My Holga 135BC Review

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Holga 135BC - what's in the box
Holga 135BC - what's in the box

I’ve had my eye on this camera for a while – like every Holga Nut I imagine… who could resist the temptation of another Holga, especially if it’s different to the ones we know and love? Unlike its big brothers, this one takes standard 35mm film and produces 24x36mm negatives – easily processed on the High Street.

I rushed down to the Photographer’s Gallery last week to get the Holga 135BC, and I couldn’t wait to try it out. But before I show you the breathtaking results, here’s what this camera is all about.

There are two versions: the Holga 135 and the Holga 135BC. As I understand it, the only difference is a pink sticker on the BC version, and the fact that BC stands for “black corners”. This one should produce stronger vignetting, while the non-BC version shouldn’t.

Although there are no clues on the package or the manual, it’s fair to assume that this little baby is made by Tokina in Hong Kong, along with the rest of the fabulous Holga family.

What’s in the Box

We have the following ingredients at our disposal:

  • 1x Holga 135BC (nice!)
  • 1x Lens Cap with HOLGA written on it (I think all the new ones have that since 2008/2009)
  • 1x pink box with example photos, a “drawing” of the camera featuring some monkey sticker. Note that the word “Holga” is written in a different font than what’s on the lens cap, the camera and previous boxes (I guess they’re not branding specialists – which makes it more attractive to me)
  • 1x user manual
  • and one of those hand straps that you *can* attach, although nobody in their right mind ever would

The Outside

Plastic. Cheap plastic, that’s what we like. But unlike his bigger brother, this one is really well built. The back doesn’t come off completely (it’s hinged, like on a proper camera). There’s a film counter on the top (just like on a proper camera), and the shutter button is at the top, not next to the side of the lens. Speaking of which, you can screw in a cable release for long exposures.

As for features, they’re almost identical to the 120 version: at the bottom, you’ve got a switch for “normal” and “bulb” settings, so double-exposures or as-long-as-you-press-the-button exposures are back with a vengeance. Of course there’s a standard tripod mount. Nice!

On the top there’s a hot shoe for an external flash, and we also have that notorious aperture switch. Just like the 120 version, it technically works, but both apertures are the same. Should make for easy modding I would hope. The lens barrel (if you want to call it that) has the same outer dimensions as the 120 version, so all accessories should fit like a glove. I love it when manufacturers do that!

The Inside

This is how the vignetting is created: there's a translucent cut-out mask 1cm behind the lens
This is how the vignetting is created: there's a translucent cut-out mask 1cm behind the lens

Under the hood, things look a bit different. The film winds from left to right, like on standard 35mm cameras. However, it unwinds counterclockwise (as determined by the cartridge), and winds into the camera clockwise. I’ve not seen that before! It’s a great idea though, because it makes the film less curly when you come to handle it for processing or scanning. If this is in fact the reason behind it, who knows.

Tha back pops open by lifting the film rewind knob. You wind the film with a wheel at the top right, like on a disposable. Film transport is done by a sprocket next to the film chamber, and a 1cm thick take up spool. All the components, like the rest of the camera, have a very sturdy feel to it.

If you look closely at the film chamber, you can see a translucent mask behind the lens that covers the corners – the responsible part for creating that great vignetting effect.

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75 thoughts on “My Holga 135BC Review”

  1. Hi Jay!

    Thanks for this blog! Your’s is one of the few that is actually informative, helpful and inspiring :). I’m about to embark my first journey into photography and the Holga’s captured my attention! However, I’m stuck on either getting the regular Holga 135 or the Holga 135BC. What would you recommend?

    • What a nice thing to say, thank you Theresa!

      The only difference between those cameras is that the BC has a semi-translucent mask behind the lens which lightens the corners of your pictures slightly. The result is a nice subtle vignetting which wouldn\’t be as strong without that mask. I really like the look it gives you because it adds a bit of extra \”weirdness\” to your pictures, but purists may disagree on how this is achieved – after all it\’s an in-camera filter. I love it and would recommend the BC.

      Hope this helps 😉

  2. Hi Jay.

    Thanks for so much information on your blog.

    I just bought my Holga 135BC, however, i’m a complete newbie.

    Is there anything or request that I should tell the person when I bring the films to develop?

    I’m totally clueless about it.

    • Hi Priscilla,

      how exciting! Welcome to Holga Land! Luckily the Holga 135\’s shoot the standard \”minilab\” format so they should be able to print your film without any special instructions.

  3. Thanks so much for your post. I’m becoming more and more intrigued by lomography toy camers and film photography and it seems like the holga 135bc is a good way to start getting into it.

    What kind of color and b/w film would you recommend for a complete beginner who’s going to take the film in for processing? (would just any store work to get that nostalgic feel?)

    • I\’d say start with 400 or 800 ISO colour negative film. That\’s the easiest to get processed in a Mini Lab on the high street. No special techniques needed other than the passion to shoot 😉

      If you\’d like to take some b/w shots, have a look into the Ilford XP2 or the Kodak BW 400 CN. Those films can be processed in a Mini Lab too (in colour chemicals). Some labs often have problem developing \”real\” black and white film.

      Good luck and Happy Snapping!

  4. Heyy

    Ummm just a quick question, im researching Holga’s at the moment because im very keen to buy myself one soon and was just wondering – are all of the Holgas reusable after the film in the camera has been used? If yes then is there a certain type of film i need to buy?


    • Hi Jordy,

      yes all Holgas are multi-use cameras, no matter what format. They usually don\’t come with a film. Use a high speed film, 400 ISO or above (800, 1600, etc). For the 135 and 135BC you need 35mm film (also known as 135 film) and for the Medium Format models you need 120 film. You can use them over and over again (until they break) 😉

      Hope this helps!

  5. hello 🙂 i really enjoyed this info,i am just 13 years old,but i love photography so much,i have a canon,but when i saw this awesome photos and Holgas i fell in love with them,i am looking for one on Ebay but would you recommend me the 135bc with the fisheye lense? and there is something more i should know about them? thanks so much! 🙂

    • Hi Cristina,

      I *think* (but am not 100% sure) that the Holga 135BC and the Holga Fisheye are two very different cameras. I looked at the fisheye version at The Photographer’s Gallery once but decided in favour of the 135 BC. The fisheye is on my wishlist though. I’d say go with the 135BC or the 135, simply because it will allow you to use other Holga accessories (like the filter set, fisheye adaptor, close-up lenses, etc).

      And they come in various funky colours to choose from 😉

      Good luck, and share some of your pictures when they\’re ready. All the best, and have lots of fun!

  6. Hey Jay,

    Really great post! I see that all new Holga users have flocked here too. You mentioned that you use a high ISO for these pictures. May i ask exactly how much? 800?

    I’m only on my 4th film roll on my 135BC and i seem to have a problem taking pictures outdoors during the day. For some reason, it turns out really dark. So i tried it with flash, but still the same results. Is it the film i am using? I’ve been using 400 ISO for my pictures and have no problem with pictures in gloomy lighting.

    And is it true that 400 ISO always gives the grainy effect? Although i love it, it can be too grainy sometimes. Would there be less grain effects with higher ISO?

    Thanks so much Jay, hope to hear from you.

    • Hi Triona,

      for my black and white work I use very high ISO film, usually much above 800. I’m talking 3200 and 6400 here. The higher the ISO speed of a film is, the more grain there will be. Conversly, the lower the ISO speed (say 200, 100 and even less) will give you less grain. However, a 200 ISO film needs twice as much light as a 400 ISO film to yield the same exposure. Since our Holga’s only have a fixed shutter speed and a rather fixed aperture, the only way we can react to lighting conditions is to choose an appropriate film speed to get the results we want.

      400 ISO is a good medium that *should* work well both outdoors in sunny and overcast conditions, as well as indoors with a flash. Having said that, at this time of year (winter in the Northern Hemisphere) every day is very overcast, and unless it’s actually sunny without clouds, you’ll get mediocre results. Come April the light will be much stronger, probably a good couple of stops so you’ll see you pictures come to life with colour. Time of day in the winter makes a big difference too, so you’ll get the best results between 11am and 3pm outdoors. Compared to summer time, when you’ll be able to take great sunny shots between 8am and 8pm.

      If you’re shooting colour, try some high ISO black and white film. Ilford Delta 3200, Kodak T-Max 3200 or Fuji Neopan 1600 are good for these conditions.

      I could go on for quite some time here, and I get asked these questions a lot. Once thing leads to another when you explain these things. I’ll tell you what: over Christmas, I’ll write an article about getting the best results from your Holga – it’s my present to the Holga community 😉

      Hope this helps, please ask if you have any further questions.

    • After a fair bit of trial and error, I can strongly recommend Ilford XP2 film for Holgas. It’s rated at 400 ISO, but it’s extremely tolerant of over- and under-exposure. It is, of course, a C41 film, so the easiest way to get it processed is a high street mini-lab. I’ve always had good results from it.

      I use a flash in anything but bright conditions, and I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve got from XP2.

      • I second that, the XP2 is excellent – especially if you don’t have black and white development at your disposal.

        Kodak have a similar film called the BW 400 CN – same idea, same results in case anyone’s looking. I’ve used the Kodak on a few occasions and it’s also excellent.

  7. Hey Jay (:

    I was looking through reviews on Holga 135BC. I would like to know how did you snap such nice pictures. I had my own holga, therefore I use like normal. There is 36 photos in total. Unfortunately, when I brought it to the shop for the person to wash ’em, most of the photos couldn’t be wash. May i ask for some advise? (:

    • Hi Janice,

      thank you – glad to hear you like my pictures 🙂 I use very high ISO film for my images (3200 ISO for black and whitie and 800 for colour, sometimes more) – and I do my own developing. That way I can push process the film if the weather isn’t to bright. Make sure you shoot in strong sunlight, with the sun behind you and a well lit subject in front of the camera. Use flash when you’re shooting indoors.

      When you say your pictures couldn’t be washed, what do you mean? Maybe I can give you more tips if I understand what went wrong.

  8. Hey. I’m happy to hear from you! (; wow! 3200 it’s very high! Where do get them? Because the highest I could get is 400. (:

    About the couldnt wash film. I mean when they process the film. Most of then are blanks! No images. So yeah. That’s the problem.

    Recently I bought the 2nd roll of film. Using 400 ISO. hopefully pictures come out better this time. Oh yeah, my Boyf got me some expire film, how does it work actually? (;

    • Hi Janice,

      you can get high ISO film in professional photo shops. They’re all black and white like the Ilford Delta 3200, Kodak T-Max 3200 and the Fuji Neopan 1600. You can also use 400 ISO films and then develop them for longer – it’s called push processing. Professional labs offer that service or you can do it yourself – then you’re in full control. Works with colour films as well to a certain extend. Say a 400 ISO colour negative film can be pushed to 800 or 1600. It looks much nicer with black and whitie though 😉

      Ah, if your films came out blank that means there wasn’t enough light when you took the pictures. Make sure the aperture is set to cloudy and watch out for lots of sunshine. Always use a flash when you’re indoors.

      Expired film is past its sell by date. The manufacturers don’t guarantee that the contrasts, colours and general sensitivity to light isn’t as it should be anymore. The results can be anywhere from surprising (like super yellow and grainy) to just “blank film”. It depends on how the films were stored. They’re good to mess around for pictures that are not important, but I wouldn’t reccomend them because if their unpredictability. If you’re testing a new camera or if you’re learning, you can’t really pinpoint what went wrong – say you use expired film and your pictures are blank, you can’t say for sure it was you or the film…

      Sounds like you’re on an exciting journey! Share some of your pictures – and have lots of fun 😉


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