James Nader is a UK-based Fashion and Editorial photographer. He started his career in photography shooting with film, processing and developing his work by hand. He now works on high end fashion shoots and has photographed the likes of Dita Von Teese and Richard Branson. James still has a passion for film photography and uses it regularly. We lent him a Petzval lens to shoot with and he has kindly given us a full, in depth review of this beautiful portrait lens. Say hello to James Nader.
Hello James, how was your experience with the Petzval lens?
When first asked by Lomography UK if I wanted to use the Petzval lens, I first thought that maybe it was not going to be possible to find time or indeed the right subject matter to do the optics justice. When it arrived I must admit it oozed quality. The box was embellished with a beautifully toned black and white warm toned image with super gold words “PETZVAL” created a feeling of luxury and quality. When I opened up the box I gasped at the collective beautiful packaging the lens was encased in. It was far more superior to the boxes that the standard Nikon lenses arrive in. It comes with a super printed booklet showing its heritage and this itself printed on uncoated paper all combined created a sumptuous look of quality.
I opened up the tissue paper inside of the box and there it was, a beautifully formed brass-covered lens just waiting to be used, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this bad boy! And it comes ready in two types and for Nikon or Canon digital cameras.I used both the Nikon D800 and my super trusty Nikon D3X for its tonality of capture.
Where did you shoot these photographs?
I had planned to use the lens the week previously, however on my way up to Glasgow for another job I had managed to arrange this shoot in the lakes at a friend of mine who owns 15 Black Horses in Cartmel Cumbria. The weather was perfect for the shoot of a lady on horseback. I had decided that to go fully into a fashion shoot with styling and high fashion models at this stage could be too much and was not he way forward and would really could have added too much pressure to the day and thus we created a very relaxed shoot with a minimal team to accomplish some super shots.
I come from an analogue background in photography i.e. film and darkroom printing and using this analogue lens was just and addition to a great week where I had forged opportunities with film giant ILFORD who are now going to supply me with film, processing and exhibition printing for upcoming art projects in New York and so the lens just fit right into the process at hand. At the moment I do have the manual Voigtlander Nokton 25mm F0.95 for some of my work which I shoot on the Panasonic GH2 but after using The Petval lens could easily take its place or be an addition to the kit we use.
After lunch we headed out on a beautiful sunny day into the meadows of Cartmel Cumbria with Casey and the biggest horse I had seen. The brief to Casey the model was to walk the horse around and around until I found my bearing with the Petzval lens as I had not used it before. At first I must admit working out the optimal f-stop for the day was a little tricky. (The Petzval lenses use F-stops which are not dialed into the aperture ring on the lens itself but controlled by small black metal plates which all come as part of the package and all have the relevant hole drilled to effectively create your aperture range by allowing only the relevant light for the f-stop) these are loaded into the lens itself almost like slides.
The book suggests the best f-stop to create the classic Petzval swirl is the F2.2 slide and once loaded the camera controls the speed and iso is controlled manually as the lens is completely manual. A little trial and error in shooting as it was the first time with the lens and it all settled in nicely. I could then concentrate on the manual focus and at creating something which had a nice composition and balance to report back on. Focus is delivered by a small brass dial under the lens which sets your manual focus very easily.
What do you think of the Petzval lens?
I think and so does TeamNader think that this Petzval lens is a super piece of kit, it can really be a super addition to your lens arsenal. Its robust and just says quality, however the best thing about it is exactly what it was designed to do and that is to create super shots utilising the unique Bokeh for which this lens is famed for but in addition it also has a very small depth of field and so your images could be soft very easily so make sure that you focus into the main part of your shot. If you’re shooting up close to a face then make sure it is the eyes which are in focus and the rest will pop. This shallow depth of field can be a super way of shooting and that coupled with the sharpness of lens, it’s incredibly simple operation and then this is a lens that really take up residence in your old kit bag!
I would seriously consider one of these lenses, of course shooting fashion for clients it may not be what you’re after all of the time but certainly editorially if you are shooting anything that just needs something different then this lens would be suitable for not just shooting but possibly for video too. I actually couldn’t shot video as I had forgotten the suitable SD Card for the D800. Watch this space though as this would be next on the agenda
Thank you for testing the Petzval lens out for us!