Holga HL-N on Digital Nikon D300

So, this is what happens when you put a Holga lens on a DSLR. Here are a few of my initial impressions.


Out of the box you know that this is a Holga quality lens. The lens mount is plastic, it wiggles back and forth on my D300 and the focus is extremely tight. I’m sure that, in time the mount will wear through and break.


Focusing is very difficult as the aperture of the Holga lens is somewhere between f/8-f/13. This means that you’re focusing at that fixed aperture. There is no opening up to f/4 or f/2 to focus and then stopping down to take the picture. This makes the image in the viewfinder very dark and difficult. The regular 120mm Holga avoids this by allowing you to compose through a basic plastic window and focus by guesstimation. With an SLR it is at once more and less complicated as you can actually focus with greater accuracy when you can see what you’re doing, however it is extremely difficult to compose through that dark window.



That being said, if you own a Holga you probably know what you’re getting yourself into.

I feel like this is going to be a fun lens to pull out every now and then to shake things up, even in formal shooting. And, with a little practice and a little help in Lightroom the results can be pretty interesting.


The lens itself is minuscule on my D300 and may engender a few laughs from casual photo observers, but it’s fun and a definite change of pace over the hyper-sharp images my regular lenses can produce.

This lens saves me the trouble of buying a new Holga body to cannibalize to make a lens for my Nikon SLRs, which I appreciate. I wish the mount was metal but for $30 shipped from Hong Kong I can only complain so much.

I really anticipate this lens being a little bit more enjoyable on my D700, whenever it is that Nikon gets it back to me from the Melville repair facilities (1.5 months and counting).


Throwing this lens on your SLR is not going to give you the true Holga film experience, and, really, it’s not meant to. Just like digital isn’t really meant to emulate film. What this lens does is it gives you the opportunity to switch gears and shoot lomo with the convenience of digital. Purists might argue that this is a contradiction, but purists of most any variety are silly.

This lens allows you to casually shoot holga images without burning through film and without the unpredictability of the Holga body. Some say this is a con, but I have to disagree. But, then again, I tape my Holga bodies to avoid light leaks. I feel like I get results I like more often in a system that I can control, and shooting Holga digital allows me that control.

And, lets be honest, when was the last time you shot that 35mm Holga? I know there are plenty of them sitting on shelves collecting dust.

Buy this lens for a casual means to get your lomo on. Don’t buy it for sharpness or speed or to replace your Holga. That’s not what it’s for. It’s a fun lens and a worthwhile purchase if this is your bag baby.



About ryanmlong

Long is a working professional writer and photographer since he graduated from Michigan State University. He cut his teeth at the Wrangell Sentinel and before long started his own photography business specializing in shooting sports. Today he specializes in wedding and portrait photography but still gets up to his old habit of heading out for a morning of nature and landscape shooting. Long also works as a freelance writer, primarily for Demand Media Studios.
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5 Responses to Holga HL-N on Digital Nikon D300

  1. Hi there, nice little review. Did one myself that maybe you’ve seen as someone posted a link to it on the Nikon rumours site. Think this is a great little lens, especially for the more arty inclined; there’s no need to have sharp images the whole time. 😉

  2. Johannes says:

    Thanks for showing your photos. I received my HL-N yesterday and tried it on my D700. I can confirm your experience so far, it’s a fun little lens and I like. One question: Mine is also soft, but in opposite to your photos it doesn’t vignette at all. Did you alter your images in any way digitally and add vignetting?

    • ryanmlong says:

      I did not add vignetting or enhance it in PP. I did boost the clatity, sharpness and contrast however. I’m not sure why yours wouldn’t vignette, considering that my sample shots are on a crop-sensor D300 I would think that, if anything, you’d see more vignetting with the D700. I’ll test this once Nikon gets my D700 back to me from the shop. The only thing I could think of was that we have different versions of the HL-N?

      • Johannes says:

        According to nikonrumors there are in fact to versions of the HL-N. I can only guess that yours is the new version, which is said to have additional vignetting over the old one. Mine is definitely the old one, but I ordered a HL-N “Mk. II” yesterday, so I will know in a few weeks, once it arrives from Hong Kong.

        I found my one a bit dissapointing regarding it’s “holga-ness”, if I could get your results it’d be fab! 🙂

      • ryanmlong says:

        That could certainly be the case. I haven’t found any way to tell the difference between the Mk I and the Mk II except when comparing the results. I’m guessing mine is the Mk II, though I did get it at essentially the same time you did, so if this is the case then I guess I lucked out.

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