Using 35mm Film

So you have a great medium format camera, and you're looking for cool things to do with it. One of the coolest things you can do is load 35mm film into it. So what is so cool about going back to tiny little 35mm frames? Well, your image gets printed on the full frame, which works out to be 55x35mm. This is much wider than your average 35mm shot. But the best thing for me is that the image gets printed over the sprocket holes, resulting in fantastically interesting pictures.

That's hot! How do I do it?

For this mod you will need the following items:

  • A Holga
  • 35mm film
  • Some thin rubber bands
  • Foam - 2 chunky squares and a thin strip
  • Black tape
  • Scissors
  • Changing bag or darkroom for unloading your film

Note: 35mm must be unloaded and rewound into its canister in complete darkness. Failing to do this in complete darkness will ruin your film! If you don't have a completely dark room, you can buy a changing bag. These aren't expensive, and come in handy if you ever get film stuck in your camera.

How do I advance to the next frame?

HolgaClicks IconIf you have an iPhone, you can use our very own HolgaClicks application. It features click charts for the Holga 120N (or any similar model), and 120WPC, with all available mask combinations.

Otherwise, you may use Nicolai Morrison's wonderful 35mm Advance Guide. The table below is based upon the assumption that you are using the 6x6 mask. If you are not using the mask, check out the 35mm Advance Guide for the relevant information.

36 exposure roll: 24 55x35mm exposures, 3-4mm frame spacing
24 exposure roll: 17 55x35mm exposures, 3-4mm frame spacing
NOTE: There are 24 clicks to each turn of the Holga's winder

Exposure #ClicksTurns FractionTurns Decimal
Load 42 1 3/4 1.75
1 35 1 1/2 1.5
2 34 1 1/2 1.4
3 33 1 3/8 1.4
4 33 1 3/8 1.4
5 31 1 3/8 1.3
6 30 1 1/4 1.25
7 30 1 1/4 1.25
8 29 1 1/4 1.2
9 28 1 1/4 1.2
10 27 1 1/8 1.2
11 27 1 1/8 1.2
12 26 1 1
13 26 1 1
14 25 1 1
15 25 1 1
16 24 1 1
17 24 1 1 (END 24 EXP ROLL)
18 23 1 1
19 23 1 1
20 23 1 1
21 22 9/10 0.9
22 22 9/10 0.9
23 22 9/10 0.9
24 END
Table reproduced with kind permission from Nicolai Morrison.

The table is also available as a PDF (72 KB) which you can print and stick on the back of your Holga. There's an alternative version which has a space for notes instead of fractional and decimal turns.

How do I get prints?

Unfortunately, getting prints from 35mm Holga experiments is not the easiest thing in the world. The reason for this is that the width of each image is much wider than photo labs are used to dealing with. If you ask for prints, you'll most likely get the centre portion of your image only, which defeats the object of running 35mm through a Holga. When you get your film developed, you could ask them to produce a contact print. This is a sheet of paper with your negatives printed onto it as one long strip.

If you live in the UK, there is one lab who are able to print your Holga negs for you. That lab is West End Cameras. The price for this service is £14.99, and includes: development of your film, scanning the pictures to CD, and finally printing onto 6″ x 9″ paper. Considering the amount of work which is involved in this process, the price is pretty reasonable.

DIY Scanning

By far the best way to deal with 35mm shot in a Holga is to scan the film in yourself, providing you have access to a scanner set up for medium format film. This will allow you to scan in the whole strip of the film, including all the sprocket-hole goodness. You can then take this file on CD to a photo lab and get prints done. This will probably work out more cost-effective than having all of the images printed anyway. Popular models are the Epson 4490, and the Canon Canoscan 8400F. This is obviously the most ideal solution as you have total control of the process. Cameron from The Plastic Lens has produced a fantastic video showing you how to scan sprocket hole images.