Toy camera effects with digital SLRs

digital, pencam September 14th, 2008

I love lo-fi photography.

Shooting lo-fi removes any obsession with capturing the “perfect” image. With lo-fi photography, I focus more on composition, creativity and experimentation than when I shoot with a “real” camera. Vignetting, soft edge focus, light aberrations, limited exposure latitude, color casts, even light leaks – the imperfections add a level of personality to the photo.

I have a collection of my lo-fi photography up at

One of my favorite lo-fi cameras is the SiPix Stylecam Blink. It only shoots 640×480, but has a wonderful dream-like plastic camera effect. And, it was only $10 on eBay!

I would like to get a little more resolution than is possible with most lo-fi digicams. Enter Randy Smith at Holgamods. He’s made tweaks to Holga cameras for years, adding black flocking to the insides, adding a bulb setting and remote shutter release threads. Dude from has done some wonderful night-time photography with his.

Randy has taken a Holga lens, mounted it on a Canon lens cap, and made a digital Holga hybrid. What a wonderful idea! Some of the samples on the net have the same plastic camera quality, but with none of the complication and expense of shooting on 120 film.

Some photo examples with the digital Holga lens are online here. has another alternative – a tilt-shift lens made for several modern camera mounts. Version 1 uses a rubber assembly to hold in aperture rings. Version 2 has a sharper lens and uses magnetic locks to hold the aperture rings in place. The 3G model allows for pinpoint focusing and tilt lock. Both the Holga lens add-on and Lensbabies give modern digital DSLR shooters a means for creative, frivolous shooting. Very cool.

If you want do get that same toy camera effect digitally, see my previous post about the Holganizer. In addition, there are Holga actions for Photoshop that let you automate the effects process. But, it’s a lot of fun to shoot with a plastic camera!

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