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The Holga Factory has gone out of Business

The official US distributor of Holga products announced this week that the Holga factory in China is no longer operational. A factory spokesman informed them that “all Holga tooling has already been thrown away and there is nothing available for sale.” That’s about as finished as a camera factory can go. It’s over. The last original Holga has been made.

The Holga story began over 30 years ago in Hong Kong with a 120 plastic film camera aimed at the Chinese market. However, it wasn’t until the West picked up on the Holga as a quirky low fidelity cult camera in the early 1990s that the project became a success. Lee Ting-mo, Holga designer and Director of Universal Electronics Industries, gave an interview in 2012 where he talked about Holga’s imperfect success. Holga went from having no market presence in 1990 to selling 200,000 units per year in 2012 with a range of cameras and accessories, including lenses for iPhones and contemporary digital cameras.

I’d be surprised if the Holga factory closure was solely brought about by soft sales figures. True, their cameras are inextricably linked to the availability and affordability of 120 and 135 film. But market failure could be the result of any number of wider issues within the Chinese economy: localised trends in factory closures, or labour issues, investment or international currency issues, perhaps a parts supplier disappeared, there could have been silent partners, or a short term loan wasn’t renewed. If the company found itself facing imminent legal costs there is an incentive to close the doors. Plenty of profitable businesses fail for no other reason than a lack of money to pay their bills as they fall due.

Companies are like that – one day they’re on top of the World and the next day the receivers are collecting shredded documents. I’d hazard a guess that sales weren’t totally abysmal. I’d hazard another guess that we probably won’t find out the answer. Holga are just gone from manufacturing plastic cameras.

The sad part of this story is the destruction of that original tooling and the dispersion of plastic camera expertise. It would have been nice to contain that loss to the industry so another business startup could look at ways to revive the Holga brand.

We’ve got several Holga 120ns in the house; I’ve bought and given away other 120ns and a Holga 120 PAN that made beautiful images. I’d buy another PAN in a heartbeat if the spare cash was in my wallet today. Some of my Holga photographs are good examples of why it’s a popular cheap camera and what you can achieve with a shitty old plastic lens.

Birds at Cornelian Bay

Birds at Cornelian Bay

Megan, Hobart Regatta, Tasmania

Megan, drinking a slurpie at the Hobart Regatta, Tasmania

Zombie with a white shirt, hat and jacket

Tim Martain of the Hobart Mercury as a prison zombie

Jesus zombie

Cannibal Corpse zombie

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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