I started my photography adventure with Russian Zenith in my hand in an early ’90s. Of course, there was a Smena 8M earlier but it was gone before I finished the first roll of film so it doesn’t count. Then Olympus OM 1 and Minolta (don’t remember model). 

Suddenly, about 2004, I’ve started to embrace digital technology. It was captivating and I’ve learnt a lot through it due to easy way of controlling image on every step. There was however something not right… 

I spent a lot of time on Flickr back then. Golden times of this service. Browsing through thousands of photographs I realised what was missing - very special look of images made on film. 

That was something that bothered me, something I couldn’t just get over. Depth, rendering, tonality… everything was so rich compared to my ‘flat’, sterile digital photographs. Not sure why I didn’t see it when I started to use digital cameras. I’d say it’s due to my occasional and rather recreational contact with photography back then, without any curiosity or interest in developing skills itself. That happened a bit later.

I had to do something about it without spending a fortune. I had a general idea about my photography - How I wanted to photograph and what. Even if I was happy with the content and the essence of my work, it lacked something hard to describe, something I really needed.

Quick decision. A few days on eBay and about a week later nice, solid, heavy and chunky Russian FED 3 with one of the Industar lenses was on my desk. Next day I was ready for another quest with Neopan CN loaded. Got back scans a few days later and I was hooked. 

That was it. At last ‘I have found, what I was looking for’ ;) 

Here another interesting and unexpected thing happened. Most of my colleagues and friends know that once you enter this world you are GASsed (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). Especially in the world of analogue photography. For the next few years, dozens of different cameras went through my hands. 

It was like that until a couple of years ago when I ‘ve decided to settle down a bit and keep only what I needed ;) I just had to find the best tools for my creative process. 

Each camera gives a different experience. It concerns lots of aspects: the way of using the camera, image format, optics specs and finally the most important part - photograph itself. Each camera as a tool gives different outcome and can truly enrich creativity once used properly. And it doesn’t have to be expensive … but wait for it ;) 

There is one camera I was curious about at an early stage. Holga 120 - Plastic, medium format toy camera. 

For some reason, It stayed only at the back of my head until 2009 when I bought one. My choice went for the GS model with glass lens. It supposed to be slightly sharper than a traditional plastic one. Not sure how it looks like in comparison to other models but it is really sharp… In the middle only :) … With slightly gradually blurred everything else. 

And this is a beauty of Holga and special look of photographs it comes out of it. Once you get an idea how and when to use it, Holga will become a truly reliable creative tool. 

I am not afraid to say that this is my favourite camera. And no, you can’t replace it with Agfa Isolette or anything similar often suggested as a ‘better option’. Holga is Holga. It’s a unique camera for specific images. You obviously love it or hate it. There is nothing in between. In my opinion EUR 20 well spent ;)

Holga was invented in Hong Kong in the early ’80s. Most models come with 60mm f8 lens, zone focusing and theoretically, 3 shutter speeds 1/100, 1/125 and bulb. In reality, it’s 1/100 only and bulb. Also focusing is rather theoretical with two options for close and further distances. Holga’s production has been ceased for a while in 2015. Panic time. It was the moment when I managed to get another GS model just in case. Still have it in the box. Untouched ;)

Holga is back but in very limited variations (No GS anymore) and with higher price tag. Still the most affordable camera. Holga is often used nowadays by the younger generation to create imperfect images full of light leaks, vignetting, lack of sharpness… That’s opposite to what I am getting out of it. None of my other cameras stayed longer with me than Holga. It’s over 11 years now and still going strong. The same model! 

Technology moved forward. There are many incredible digital cameras on market which are uncomparable with what was available 10 years ago or so but Holga still holds a unique position in my small collection of film cameras and will remain my choice in many cases. The same about the film - it will remain my prefered medium for personal work.

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