Holga, Diana, CCTV - Cheesy lens test.

Today, we have a special feature from the P.A.G. Photo-graphy team. We bought three intentionally crappy lenses for an Olympus Pen E-P3 to show you the different results from each. I spent literally minutes searching the web and couldn't find a side-by-side comparison of three low-fidelity lenses. If it doesn't show up on the first three pages of a carefully-worded Google search, it doesn't exist, baby. So, let's fill that void.

What kind of lenses? For those who don't know but are interested, what follows is a brief summary. For those who don't know or care, come back tomorrow, when we'll probably say some mean things about a defenseless old picture.

If you have an iPhone or Android smarty-pants phone, you've probably heard of or downloaded a program called Hipstamatic (iPhone) or Vignette (Android). These are camera apps that simulate the look of old obsolete cameras in your nice, modern, advanced phone camera. In the same way that some people like the crackle of vinyl, lots of people like the old faded look of Polaroid photos or the light leaks, streaks, and blurs of a Holga or Diana camera.

The Holga was an inexpensive plastic camera produced in China in the Eighties. Even the lens was plastic. It leaked light onto the film and build quality was questionable. This all contributed to the randomness of the photographic results. You can still buy Holgas at hipster stores like Urban Outfitters, but it'll be a film camera. You still have the cost of buying and developing film, and of course you can't see how your photos turn out until you spend the money to have them developed.

The Diana was also an inexpensive plastic-bodied, plastic-lensed camera made in Hong Kong in the Sixties. Pictures taken with the Diana were similarly wonky and unpredictable as with the Holga.

Both of these cameras have been enjoying a kind of renaissance in the last few years, in addition to their softwarey dopplegangers for various camera phones.

Well, you can also just buy their lenses and stick them onto your digital camera. This is what I did. In addition to the Holga and Diana lens, I bought Photojojo's "Lo-fi" lens. So what are the differences? Well, the Holga and Diana lenses can be bought for about $20 - $30 on Amazon (which is where mine came from) and Ebay, plus maybe fifteen dollars for an adapter which I needed to get the Diana lens onto my Micro four-thirds camera. If you really want to, you can buy the same Diana lens from Photojojo for sixty dollars, if that's what you're into. In exchange for simply dtriple the price, you do get their cutesy "Yay! Your goodies have shipped" emails. The Photojojo "Lo-fi" lens costs $90, and is clearly marked as a CCTV (closed-circuit television / security camera) lens with a specially made adapter for your camera. Turns out you can get the exact same lens for $30 on Ebay. It even comes with a micro four thirds adapter to pop right on a non-CCTV camera. Of course, Photojojo does not mention that the lens has the words "TV Lens" inked right on it, or that the box it comes in also obviously designates it as a repurposed security camera lens. If a customer knew that, a customer might go and look elsewhere for the exact same product at one-third the price. "Yay! I'm a sucker! Wheeee!"
Left: Ebay, $34.99   Right: Pjotojojo: $90, plus shipping. Wow.

"I'm worth every penny, Tee-hee!"
Lesson learned: see something nice on PJJ? Check Ebay before ordering, unless you find it's worth a 200%-300% premium to have things sold to you by a company that talks like an Anime schoolgirl. "Aw, shucks! We lost your business!"

The Diana and Holga lenses are totally plastic and are very light. They feel as flimsy and junky as you'd expect, but that's what you sign up for when you buy these. They each have a focus ring.
 The CCTV PJJ lens is all metal, is much heavier, and even has a little iris in it, which you can adjust via a ring on the lens. There is also a focus ring. Note that the aperture created by the iris is not exactly round. Again, build quality is not what you should be hoping for when you buy things like this. You want some wonkiness in your retro pictures. This lens is pretty cool. I just wish I'd done more homework before I ordered.

Anyway, here are some sample pictures. Generally, the Holga requires much more light, due to the tiny pinhole aperture on the back. Pictures have a lot of vignetting (dark edges). The Diana has the "dreamy" look everyone talks about, due to the soft-focus quality of the cheap plastic lens. Pictures are brighter than the Holga. Also, the Diana is more likely to have random light blurs coming in from the side of the frame, as in the bird picture below. The Photojojo lens is the most adjustable, thanks to the built-in iris. Pictures tend to have lots of concentric smearing at the edges, like you see in the tree picture.


Fil said...

I applaud your commitment. And I approve of assorted Popeye figures. Hey! You could use the african grey to reenact that scene from 'Popeye meets sinbad'. You know the one.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Thanks for the backup. I was half expecting a terse email from PJJ saying something like "Awww boo! We're ever so sad you don't like our business model! How about you remove that post before we get all lawyery on you?"

I have a friend at work who thinks it'd be the height of funny to teach old chickenhead the song from this Popeye cartoon. Jump to 3:14. My friend is right. Too much work to do that, though.


Thanks, Fil!


Fil said...

That would be awesome if you taught chickenhead the song AND the goofy 'Linus Van Pelt' dance. I think you should do it, but you know your stuff and your smart enough to leave well enough alone.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

I can't teach chickenhead to to either dance, because his real name's Two-Sheds, but thanks for calling me smart. And, thanks for reading!

(Seven million gold stars to anyone who knows where I got his name from.)


FIL said...

I heard this podcast, thought of your bird: http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2011/feb/22/flock-two/
Saw this video, thought of killing myself:
Thought about the name 'Two-Sheds' and wondered if you have other pets. A python, perhaps?

Anjou said...

Years later and this is still incredibly helpful in deciding whether I can get by with just a cheap-y plastic Diana lens on my Nikon D5000...turns out the answer is still a solid maybe, but at least you helped me find a cheaper solution than PJJ.

So thanks! Great to see them all side by side.


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