“For my next camera, I’d like a Minolta,” I mentioned to my friend Zach as we both perused the camera section of the antique shop with its dusty Brownies and rusting Land camera. Scott and I had already restored several Land cameras and enjoy them very much. Scott’s favorite by far is his Polaroid SX-70, a truly beautiful instrument.
But I was craving an old glass lens, with sharp focus and blurred backgrounds, and contrasty black and white film. I’ve had my Holga since 2012, but it doesn’t give much by way of focus (that is to say, the focus is only a rough guess), and the viewfinder is only a rough estimate of what the lens will see.
Less than an hour later, Scott stumbled on this Minolta XG-1 for $15.
The near mint interior held a completed 12-exposure roll of Kodak film, color. His battery was dead, but not corroded. He was labeled to be sold as a “prop camera” by a seller who apparently thought he’d only be wanted for his looks. Unable to test the shutter without a battery, there was no telling if he’d shoot— but the real view seen through the viewfinder was lovely. Scott argued it was worth $15 to take the gamble, who cares if it’s a dud?
Once at home, Scott popped in two button batteries and the XG-1 clicked on like he’d just been used yesterday. With the exception of a loose power knob (that slides out of place a little too easily), he seemed to be working perfectly, the shutter snapping importantly with each test.
This camera is from circa 1982, a consumer level camera from Minolta. The lens is a fixed distance (no option to zoom in or out) 50mm lens. For my first roll of test film I used Ilford HP5 Plus, 400 ISO.
For an idea of what this camera could possibly be capable of, here’s a lomography page dedicated to images captured using a Minolta XG-1: https://www.lomography.com/cameras/3338520-minolta-xg-1/photos
And for an idea of how it works, you can find the original manual here: https://www.cameramanuals.org/minolta_pdf/minolta_xg-1.pdf
And here’s a few shots from my first roll of film (Iford HP5 Plus)…
Here’s to many more images to come! Let’s burn some film. 🎞
When Scott and I went to Israel in 2019, we carried with us an Ilford disposable camera (specifically: this one, the Ilford XP2 single use ‘Harmon’). We finally got around to dropping off the film last weekend. All of these are 100% unedited, this is exactly how they came out of the developer.
We used Wolf Photo in Atlanta for our developing.
Fun fact: this film went through the airport xray machine at least once and still turned out fine.
What is a Holga?
The name comes from a Cantonese phrase, “ho gwong,” which means “very bright.” It is a plastic camera from the early 80s that takes far from perfect pictures — the appeal is the artistic nature of the unpredictable photos and the lightweight “toy” feel of the camera. It was designed to be a cheap camera for non-professionals (tourists, mostly). Images commonly display vignetting, blur, light leaks, and other distortions. Some argue that Holga cameras influenced the style development of Instagram because looks such as altered colors and light leaks were hallmarks of a Holga photo. The original camera also utilized the square photo format on 120 film (which might have helped to inspire the Insta square), although mine is a little army-green Holga 135 that uses 35mm and shoots rectangular images.
This style of photography is sometimes referred to as “lomography” [an experimental form of photography using film and old-fashioned, analogue cameras]. A Holga is not the camera you want to use when it’s very important to you that your shot come out a particular way, but if you’re looking for something fun and unpredictable that captures images in a unique and artsy way, you’d probably love a Holga.
Cheers to keeping film alive one roll at a time!