First I’ll talk about the Diana+. I won’t go into the history of the original since it’s well documented on the web. The fit and finish of the Diana+ is pretty good. It comes with a book filled with “lomographs” shot with the Diana and some fictional stories involving the Diana. I would probably recycle it but you never know; it may be collectable or interesting to someone down the road. It also came with a roll of Fuji Provia 100. I got mine in a trade, and the person who shipped it did not include the masks. I think it comes with a 4×4 and a 6×4.5 normally. I prefer the 6×6 format, so I wouldn’t have used the masks anyway. It has a pinhole option in which you can stop down to the point that you do not need a lens. There are a ton of accessories available some of which are more useful then others, but it’s pretty cool that you can interchange lenses with different focal lengths. The downfall of the Diana+ is that it does not have a flash capabilities so you’ll need to spend the extra money for the Diana F+ model if you want to have a flash capable Diana+. The Diana+ is about twice the cost of a Holga. I’m not sure what the profit margin is but I could do without the book and the roll of film if it would bring the price down some. Still, all things considered for $55.00 it’s not a horrible deal. You may be able to find them cheaper elsewhere.
I’ll assume you know enough about the Holga that I can just jump straight into my plastic cam camparo… The 120 N has a hot shoe. In my book that makes up for the aperture that doesn’t really do anything. You can modify yours so that it will actually change the aperture of your camera but it takes some work. I opted to super glue the slider in the cloudy position on mine to keep it from sliding in the middle and interfering with the exposure. I only had it slide on me once and luckily it happened after the shot, but it was enough to make me disable it. I would recommend using tape since super glue is fairly permanent.
The Holga has a utilitarian feel to it even though it’s plastic. It’s larger then the Diana+ but both are much lighter then a typical medium format camera and are much easier to throw in a backpack or whatever. The focus is done from the barrel which makes using filters easier. There are filters available as an accessory but the better option in my opinion is to thread a filter adaptor on the lens and use standard filters. I haven’t done this to mine, but I may do it down the road.
Remember to always remove your lens cap before taking a photo. Also you may want to attempt to focus. Both use the zone system, so it’s a bit of Hail Mary situation.
Other fun camera’s worth mentioning
Sometimes we get so busy with the Pepsi Challenge that we forget about RC Cola. While the Diana and Holga may be the most commonly talked about medium format toy camera’s there are a lot of other cool camera’s out there that are much cheaper, especially if you’re willing to deal with 620’s. I picked up my Imperial Mark VII for .99 cents plus shipping, and I think I paid $4.99 plus shipping on my Ansco Readyflash. Both camera’s are very cool and often overlooked. I think my Imperial may even qualify as “cute” since it’s aqua greenish blue. Also worth mentioning is the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash. Sure it’s a bit of a PITA to roll 120 film on 620 spools, but it’s not that big of a deal.
Eventually I will be doing a heads up shoot out between the Diana+ and the Holga. We’ll call that Round Two. The purpose is will not be to prove once and for all which camera is better; it’s only to serve as an objective means for comparison for someone that may be getting ready to take the plunge and invest in one of these camera’s. I plan to accomplish this by shooting 2 rolls of film from the same batch, shooting the same subject from a tri-pod. There are so many variables that exist that to do a scientific comparison under all conditions would be pretty expensive. I don’t have time to write grants for this type of research so you’ll have to just accept whatever it is I decide to shoot and at which time of day. I can promise that the shots will be taken within a couple of minutes each other for continuity. If you don’t like it do your own Diana+ Vs Holga shootout. One thing I will say is that the quality of image you get has more to do with your artistic vision and your understanding of lighting, exposure and composition. Sure happy accidents exist and some people love purely abstract photos, but ultimately someone with a better understanding of these principles will get more consistent results. The fun factor is that many toy camera users aren’t looking for consistency, they’re just having fun shooting film through a fun camera.