DIY: Digital EOS Holga

UPDATE: You do not have to DIY this now if you do not want to. You can buy it, ready-made, for less than the DIY version would cost. Sweet. See update at end of post. -DH

OK, so maybe this isn't really a strobe thing at first glance.

For those who do not know, Holgas are the funky, artsy, cheapo, 2 1/4 format plastic cameras that have many people diving back into the soft, light-leaky retro look.

Looking at the photos from this hybrid Digital EOS/Holga got me to thinking how great this could look with some hard flash thrown in there mixing with the ambient. The plastic lens distorts and softens hard light into something ethereal and beautiful.

Photographer Joachim Guanzon has mated a real, sawed-off Holga lens to a Canon digital camera. Even better, he has set up a web page to teach you how to do it yourself. (To any lensmount, really.)

The above pictures are not from an actual Holga, but from Joachim's digital hybrid version. You either love the look or you hate it. Personally, I think there are times when it can be awesome.

You'll need to buy (or find) a Holga and destroy it to make the hybrid. It's ok - they are very cheap. You'll also need a Dremel tool, (or a file and a heckuva lot of patience.)


Since this post first appeared, there has been a cottage industry in mating Holga lenses to the body caps of popular cameras. They are ready-made, and cheap—as in just $25. You can get them for Nikon or Canon, shipped Prime from Amazon.

I have used them on Nikons, and currently use them on my Fuji mirrorless cameras. You can easily adapt the Nikon or Canon versions to nearly any mirrorless mount adapter, which are also pretty cheap. (Example linked is Nikon-to-Fuji).

This lens, along with hard lighting, is a technique I use pretty frequently to get a different vibe to a portrait. And it is as easy as swapping lenses and putting a super-cheap piece of plastic on that expensive camera.

(Click on either of the two photos just above for a full On Assignment post on how they were made.)


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Anonymous Aaron J Scott said...

DUDE! I am totally going to rig one of those up. I haven't used my Holga in months. Dude! This is awesome. Dude.

Next trick after that: convincing the paper to use the photos!

May 23, 2006 4:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

Dude. I have to wonder what Strobist's foreign readers are thinking, reading these comments.


May 23, 2006 4:59 PM  
Anonymous Aaron J Scott said...

Just a bunch of haoles. Big, dumb American haoles.

May 23, 2006 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


May 23, 2006 8:37 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Randy Smith from is selling them at a decent price with diffrent focus ranges. It's a pretty good deal for those who don't want to rip apart their holga or who aren't very good with building junk.

May 24, 2006 9:38 AM  
Blogger Marshall said...

Even cheaper than a Lensbaby... (though, to be fair, I quite like the lensbaby)

May 24, 2006 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made my own Holga-to EOS lens conversion a couple of years ago, and I could never get it to look right. The 60mm Holga 'optical lens' is made to cover (if that's the right word) a 6x6cm negative. By putting it on an EOS 1-D, I'm only using the very center of the image circle. The problem is that the images are *too good*!! That single-element plastic lens isn't bad enough to give me the results that I get with my beloved Holgas.

So go ahead and try it -- it'll only cost a body cap, after all, and the lens from a spare Holga. But your results will vary with the, um, quality of your particular lens.

--Ken B

May 24, 2006 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Chad Simcox said...

This gives me the insite to retry a failed technique I attempted 4 years ago. I wanted to turn my Canon Elan7E into a pinhole camera without spending any money. My idea was to cut off the bottom of a soda/beer can, spray paint it matte black and then put a tiny hole in the center to give me the apature opening. I then taped this onto the front of the camera and exposed using the bulb setting. Apparently I did something wrong because all I got were foggy frames of film with a tiny hint of shape occasionally.
I think I'll try this again with my 20D

July 28, 2006 10:22 PM  
Blogger msuttle said...

Has anyone tried this with other lenses such as manual Minolta lenses on a Canon digital? I would love to be able to wipe the dust off all my old school lenses and see what could be done.

November 27, 2006 10:47 PM  
Anonymous greywulf said...


I love my Loreo lens-in-a-cap and that cost just $19, including shipping from Hong Kong. It makes a great pinhole lens/street photo combination, and turns a bulky SLR into something pocket-sized. Wonderful.

There's something to be said about using less than perfect lenses on hi-tech equipment. Sometimes, perfection isn't in what's good, but what is bad.

November 28, 2006 11:59 AM  
Blogger a u s t i n said...

I definitely want to try this.

July 15, 2007 2:15 PM  

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