Interesting optics don’t have to cost a fortune. Andy Westlake tries out some inexpensive lenses to stimulate your creativity - and finds some to avoid, too

Holga 60mm f/8

At a glance:

  • £15-20
  • For DSLRs
  • Covers full-frame
  • Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony Alpha or Four Thirds

Holga 60mm f/8

Holga’s cheap toy cameras have gained a cult following, due to their particular low-fi charms. Their simple plastic lenses give heavy vignetting and often-indistinct focus, producing a characteristic aesthetic that can give great results with the right kind of subject.

Holgas use medium-format film, which puts off many photographers. But it turns out you can buy the same 60mm f/8 lens in a variety of DSLR mounts, often for less than £20 on eBay. Micro Four Thirds users can even pick up a 25mm f/8 version that promises similar results. Will using one of these get you the same dreamily-beautiful images?

No, it won’t. In fact, the Holga 60mm f/8 is one of the most horrible lenses you can buy.

Holga 60mm f/8 vignette plate

The problem is that you’re not quite getting the same lens. In an attempt to mimic vignetting on a DSLR that’s similar to the much larger 6x6cm negative, the manufacturer has added an aperture plate at the back, with a small central hole surrounded by eight even tinier ones. The result is a lens that lets in minimal light – much less than its f/8 designation suggests – making it a struggle to focus or even compose your images through the viewfinder. What’s more, the resultant artificial vignetting pattern is ugly in the extreme, especially on a full-frame camera.

Holga 60mm f/8 on Canon EOS 5D

There is, however, a solution. It’s possible, with a sharp knife and a little force, to prise off that offending aperture plate. Then the lens becomes much more usable, giving soft, low-contrast images that can be sort-of interesting. If you want that heavily vignetted look, just add it back in post-processing.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Fujian 35mm f/1.7
  3. 3. NewYi 35mm f/1.7
  4. 4. DJ Optical Discover 25mm f/1.7 (7artisans 25mm f/1.7)
  5. 5. Neewer 50mm f/2 (Meike 50mm f/2)
  6. 6. Meike 50mm f/1.7
  7. 7. DJ Optical Viltrox 35mm f/2 (7artisans 35mm f/2)
  8. 8. Kamlan 50mm f/1.1
  9. 9. Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8
  10. 10. Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye Body Cap Lens
  11. 11. Holga 60mm f/8
  12. 12. Lensbaby Spark
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