images and blur are also common, but it’s these very effects that make the camera so popular. Photographers are always looking to take their art to the next level. Photographers around the world have won awards for images produced from their toy cameras.


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The toy camera is originally from Hong Kong, designed by T.M. Lee in the early 1980’s. In one respect, the Holga was like the first Kodak camera in that it was produced to put a camera in everyone’s hand. It was an inexpensively made piece of equipment and when it was first introduced, the black and white 120 roll film was fairly common and readily available. This made it easily accessible to everyone.

With the gaining popularity of the 35mm film format, the 120 film’s popularity began to decline. The Holga manufacturers decided to take their product to a market outside of China. After the introduction, photographers all around the world began to use and fall in love with its quirky features and the interesting effects it produced. It was especially popular with street photographers for the impressionistic photos it produced.

Image credit: markawelsh42; wikimedia commons


Holga cameras can be found in a variety of formats from the 120 to fisheye to 35mm. The 120 S was the original camera, but has since been discontinued. Many variations have since been introduced. Some have a built in flash, others with a glass lens, you can even get one with an attached colored flash unit. Others you can be purchased with the twin-lens reflex (TLR) viewfinder with a relocated color flash. There are also two different pinhole cameras. One camera produces a larger image. That’s just the 120 series.

They also have the 110 series, a micro and panoramic. They also have the 24x36mm series. This series includes the 35mm. This series has more advanced functions than the 120. The 135AFX 38mm has infrared autofocus, automatic film load, and interlock shutter release. The 135BC has a built-in transparent mask to create the vignette effect.

Settings and Format

Most of the cameras come with a fixed focal length, but you are able to change the aperture with sunny and cloudy set at f/11 and f/8. Most of the camera formats are square at 6x4.5 and a 6x6 format. Though the vignetting is more predominant in the 6x6 format. With the 6x4.5 format you get 16 exposures and the 6x6 format you get 12 exposures. Whichever format being used, the images are sure to be aesthetically pleasing.

This post is part of the series: Holga Toy Camera

The Holga toy camera is one of the most inexpensive and poorly made cameras that produces very quirky results. It has many features and additions that help to produce even more interesting photographs.

  1. Holga Toy Cameras