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The Lomography Petzval (D)SLR Art Lens Design

Did you know that the new Lomography Petzval Portrait lens can be used on both analogue and digital cameras as well as for still photos and art videos? Here's how we adapted the science of 200-year-old optics to reimagine and revolutionize modern day photography while still staying rooted to the trademark Petzval look.

Renders of the Lomography Petzval Portrait Lens redesign

The year was 1840 when mathematician Joseph Petzval developed the lens that would later be hailed as the first fast photographic lens, with its trademark field curvature and vignetting. This 19th century invention is considered to possess the best characteristics of portrait lenses and is regarded as an optic breakthrough to this day, which is why we are bringing back the Petzval two centuries after it was created.

The original Petzval lens was a truly revolutionary creation. The speed and performance of Petzval’s design was especially well suited for portrait shooting and helped give birth to commercial photography as we know it. And just as Joseph Petzval turned the world of photography on its head in 1840 when he first invented the lens, the brand new Lomography Petzval Portrait Lens promises to do the same in the 21st Century by giving you truly incredible effects on a whole range of modern SLR cameras.

An original Petzval lens and the new Lomography Petzval (D)SLR Art Lens

Most modern lenses are designed to minimize field curvature, so you’ll have the whole image in focus. But that’s actually what sets the Petzval apart from most lenses as it gives photos a totally different optical effect. You’ll get an area which is very sharp at the center of the photograph over a narrow field. There is then progressive vignetting towards the outer edges; this helps draw the viewer’s attention to the crisp area at the center of the photograph.

It’s because of the early large aperture optic design of Petzval that photos taken with the lens will have this beautiful, swirly bokeh effect in the background. The best way to get a sense of this effect is to check out some Petzval portraits taken with our sample lens! These quirky, creative and unique effects from the lens have endeared it to a whole new generation of photographers. Using the Petzval lens is totally different to just adding a filter to your shots in post-production; it’s about achieving a real optical effect caused by the lens attached to your camera.

Shot with the first working prototype of our New Petzval Lens on a Canon EOS 500
Shot with the first working prototype of our New Petzval Lens on a Canon EOS 50E
Shot with the first working prototype of our New Petzval Lens on a Nikon F4

The new Lomography Petzval lens has great color saturation and high contrast. The resolution of the center of each photo is extremely high. Thanks to the new and improved Petzval design, the Lomography Lens has a large f/2.2 maximum aperture. It’s very hard to find older Petzval lenses which have an aperture larger than f/3.5. Because of the large aperture of the new lens, you’ll get photos with a very narrow depth of field, and when shooting with the aperture wide open, you’ll get a beautiful vignetting effect in your shots. It’s the ideal portrait lens!

The Waterhouse Aperture System

The new Lomography Petzval Lens works using a traditional Waterhouse Aperture System. With this design, your lens comes with a set of stops, also known as diaphragms. Each diaphragm is drilled with a hole of a different size and these sizes correspond to the f-stop or aperture. So if you’d like to shoot with f/4 aperture, you select the f/4 diaphragm and insert it into the aperture slot of your lens; if you’d like to shoot with a f/11 aperture, you select the f/11 diaphragm and so on.

The New Petzval lens

Tech Specs:

Focal Length: 85mm
Apertures: Waterhouse Aperture System (f/16 – f/11 – f/8 – f/5.6 – f/4 – f/2.2)
Image Circle: 44mm
Field of View: 30 degrees
Lens Mounting Profile: Canon EF and Nikon F
Electronic Contacts: No
Closest Focusing Distance: 1m
Focusing Mechanism: Gear Rack Focusing
Lens Construction: 4 Elements in 3 Groups
Filter Thread: 67mm
Dimensions: 120mm x 85mm x 80mm
Weight: 500g
(Please note: This is an estimate based on the first working sample)

There you have it, folks. The science behind taking a 200-year-old Petzval lens and redesigning it for modern use for both analogue and digital cameras, as well as for shooting still photos and full-length videos!

Want your own Lomography Petzval Portrait Lens? Support our project and make a Kickstarter pledge today! Visit the Petzval (D)SLR Art Lens for more info.

The new Lomography Petzval (D)SLR Art Lens is a reinvention of the legendary portrait glass lens that first appeared in the 19th century. Our version is a high-quality glass optic that makes it possible for Canon and Nikon analogue and digital SLR mount cameras to yield the famous Petzval look – sharp focus areas with unique bokeh effects, strong color saturation, and artful vignettes. It’s a distinct look that goes far beyond using photo editing software and filters.

Fund this project on Kickstarter and help us bring back this extraordinary lens for 21st century photographers and filmmakers!

written by denisesanjose

1 comment

  1. ihave2pillows

    ihave2pillows

    it is at times like this, that I'm most proud of the Lomo society/community. Thanks for enriching the world!

    9 months ago · report as spam

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