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Ian Boys talks about his experience with the Petzval Lens

As more of our Kickstarter supporters begin using their Lomography X Zenit Petzval Lenses, more and more amazing Petzval images populate cyberspace. Some of the most impressive ones we've come across were taken by Ian Boys, an obviously talented lensman from Broadbottom, England, whom we've also been given the chance to interview. Read on to learn about Ian's experience with the new Petzval Lens.

Photo by Ian Boys

Hi Ian, Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I’m a subpostmaster in a little village in England who sometimes teaches photography locally.

How and when did you get into photography?
I went to Africa as a kid with a terrible 110 format camera and so when I got the chance to go again I resolved to take a decent camera with me. It was just an old Praktica but it got me started. Then later I worked in some crazy places like Somalia in 93 and Rwanda in 94 and wanted to photograph what was happening.

Photo by Ian Boys

What milestones in your career or projects are you most proud of?
I think my New York photos. I spent six days there shooting with a fujifilm x100 and I knew before I went how I wanted my photos to look and feel and perhaps only for the second time ever I managed that to my satisfaction.

What are your favorite favorite cameras, accessories and/or film for taking photos?
Well I have more cameras than is decent but my favourites are my Nikon D700, Nikon FE-2 and fujifilm x100s. My favorite focal length is 50mm and for film I prefer Kodak Tri-X for black and white. Generally I’m not big on accessories but I like the very old Praktica straps as they are comfortable wrapped around my wrist unlike the modern stiffer straps. Oh, and always lens hoods but never filters.

Why did you decide to get the Lomography Petzval lens?
I like imperfection and softness in photos. Anyone can take a sharp photo but it might not always feel right for the subject. I’m much more interested in how a photo feels rather than looks. For example here is a photo of my daughter Hellie – the Petzval was perfect for it. I want to see her expression and mood, not every last hair.

Photo by Ian Boys

Can you recall what your first reaction was when you first received and opened the package? Please share if you do remember.
I was impressed by the weight and sheer solidity of the lens. A nice change from modern plastic lenses. The focusing pinion is also very firm and good.

Photo by Ian Boys

  • Please share with us your first experience with the new Petzval lens. Any difficulties or memorable incidents you experienced?*
    Well there weren’t any surprises – we were kept informed all through the Kickstarter process and I’ve been doing this a while so I knew how to use it. I guess the biggest surprise was the absolute fascination from every other photographer who saw it.

Please share with us your favorite photo so far amongst your Petzval shots. And tell us the story behind it.
I think it is this one – someone said that to make a photo interesting you should show less or light less of the subject, then the viewer gets involved. The Petzval, here at f2.8, has just the right amount of softness that shows detail without showing every pore. The image feels right and looks right.

Photo by Ian Boys

What do you like best about the new Petzval lens?
I like the fact that it can be used in many different ways, from very soft at f2.2 to very sharp at f8. Almost like 2 different lenses. And the field curvature means that you can enlarge or diminish the sharp zone by changing apertures. Lastly, your subject sees that you aren’t just snapping her but trying to make a good photo so she feels more involved.

What is most challenging about using the new Petzval lens? How were you able to work around it?
Generally I like odd compositions, for example with the eyes right up in a corner of the frame. However the Petzval is sharp only in the centre at wide apertures so I’m having to use the lens as it was used in Victorian times, for more formal portraits. It also works very well for square images for that reason.

Photo by Ian Boys

What is your favorite Petzval and camera set-up?
So far I use it with the full frame D700 because I’m still learning how the lens draws at different distances and apertures and digital allows me to try various options quickly.

Photo by Ian Boys

What photo opportunities or projects would you like to use the Petzval lens for?
I would like to use it outside to get the full swirly bokeh effect but the weather hasn’t allowed it so far. That will come!

If you haven’t used the Petzval lens with an analogue camera, do you think you’d ever use a film camera with it?
Oh yes, for sure. It balances very well on the FE-2 with the motordrive attached.

Any tips or advice for current and future Lomography Petzval lens users?
Make sure you know how big the circle of sharpness is at the different apertures. It will also vary depending on the crop factor of your camera. It can be distracting to have very sharp lips but blurred eyes unless that, for some reason, is your intention. Here’s one where I didn’t get it quite right ….

Photo by Ian Boys

Any upcoming projects?
Well I’ve just come back from photographing Volgograd/Stalingrad. Next trip will probably be to Scotland and I quite fancy trying a Diana, again for the feel of the photos. I’m also interested in panorama format pictures but I’m not sure how I’m going to do those yet.

Photo by Ian Boys

Please share links our readers should go to if they want to see more of your work.
There’s only one place, and it’s my Flickr account.

The Lomography x Zenit Petzval Lens is now available for pre-order in the Lomography Online Shop! They will be delivered on a first come, first served basis; so don’t miss out on securing your piece of photographic history and your place in the pre-order queue! You can find out about the lens on the Petzval Microsite.

written by jillytanrad

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Italiano, Spanish, Français & Deutsch.