Lomography's New Petzval Lens

When Lomography decided to jump on the crowdsourcing bandwagon hoping to raise enough funds to resurrect a 19th century Petzval lens, it never imagined the level of success it would attain. Granted; it has always enjoyed a strong following among analog photographers eager to go against the grain by ditching digital cameras and embracing film photography, but this was just out of this world. The goal was to raise $100,000 through Kickstarter, but that amount now seems like chump change compared to the $1.3 million dollars pledged by more than 3,000 backers by the end of the funding period (Agust 24, 2013). That's 13 times the original goal raised in only 30 days.

So What's A Petzval Lens?

This lens was invented by Joseph Petzval in Vienna in 1840. With a maximum aperture of f/3.7 it was considerably faster than any other lens at the time. Portrait photography back then consisted of subjects staying still for several minutes while the photographer exposed the image onto a light-sensitive metal plate. It's hardly surprising that a lens that drastically shortened exposure time would revolutionize photography. And the Petzval lens did just that. The design limitations of the lens gave images created with it a characteristic look, which Lomography made it a point to reproduce. Photos taken with this lens are recognizable for their sharpness and crispness in the center, strong color saturation, wonderful bokeh effect, artful vignettes and narrow field of view, making it ideal for portraits.

Petzval Lens Specs

The new Petzval lens can be used with all Nikon F and Canon EF mount analog and digital cameras. It's especially suited as a portrait lens (85mm) on full-frame digital and 35mm cameras. Digital photographers using entry-level cameras with APS-C sensors, such as the Canon EOS Rebel series, will end up with a field of view comparable to a 128mm telephoto lens (35mm format) due to the 1.5X crop factor. Too long for portraiture, but it may be of interest to those shooting wildlife, for example. For those on a limited budget, but still interested in using this lens for portraits, a 35mm Nikon F can be had on eBay for less than $100.

Lomography has kept to the original design as much as possible, but has increased the maximum apperture to f/2.2. The lens, built at the Zenit factory in Russia, will be built from brass, just like the original Petzval lens. Any steampunk-loving photographers out there? A special edition in black will also be available. The lens will come with a set of six diaphragms with apertures ranging from f/2.2 to f/16.

Lomography expects to begin delivery of the Petzval lens on February 2014. Retail launch price of the lens is currently planned at $499 for the bronze version, and $599 for the special edition in black. You can't get a Petzval lens right now, but to get your hands on other great Lomography products be sure to visit Amazon's Lomography store.