My GOLDEN HALF – a Camera Review

Golden Half: what's in the box
Golden Half: what's in the box

The GOLDEN HALF is a 35mm half-format plastic camera. I discovered it recently while browsing through some alternative camera sites, and since it takes odd 18x24mm pictures (that’s two in the space of a “normal” 24x36mm negative), I decided I had to have it.

After 4 weeks and several rolls of film, here’s my two cents.

I discovered this camera at the London Photographer’s Gallery, experts and stockists for plenty of Holga & Co schnick-schnack. At £35 not bad for Central London prices (hey, it even comes with a film in the box).

History

Rumour has it that the Golden Half was produced for a project by/for Ina Babylon and a book called “Life as a Golden Half”. I’m quoting from memory here, as I’ve not seen a copy of this book or found anything about this project. The name Ina Babylon may or may not refer to an actual person, it certainly is associated with the Superheadz Website, aka the makers of this rubberized pocket gadget. The entire site is in Japanese, a language fascinating yet very much a mystery to me.[singlepic id=436 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Luckily though, the manual is in English and even funny at times.

In a nutshell it explains the features of the camera and it all comes in a shiny plastic box, stating that you can take twice the amount of ordinary 35mm pictures (48 on a 24 roll, 72 on a 36 roll – you get the picture). It achieves this by taking a fairly small picture on a piece of film, comparable to that of 35mm motion picture cameras.

This idea isn’t new, and in fact goes way back. Had it not been for the ultimate source of all knowledge Paul Weston, I’d never have known. Apparently, Olympus made an entire SLR system around half format called the Pen F series. Very small cameras for the time (we’re talking the late 60ies here), and a whole arsenal of lenses was available. Paul even owned such a camera and says it took cracking pictures – until someone stole it from him in a changing room in Australia.

[singlepic id=437 w=320 h=240 float=right]

The main oddity of half-frame or half-format is that while holding the camera landscape, you’re actually taking a portrait picture, and vice versa. It’s like using the 645 gate with a Holga. It’s odd, but you get used to it quickly.

The other side effect of half-format of course is the image quality.

Paul remembers that for 6×4″ prints you don’t see a difference, but of course if you go bigger than that, grain starts becoming very visible. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; I for one am immediately thinking of funky black and white effects and overdeveloped HP5 film for an extra scoop of spookiness (see examples).

What’s in the Box

The camera comes in a choice of black or blue. Mine is black with a rubberised finish – like some versions of the Lomography Sumpersampler.

  • 1x Golden Half camera
  • 1x hand strap
  • 1x 400 ASA Kodak film (in a matching Golden Half box)
  • 1x Lens Cap
  • 1x tiny Manual, about the size of a 35mm film box. Cute!

There’s an inscription on the back, explaining the basic concept. It finishes with “So throw away your book and why don’t you go out”. I love it already!

Features

The Golden Half features a very wide lens, 22mm as the manual states. That’s probably the actual focal length of the lens, which means at a smaller frame size, this would appear even wider. A quick glance through the viewfinder confirms this – without fisheye distortion, you can capture A LOT at a time, making this an ideal tool of candid street photography. Cartier-Bresson would have loved it. Be careful though that you don’t go up too close, minimum focusing distance is 1.5 meters (60 inches) according to the manual. In reality, I’ve not had anything out of focus though.

Golden Half
The Golden Half - front view

About Jay Versluis

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74 thoughts on “My GOLDEN HALF – a Camera Review

  1. hey there,

    i recently got a golden half so i’ve been looking for information on how to take better photos with it. your review of it has been helpful, thank you! (:

    just wanna check: if i use a normal negative film, would photos from the golden half be any different from a normal film camera? what difference would there be?

    1. Hi Charlene,

      glad you liked the review. The only difference with the Golden Half is that it will produce two pictures in the space of that of a normal film camera. To compare: a “normal” camera produces negatives that are 24x36mm with each shot – the Golden Half produces 18x24mm (that’s half the size). A mini lab will print those side by side. The film itself behaves the same as in any other point-and-shoot-fixed-fucos-fixed-shutter camera.

      Hope this helps 😉

  2. Thanks for the great review and sample pics. I just got one by an impulse in my local photo store. I bit more then the Holgas in price, but twice the fun. Im going to try it out soon. Keep up the good work.

    All the best,
    Sergey

  3. One question..When I get my film developed, sometimes the photos at the end of the roll are not aligned properly. I will get one full photo in the middle of the print and 2 halves on either side. Is there anything I can do to fix this?
    thanks

    1. Hi Tina,

      I think you may have to speak to your lab about that – I have a feeling that your negatives are OK but your lab (or rather their automated machine) doesn’t quite know how to align it for printing. That machine usually looks for a gap between two pictures – but because your Golden Half creates twice as many as oridinairy cameras and much thinner, these minilabs can get confused easily.

  4. Hello there, I have a quick question about the attachments or accessories for the Golden Half.

    I’m aware that there’s a flash for the camera but I recently bought this shutter release cable and the seller has said that it works on this camera. However I’m not sure where it goes in the camera. Either he has conned me or that it has a place in the camera.

    It would be nice to hear from you soon,

    Thank-you so much.

    1. Hi Lume,

      I’m not aware that you can connect a cable release to the Golen Half – not a standard one that is (the one that you usually screw into a little hole). You may have been conned… unless it’s a special shutter release that comes with some contraption that wraps around the camera to press the shutter.

  5. Hello there,
    This was really nice to read, i think it’s a great review and i’m thinking about buying a Golden Half camera myself. But I was wondering if you could maybe answer this question i’m having. Do you know if it is possible to create more than just one layer on the image/negative?
    Greetings.

    1. Hello tuureluure,

      glad you liked my article 🙂

      When you say “another layer”, do you mean multiple exposures? I’m afraid the Golden Half doesn’t do that. It would certainly be a cool option!

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