The Lomography Petzval Art lens is a very special lens that was first made in 1840 by the Lomography company. This lens produces a swirly bokeh effect, which is what interested me. It creates a beautiful sense of movement around a still subject.
The Lomography Petzval Art lens was designed by physicist Josef Petzal and produced by the Lomography company. It had been out of production, but in 2013 the same company ran a Kickstarter campaign to reproduce this lens. The campaign was fully funded a year later. I love to experiment and I welcome new tools. I discovered that I could rent this lens on lensprotogo.com. I was thrilled to have it for four days.
This is an 85mm portrait lens, with aperture rings that slide in on top. The aperture range is from f/2.2 to f/16. Look at this thing! It is beautifully crafted. It’s a heavy brass lens. It sells for about $600, and you can get a black version for $700.
The aperture rings tended to fall out when I turned the camera’s orientation. I solved that problem with a little piece of gaffer’s tape, but it wasn’t an elegant-looking solution.
The lens is focused manually, by turning the knob on the side.
The swirly bokeh, saturated colors, and noticeable vignetting all work together to create a vintage-looking, artistic photograph.
My Scottish Terrier, Gracie, and my chickens got to be models in the rain!
Normally, I wouldn’t experiment during a client session, but Kirk and Gretchen noticed the Petzval lens in my bag, and were all for a couple of shots with it!
What’s the bottom line? I’m used to working with my favorite portrait lens, Canon’s 85mm 1.2L. That is a lens that allows me to create sharp subjects and creamy, blurred backgrounds. An 1840 replica lens will never create an image that sharp. Is that okay? In certain situations, yes. Would I use this lens during most of my client portrait sessions? No, but every client is different, and communication is key. Certain clients might love to have a vintage art look for some of their shots. The Petzval Art Lens is definitely on my wish list. I love having lots of lenses available to me. They each serve a different purpose, and this one would certainly be an asset.