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:
- For DSLRs
- Covers full-frame
- Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony Alpha or Four Thirds
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.
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.
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.