Even though the Holga 120 Series is designed to take 120 format film, there are two ways you can use 35mm film on your Holga 120 Series Camera.
Loading the Film
1. The first and simpler way is to use the Holga 35mm Conversion Adapter. It comes with a plastic insert that guides the film through the camera and a solid Holga back (as the original Holga back has film counters which will leak light if you use 35mm without any hacks).
2. The second method requires a little bit of work to secure the film in place and guiding it through in a straight line. Firstly, cut foam inserts to secure the 35mm film roll into the 120 film compartment. The foam inserts are meant to keep the 35mm film roll centred along the film plane and keeps it in place as you wind the roll so the film is kept straight.
Once the roll is securely positioned in the film compartment, feed the film to the 120 film take-up spool on the other end, and tape the leader to to the spool. Wind a bit of the film to make sure the film remains centred.
With the film ready to go – replace the camera back, and cover the film counter window with opaque tape to prevent any light from entering the camera. This is required because unlike 120 film, 35mm film does not have paper backing! Alternatively, if you have the Holga 35mm Conversion Adapter you can simply pop that solid camera back on.
With a little extra work you are rewarded with 2 special effects that you won’t get in a Holga 135 Series Camera – images that cover the whole section of film – including the sprocket holes and a panorama image much longer than regular 35mm shots!
When you are shooting 35mm film on a Holga 120 Camera – because you do not have access to a film counter on the Holga 120 Camera, you have to estimate how far to wind the film after each shot. For each frame, you should be pretty sure there won’t be any overlapping if you count about 35 clicks after each shot. As you progress through the film, the amount you need to wind decreases by about 1 click for every 3 shots. On the Holga, there is about 24 clicks on each turn – so as a general rule of thumb that is about 1.5 turns for the first 12 shots, and about 1 turn afterwards for the remainder of the roll.
Unloading the Film
At the end of the roll of film, you must make sure the film is not exposed to any light from the outside when you take the camera back off. To do this, you can either use a film changing bag, or in a completely dark room (or simply a darkroom). When you’ve taking the roll of film out, simply wind all the film back into the film canister and take it to your local photo lab for development. If you do your own processing, simply cut the film from the canister and the spool and pop it into your developing tank.
Using a kit for the Holga Camera
If a DIY job isn’t for you, there are two options for you to consider to make your life a bit easier. There are two 120 to 35mm adapters available for your Holga camera which will allow your Holga 120 to take 35mm film. The simpler and cheaper one is made by Holga and the other more advanced one is made by Superheadz.