Holga: Up-Close and Personal with add-on Maco Lens Sets

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If you wanted to take pictures closer than 1m (3ft) with your Holga, it meant you had to hack it and permanently mutilate your camera. Even then, putting things in close focus was a guessing game so I never bothered.

Thanks to these two £10 packs of add-on lenses, you no longer need to do that: snap one onto your Holga and start shooting up-close and personal. Since the barrels are the same on the 120 and 135 models, these babies will work on all my seven Holgas. Sweet!

I couldn’t resist and bought them both at the Photographer’s Gallery. I am currently looking into doing somethig similar to Little People in the Big City with Holga and Diana so these lenses seemed ideal for the job.

What I got was no fancy packaging, a clear set of instructions and a total of FIVE lens rings in a cute plastic storage pouch. All that for £19.98 and I wasn’t even looking – amazing!

What’s in the Box

There are two sets you can buy seperately, each set costs £10. The MLS-1 Close-Up set contains

  • a 500mm lens
  • a 250mm lens
  • and a 120mm lens

The other set is the CLS-1 Macro Set and goes much closer, containing

  • a 60mm lens (my favourite)
  • and a 30mm lens
The add-on lens easily snaps onto the lens barrel – here it is on my new red and white Holga 120 GTLR

These values are effectively your new focal lenthgs. You’ll have to set your Holga focus to infinity for those to work and place your subject dead on into the focal point for it to come out sharp. The closer the focal lenth, the shallower your depth of field will become – and the quicker your subject will appear out of focus if you’re a little off the mark.

It’s best to use a measuring tape when you’re taking shots as I found that “guessing” 30mm doesn’t really work (unless your very experienced of course). There is talk of a camera stand at the bottom of the instructions that would have built-in rods to show you where your subject needs to be – I’ll see if I can find that somewhere.

Let’s see some pictures

For this test, I used a 10cm tall figure of a wedding couple that may or may not have been on top of a wedding cake at one point. The figures are hand painted and very detailed.

I used my new red and white Holga 120 GTLR to shoot them, thinking maybe the TLR viewfinder may come in handy. Well it doesn’t – not when your subject is 3cm away from the lens (because of the parallax problem). In fact, forget the viewfinder for this mission altogether (like we ever used the Holga viewfinder before).

These pictures were taken in strong morning sunlight on Kodak Portra 160VC, immediately developed afterwards and scanned a day later. We were too excited!

500mm lens
250mm lens
120mm lens – notice the detail on her dress
60mm lens
30mm lens

The only way you have to control focus is by moving the camera or the object your’re shooting into the focal point. As I said earlier you have to be very accurate with this, especially when you’re using the 60mm and 30mm adaptors. Here’s an example of what happens when you’re less than 5mm out:

30mm lens – slightly out of focus

Here are some more I shot on those two rolls. Lighting is the same, objects vary from Rubik’s Cube to Lee Filter Swatch and anything tiny we could find in the lounge. The full set can also be found on Flickr.

[nggallery id=42]


A superb addition to the Holga Line-Up, these add-on lenses work with both the Holga 120 models and the 135 models (I still have to try the latter and will amend this review accordingly).

You get a good range of variety that expands the way you can take Holga shots into an unseen world. Even with modded Holgas you won’t be able to get results this accurate. Filing off that lens barrel pin and faffing around with film canisters is a thing of the past!

For a price of £10 for each set this is a no brainer. If you wanted to try one before you buy the other, I’d strongly reccomend the CLS-1 for use of the 60mm lens.

If you compare the competition (i.e. Lomography’s Diana+), you get one equivalent 150mm lens in the Wide and Up Close set for £35. Tokina (Holga’s creators) give you 5 lenses for £10 each (£20 total) and you’ll get much more variety.

The lenses come in their own pouch and are so small you can carry them anywhere. I love them dearly and can’t wait to take more pictures in Macro Universe 😉

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24 thoughts on “Holga: Up-Close and Personal with add-on Maco Lens Sets”

  1. I am working on a new series based on the original illustrations of the Alice’s Adventures in wonderland released in 1865. I am attemting to use miniature figures to come out life size. Since I can’t get closer to 3 feet, I shot each figure with my digital camera and then printed it bigger and place/taped each image standing in a black backround. Then later I found out about the lense you mentioned and then tried to do a few shots.

    I calculated mm into inches where CL-120 is 4.7 in, the CL-250 is 9.8 and the CL-500 is 19.6. I also got the Macro lense but I think they are too close to the subject. I ran to different rolls but was not successfull in getting my subject in focus. Did I do my calculations wrong? Or do I need to use a different kind of ruller that includes mm measurements. I hate to keep waisting rols just to find out exactly where my focus will end up.

    Another thing I tried was to use my digital camera since I have a Holga lens that I used instead but I don’t think that the camera is very accurate since I can’t tell exactly where my infinity mark is. And since there are not really the same thing, I don’t think that route will work. Do you know something I don’t know, Please advice.

    Jessie Luke

    • Hi Jessie,

      I think your calculations are good and you can stick with your inch ruler for now. From my experience: the closer your subject has to be to the camera, the more accurate you have to be in measuring the distance. Subjects will be out of focus on the Macro Lens set with as little as a couple of millimeters away from your focal length. You should be fine with the CL-500/CL-250/CL-120 though. Have you got some shots to share with us? If they’re well off the mark, I’d suggest a different Holga – maybe there’s something wrong with yours. How do non-macro shots come out, and how do they correspond to the focus scale?

      Tricky one with the digital camera attachment. As long as “inifnity” creates a sharp picture, you’re good to go with the Close-Up lenses I’d think.

  2. Hi there !
    I’ve come across your blog while looking for information about the Holga macro lens sets. This was very helpful !
    Just a question though : when using these lenses, what focusing range do you use for the indicatory distance of each lens to be working properly ? I’m assuming the closest one (i.e. ‘One person’), but just to be sure 🙂

    By the way, I’ve browsed the rest of your blog and I love it ! There’s plenty of interesting stuff in there, and your pictures are a delight.
    Keep up the good work !

    • Feels weird replying to myself, but I’ve realized I had missed the part where you say it’s actually the infinity setting that must be used. So, yeah, sorry about that !
      I have another question though : Where exactly do you put the distance ? Between your subject and the surface of the lens ? Or between the subject and the lens mount ? (which, in the case of the 30mm lens, would result in the lens almost touching the subject I guess).

      • Hello Nick,

        thank you very much about your kind words – it’s certainly encouraging to keep shooting Holga. Thanks!

        Yes it’s the inifnity setting indeed. The manual is a bit vague as it doesn’t mention where from exactly to start measuring – I’d say measure from the lens surface to the spot of the subject you’d like in focus. Again this is difficult with three dimensional objects (picture a golf ball – would you like the very beginning of it in focus, or half an inch further up – which is further away?) Best practice: trial and error. Nothing is too precise with the Holga, and those close-up lenses are no exception. That said, the closer you get the more important is precise focussing or you’ll end up with the eternal blur.

        I had an idea to make working with distance easier: drill a tiny hole into the close-up lens, then attach a piece of string cut and measured to the focussing distance. That way, all you have to do is pull the string towards your subject, position your camera and take the shot. I haven’t done this myself yet but it seems an easy way to get the distance right.

        Good luck, and post a link to your Holga close-ups when you’ve got them 😉

  3. Hi,
    I’m really thinking about getting one of those and a shutter release but I’m thorn between CLS and MLS

    You wrote
    “…I’d strongly reccomend the CLS-1 for use of the 60mm lens.”

    CLS has 500mm, 250mm and 120mm
    MLS has 60mm and 30 mm

    So I’m puzzled, which one do you recommend getting CLS or MLS ?



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