Aperture mod

Is this hack outdated?

Possibly. The recent ‘factory improved’ models now have working apertures of f/13 and f/20. While this is still not the f/8 and f/11 that is widely claimed, it is still a step in the right direction. I'll still keep this information up, in case you decide to be daring and obtain custom apertures.

How to hack your older Holga

As explained in the aperture facts article, your stock Holga only comes with one usable aperture of around f/13. I'm going to show you how to modify your Holga to gain working apertures of f/10 on cloudy, f/13 on sunny. You will need the following:

  • Phillips '0' screwdriver
  • Small flat head screwdriver, or pen
  • Superglue or Araldite
  • Cocktail sticks (optional)
  • 15-20 minutes

To start, take the back off your Holga, and remove the screws circled in Step 1 below. Now carefully take the lens assembly off, making sure not to disconnect the wire shown in Step 2. Remove the two screws circled in Step 3, and lift out the shutter carefully. Make sure the aperture arm is moved out of the way, and gently pry out the aperture ring as show in Step 4. Try not to bend the ring as we'll be gluing it onto the aperture arm shortly. Also be careful not to scratch the lens with the tip of your screwdriver/pen. Once you have removed the ring, slide the switch over to sunny and get your glue ready. Position the aperture ring on the arm centrally over the lens hole, as show in Step 5, and glue it in place. I did this by squeezing out some glue, dipping a cocktail stick in it, and then spreading it on the aperture ring. This meant I couldn't accidentally apply too much glue. I prefer plastic glue that doesn't dry instantly, as it allows you to move the aperture ring, should you fail to get it central.

Once you've done that, leave it to dry for a while, then put the shutter back on, and screw it in place. Now put the shutter back on the camera and screw it back in place.

You now have 2 usable apertures - f/10 and f/13! That's only 2/3 of a stop, but that's better than nothing.

Obtaining apertures of f/8 and f/11

If apertures of f/10 and f/13 are too limited for you, then you can buy a pre-modified Holga from Randy at holgamods.com. His standard modified Holga comes with 2 apertures (f/8 and f/11) as well as closer focusing (2ft), all for $30.95 (excluding postage).

Do it yourself

If you laugh in the face of danger, and own a few key tools, then you can easily make your own custom apertures. Are you with me? Let's roll! You will need:

  • A Holga
  • A drill
  • Metric drill bits
  • Math skills
  • Superglue

That's right, I said math skills. To create our new aperture, we must first calculate the opening required. This is done using a simple formula: ƒ = 60mm ÷ N. Where ƒ is the hole size, 60mm is the focal length, and N is the aperture we require. Still with me? Good. So if we want a cloudy aperture of f/8: 7.5mm = 60mm ÷ 8. So with this knowledge we load our drill with our trusty 7.5mm metric bit.  Now we need to take the lens off, so follow steps 1-4 as above, but now loosen the screw, as show below. Your lens should now twist off nicely. If you look at the back of the lens, you may notice that there's a bit plastic that is holding the lens in place. This plastic is held in at three points. As a result it's pretty easy to twist off. I got mine off by placing my drill bit on it, while holding the lens in my hand. I then started my drill slowly which twisted the plastic off.

Now that the plastic is detached, you can hold it in place with a vice, and drill your new aperture. Make sure the hole is drilled straight; I used a pillar drill to achieve this. Once you are happy with your work, tidy up the edges using some fine grade sand paper to remove any burrs. Now re-assemble your lens and lightly glue the plastic lens holder back in place.

You now have a cloudy aperture of f/8. Congratulate yourself by taking your Holga out for a test run. While 1-stop difference doesn't seem like much, it should enable you to use 100 ISO film on a bright cloudy day (no shadows), whereas before you'd have had to use 200 ISO film.

As for the sunny aperture, older Holga aperture arms had rectangular apertures, which require filling before drilling. I haven't yet figured out how to do this, so you are probably best off sticking with the current Holgas. These have drilled f/20 holes, which can easily be drilled out to obtain a wider aperture (e.g. f/16 or f/11).