So Bad It Must Be Good?
Do you want inconsistently soft-focused pictures that are heavily vignetted? If you do, then the stunningly sub-mediocre $20 plastic Holga 60mm lens is custom-designed for your needs (click here for Nikon mount). I’ve never used an actual Holga film camera, but I have years of experience shooting film, including some very bad point-n-shoot models. I refuse to believe Holga film cameras historically delivered results this inferior. Nobody would have ever used them if that were the case, and there would be no market for the nostalgia that seems to surround the Holga brand. Somebody out there set me straight if I’m wrong on this
The product specs claim a fixed aperture of f/8, but I don’t see how that is possible. I would guess it’s f/16 or maybe even f/22 when mounted on a full-frame digital SLR. Construction is 100% plastic from front to back. It is 100% okay to put in the recycle bin, which is exactly where I think it belongs.
This lens is usable only in bright lighting conditions. Images are dark everywhere but the center 50% of the frame in all but the brightest of light. Perhaps it might work okay with a flash gun set for maximum output. Or maybe looking directly at the sun. Typical indoor lighting is going to be a challenge. Bright lighting, however, won’t solve the issues of poor sharpness, but even soft images can be artistic/cool if the exposure is good. From what I can gather from the positive reviews of this lens, poor focusing ability is a feature rather than a shortcoming. I don’t understand this, but that’s okay. It’s a big world out there.
A real deal-killer for me, apart from the other issues, is that it does not focus to infinity. So you can forget any ideas about taking really bad looking landscape photos. You are stuck with really bad looking portraits and closeup shots.
Modifications for Semi-Usefulness…Maybe
It tuns out that the poor light gathering ability of this lens is primarily due to a small perforated diaphragm at the rear of the lens. This causes the extreme vignetting (dark edges) and but also helps sharpen things up a bit. The diaphragm is lightly glued in place and can be removed easily with a small flat-blade screwdriver. Doing reduces the vignetting but at the cost of overall sharpness, as now the maximum aperture is really f/8. Additionally, maximum focusing distance is reduced further, meaning that anything beyond about 10-12 feet will not be in focus no matter the focus setting. Below are sample photos with/without the diaphragm.
|With Diaphragm||Without Diaphragm|
This lens is a classic case of “a solution in search of a problem”. The concept is cool, but I find the actual performance to be far outside of anything remotely desirable/usable. Cool/quirky hipster-like color toning and funky vignetting (a la Instagram filters) is a lot of fun, but this Holga-branded lens simply puts out what I think are bad images. If you want good quality, give this one a miss. If your goal is bad images, I give this product a 5-star rating and the highest recommendation.
Somebody out there is probably making amazing images with this lens. But why not start with quality and then make it look terrible with filters instead?
Note: This review contains some of the content from my original Amazon review of the Holga 60mm from 2016.