Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Sunrise Holga: Problem Solved?

That nebulous form in the photo above is my Holga by Sunrise that has been a cause for much consternation these past few weeks. Underneath all that tape is an actual camera somewhere. Believe me. I was so determined to eliminate every possible cause of light leaks that I taped every seam and opening on this so-called camera. I even taped the viewfinder on both the front and back side of the camera. (That’s not shown in the photo but it does explain that external viewfinder sitting in the camera’s hot shoe). In an act of utter compulsiveness, I even taped around the lens where it meets the camera body. This resulted in a lens that was permanently stuck on infinity focus.
The only possible spot where light could enter the camera was the actual place where light was supposed to enter the camera: through the lens.

I took this device out on a sunny morning and shot a roll of film and everything was perfect!
Ok, I’m lying here. The results were pretty much what I had gotten previously with this camera.
Twelve frames that had a major light leak mostly concentrated on the top of the image (which would be at the bottom of the film in the camera).

So it HAD to be the lens or shutter. I untaped everything. I took off the shutter assembly and removed the lens. And there it was. A tiny sliver of space at the bottom of the shutter where light could pour into the camera. I clicked the shutter a few times. Voila. The shutter was not fully closing after each shot on the “normal” shutter speed setting. So every time I pressed the shutter, lots of light was hitting the bottom of the film before the spring on the shutter created enough tension to move the Holga shutter at a rapid speed (some say 1/100th of a second) by the opening in front of the shutter that allows light to enter the camera. In simple terms, I got a crappy shutter on this Sunrise Holga. The good news is The other Sunrise Holga that I bought does not appear to have this issue (although I have not film tested this camera yet).

The resulting roll of film with light leaking through the shutter.

Funny thing is, if you shoot with the shutter set on “bulb” , the shutter does return to it’s proper position. The problem only happens on the “normal” speed shutter setting. So what’s causing this?
I’m guessing there’s not enough tension on the spring to make the shutter fully snap back into position.
But that’s just conjecture on my part.

I did discover a workaround though that makes this camera completely useable at the normal speed setting. It goes something like this:
1. Hold your hand over the lens in order to block light from entering the camera. Set the shutter on “bulb” and click the shutter. This will make the shutter return to it’s correct position for shooting.
2. Set the shutter speed switch to “normal (or “N”). Take an actual photo.
3. Keep repeating steps 1 and 2 until you’ve shot a roll of film. That’s it.
Of course, if you prefer to shoot with the shutter set to “bulb”, then you don’t have to worry about that whole hand-over-the-lens thing.

The final verdict?

A. I bought two Holgas by Sunrise. One has a bad shutter. I’ll be curious to see how many people buy this camera and have similar problems.
B. The “sunny” and “cloudy” aperture settings are reversed. Both cameras that I bought have this issue and another person who bought this camera has the same issue. (He hasn’t shot a roll of film yet though so I can’t say whether his shutter is good or not).
C. I’m pretty much convinced that there’s a part missing on this camera that should be behind the shutter assembly (see my last post). I made this part out of cardboard and taped it in place so that 
this camera now resembles the innards of previous Holga models. This light baffle seems to reduce the amount of extraneous light hitting the film. There’s lots of shiny bits on the shutter that light can reflect off of and this seems to remove that issue.

That’s it for now. I’m getting back to posting actual photos here for awhile I think. If a purchase of the Holga by Sunrise is in your future, I wish you all the best. And I’m looking forward to reading your blog posts.


  1. The plot thickens ... thank you for the information, and for all your investigation!

    1. I guess I'm happy that at least one of the Sunrise Holgas that I bought actually has a working shutter. I guess that's part of life in the world of plastic cameras.

  2. Jim, I love your perseverance. I don't think I'll be buying a Sunrise any time soon. Guess I'll just stick to my original Holga and hope I don't drop it.

    1. There's plenty of used Holgas on ebay at reasonable prices these days. If I were looking for one, that's where I'd go.

  3. I've tried a couple of the Sunrise Holga's and have come to the conclusion that they're terrible, and not in a good way. I had this same problem with one and the other one never worked. I salvaged the lens from both. Fortunately, I have enough Holgas for an army.

    1. I wish I could just buy about a dozen working, tested Holga shutters. I don't need any more Holga cameras. BTW, I thought I read somewhere that Freestyle ordered something like a thousand of these cameras to sell. Good luck with that.

  4. I gotta say, though...your Holga looks really cool!

    1. A little gaffers tape, a lens hood and a plastic viewfinder do wonders.