The Man Behind the Lens: Joseph Petzval

As we unveil our plans in reviving the legendary Petzval lenses, let us take the time to look back and reacquaint ourselves with

Joseph Petzval (Jozef Maximillian Petzval) was a 19th century mathematician, inventor and physicist best known for his work in the field of optics. Among his notable inventions are the Petzval portrait lens and the opera glasses.

Image via oldlens.com

Born in 1807 in Zipser Bela, Kingdom of Hungary, (modern day Spišská Belá, Slovakia), Petzval was the second of six children. He spent his elementary education in Kežmarok (Kesmark), secondary in Podolínec (Pudlein) and high school in Levoča (Leutschau). According to his records, his best classes were Latin and religion, while on the other hand (and quite interestingly), mathematics was one of his weak points before he stepped in high school.

In 1826, Petzval entered the Institutum Geometricum in Buda where he earned an engineering degree after two years, and pursued his doctorate shortly after.

After completing his graduate studies and receiving his Ph.D., Petzval moved on to teach as an associate professor of mathematics, mechanics and practical geometry. In 1935, he became a professor of higher mathematics.

In 1837, Petzval was invited to the University of Vienna in Austria. He accepted an appointment as the chair of mathematics, and up to 1877, he held lectures on the theory of linear and differential equations, algebraic equations, intense cable vibrations, a circular movement as well as ballistics and analytical mechanics.

The Petzval lens. Image via monoskop.org

During this time, Petzval moved into a rented an abandoned Piarist monastery at Kahlenberg mountain, and founded his own glass-sharpening workshop there. As he was skilled as a lens sharpener and precision mechanic, he managed to design his famous portrait lens in 1840. However, the lens’ invention did not mean that there was no difficulty — later that year, he entered disputes with the entrepreneur Peter Wilhelm Friedrich von Voigtländer over who had the right to produce Petzval’s lenses.

The very first Voigtlander Petzval lens. Image via monoskop.org

In later life, he continued to study optics — particularly refraction —until around 1859, when some of his optics manuscripts were unfortunately destroyed in a burglary. His most refined technical book on optics, lost with his manuscripts, would never appear in print. He turned to the science of acoustics, and finished his long-running series of lectures on dioptrics in 1862. His enterprise with Carl Dietzler failed in 1862.

In January 1869, at the age of 62, Petzval married his housekeeper Katarina Schlegl, but she died three years later. Petval retired his professorship on his seventieth birthday, in 1877, and he passed on in 1891.

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 geegraphy on 2013-07-25 #petzval-lenses #lomography #joseph-petzval #lifestyle #analogue-lifestyle

More Interesting Articles

  • Cinematographer Michal Dabal on the Petzval Lens

    written by lomographymagazine on 2016-01-05 #videos #people
    Cinematographer Michal Dabal on the Petzval Lens

    Here’s what happens before we interview a photographer. We gush about the work though we have yet to find out the cameras and processes behind the brilliant composition or the light architecture. And even when they haven’t used a Lomo camera, we feature them anyway. But every once in a while comes a pro who uses one of our premium lenses at work and our fun cameras off-duty. This makes us mighty glad, more so when their images are good and worth sharing. We count cinematographer Michal Dabal's work among them.

    1
  • A Visit to Louis Daguerre's House in Bry-Sur-Marne

    written by Lomography on 2016-04-13 #news #videos #gear
    A Visit to Louis Daguerre's House in Bry-Sur-Marne

    Before the launch of Daguerreotype Achromat Art Lens, it wasn't all prototype development and planning. The Lomography team in France took time to appreciate the history behind the project. The experience was like peering into the family tree of the world's most important lenses.

  • Petzval Lomographer of The Week: Golfpunkgirl

    written by anamartaml on 2015-08-10 #people
    Petzval Lomographer of The Week:  Golfpunkgirl

    Our Lomographers love their Petzval and, as a result, they have taken it to the most amazing places: gardens full of green, immensely busy cities and breathtaking landscapes. Yet, sometimes, all you need is what you have right at home. Keeping family memories with the Petzval Lens never looked this good, and golfpunkgirl does it well.

    3
  • Shop News

    Category Filters for easy Film Shopping

    Category Filters for easy Film Shopping

    Sure, it takes effort to source films these days, but the Lomography Shop has just made the online part more convenient - under each category, you may now filter by Brand and ISO.

  • Marta Bevacqua - Lomo Amigo Petzval 58

    written by Lomography on 2016-01-27 #people
    Marta Bevacqua - Lomo Amigo Petzval 58

    Our new LomoAmigo Marta Bevacqua recently experimented with the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens. She spoke about her experience with us and shared some Petzval tips as well - check out her interesting interview here!

    1
  • Petzval Portraits of Joy

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-08-26 #gear
    Petzval Portraits of Joy

    An infectious smile, you say? In everyday portraiture, we understand it as enticement, the kind that makes someone raise a lens-capped camera to capture, and later share, the happy moment.

    3
  • Lomopedia: Industar 26M 50mm Lens

    written by lomographymagazine on 2016-07-10 #gear
    Lomopedia: Industar 26M 50mm Lens

    We’re back on track with the Lomopedia series - the place to get a quick heads up on what’s what with cameras, lenses, and films you may come across with. For this comeback installment, we’re taking a look at the simple but dependable Industar 26M 50mm lens.

    5
  • Shop News

    Check the New Super Sampler Black Panther!

    Check the New Super Sampler Black Panther!

    The ultra-lightweight, low-maintenance 35mm camera that fits perfectly in your hand for some wild and spontaneous shooting!

  • LomoAmigo Petzval: In and Around Paris with Mathieu Claudon

    written by Lomography France on 2016-02-17 #people
    LomoAmigo Petzval: In and Around Paris with Mathieu Claudon

    Today let's spend some time with skateboarder and photographer Mathieu Claudon. He knows the best Parisian skate spots and even wrote a book chock-full of them. And guess what's in his backpack? One of Lomography's Art Lenses, the Petzval 85.

    1
  • Instantly Optimal: Landscapes

    written by azinteimoori on 2016-03-25 #gear #tutorials
    Instantly Optimal: Landscapes

    Our fourth article from the Instantly Optimal Tipster series is here to help you through your adventures out in the wild. Join us as we look at landscape photography through the lens of the Lomo’Instant Wide!

  • Petzval 58 Amigo: Richard Wong

    written by azinteimoori on 2016-02-12 #news #people
    Petzval 58 Amigo: Richard Wong

    Auckland-based photographer Richard Wong dabbles in everything from wedding photography to street photography, even Lego photography! In the midst of his busy schedule as photographer, camera reviewer and father, he sat down to speak with us about how he uses the Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens in his diverse practice.

    2
  • Shop News

    The Lomography Bazaar

    The Lomography Bazaar

    We constantly search far and wide, meticulously seek out, hunt down, and hand-pick some of the most experimental and alternative gear out there - and we've now gathered them all in one easy to browse shop category, ready for the picking! In the Lomo-Bazaar, you canalso be part of our process of collecting fresh new products, rare treasures, and crowd-funded creations to sell on the shop - after all, they’re all for you! Get in touch with us to share your suggestions for amazing gear - go on, we’re all ears!

  • Stay Focused: A First Time For Everything

    written by Lomography on 2016-04-03 #news #gear
    Stay Focused: A First Time For Everything

    You won't believe what we have in store for you with the launch of our newest mystery product. What a crazy idea, they thought. It can't be done, they said. But at Lomography, we know that there's a first time for everything. So we've decided to travel back in time and have a quick look at some of the unbelievable ‘firsts’ of photographic history. Could these milestones have anything to do with our mystery product?

    12
  • First Impressions of the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64: Pablo Rodrigo

    written by ellakoppensteiner on 2016-05-10 #news #gear
    First Impressions of the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64: Pablo Rodrigo

    Black and white photography. Portraits and landscapes with a vintage touch. The photographer Pablo Rodrigo takes us back in time through the amazing photographs that he shot with the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art Lens.

    1
  • Petzval Lomographer of the Week: stephoebe

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-09-21 #news
    Petzval Lomographer of the Week: stephoebe

    Our Petzval Lomographer of the Week takes the New Petzval 85 lens on a vintage garden party and showcases the lens' analog prowess by matching its signature swirly bokeh with various films.

    3