Diana / Holga - the worst / best camera ever made

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Medium Format Cameras:
Classic Scale Focus Cameras:

Diana (and the Holga)

by Karen Nakamura

Overview and Personal Comments

The Diana is a classic camera if there ever was one. It was mass-produced in the 1960s by an unknown Hong Kong company and dumped on the American market. Technically, it's a simple medium format (120 film) plastic camera with one shutter speed and two apertures. It's so inexpensively made that we'd call it a disposable camera, except that's being unkind to contemporary single-use cameras that have something that resembles actual camera optics.

The Diana has a single-element plastic lens which is on a helical focusing mount. The shutter is self-energizing (this is being kind) with 'T' (time) and 'I' interval settings. There's no film counter, you use the red window on the rear of the camera to wind the film the correct distance after each shot.

Amazingly, there's a focus scale, although one is skeptical to its utility. The finder is dim and distorted and merely serves to help you point the camera in the correct general direction.

The camera has as many light leaks as it has joints. You have to carefully tape the camera shut with gaffer's tape in order to prevent your film from being totally ruined - unless you like the look of semi-fogged film. There's severe light fall off towards the edge of the film gate.

However... despite all those negatives, photos taken with a Diana have a soft, dreamlike quality about them that is very appealing and impossible to duplicate with other cameras or Photoshop. The light falloff ("vignetting") directs the viewer to the center of the frame and the light leaks create soft veils across parts of the image. Or at least that's what my artsy fartsy right brain tells me. My left brain says my right brain should just shove off.

For this reason, Dianas were "discovered" by the art photography world and numerous famous (and infamous) photographers gravitated towards them. They totally ransacked the used Diana market and old Dianas are very difficult to find. They've gone up and over $100 on eBay recently (no kidding!) by people who want to pretend that they're nouveau chic.

Interesting quirks

Thank goodness for entrepreneurs. The Russians (¿Chinese? there's some dispute) cloned the Diana and called it the Holga. It still has the severe light fall-off, light leaks, and horrible optics that are so endearing about the Diana. But you can buy it for less than $20 for several sources. There's even a flash edition!

But the Holga doesn't have a Bulb or Timer mode, so it's difficult to take long-exposures. It's easy to modify your Holga for Bulb mode, just do a google search on it. And some think that the Holga has better optics than the original Diana, which makes it a worse Toy/Artistic camera (better lens = worse). So some have taken to modifying their Holgas by melting the plastic lens with a butane lighter, smearing it with Vaseline, or otherwise engaging in Sado-Masochistic fantasies with it (worse lens = better). Whatever tickles you, I guess.

Technical Details

Camera Name Diana & Diana Deluxe Holga
Manufacturer Unknown Unknown
Place of Manufacture Hong Kong Russia/China?
Date of Manufacture 19?? 19??
Focusing System

None (scale focusing)

None (scale focusing)


Single element plastic

Single element plastic


Unknown simple rotating lens shutter (approx 1/50 ~ 1/100)
with B + I shutter speeds

Unknown simple rotating lens shutter with 2 shutter speeds, only one of which works


Three apertures:

Diana: sunny (f/19), kinda-sunny (f/13), cloudy (f/11)

Diana Deluxe: sunny (f/22), kinda-sunny (f/16), cloudy (f/9)

Three aperture settings - none of which seem to do anything
Metering System





None (optional Holga flash unit has built-in flash)

Film type

Type 120 film
6 x 6 film size (40mm x 40mm film gate); 16 blurry exposures

Type 120 film
6 x 6 film size; 16 blurry exposures
6 x 4.5 film insert; small 20 blurry exposures

Battery type None None
Dimensions and weight


Retail price




p.s. The aperture / shutter speeds for the Diana are courtesy of Mike LeFevre who wrote to me:

Hello Karen, would it be possible for you to add the Diana's true apertures to your review on it. I'm trying to spread the info as there's a lot of wrong info out there- the Diana's true apertures are f11 f13 & f19, and it takes 32mm clip on filters. The Diana Deluxe- f9 f16 & f22, and it takes a 46-49mm step-up ring. Shutter speeds- 1/100th for a crisp one, about 1/50th for a slower one. - Mike (2006.11.5)



About the Diana

Diana diana diana...

Not much is known about this elusive company. Please send me any info you might have! Leave comments and suggestions at the very bottom of this page.


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