Lomography makes old new again with a modern take on the Petzval Portrait Lens


July 25, 2013

The Lomography Petzval works with Canon EF and Nikon F mount cameras

The Lomography Petzval works with Canon EF and Nikon F mount cameras

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Lomography is looking to make old new again with the reinvention of a 19th century lens known as the Petzval. This lens creates an instantly recognizable image style famous for its sharpness, color saturation, and swirly Bokeh effect in the background of the shot. It also has an incredibly narrow depth of field, which creates a very distinct look, especially for portraits.

The new Lomography Petzval Portrait Lens will be constructed from brass, just like the original, and feature premium glass optics made in Russia. It certainly stands out when attached to the front of a camera. The look is the only thing maintained from the original, as the optics are completely redone to work with modern cameras.

A large f/2.2 maximum aperture is included with the new version of the lens, which is a step up considering most of the older Petzval lenses featured f/3.5 as the maximum aperture setting. The large aperture gives the photos the signature narrow depth of field, and when opened all the way, it creates the vignetting for which Petzval lenses are known.

The aperture is controlled using a Waterhouse aperture system. This design includes a set of stops called diaphragms. This gives the device a range of aperture options from f/2.2 to f/16 than can be selected quickly and easily while shooting.

The focal length of the lens is 85 mm. Focal length determines how strongly the system converges or diverges light. In this case, 85 mm is quite high, which creates a narrower depth of field, and this is exactly how the lens is meant to function.

The new lens is being built at Zenit's factory in Russia. Lomography and Zenit combined skills and started from scratch to create a lens that functions similarly to the original, but with improved speed and focus.

The lens is built to work with all Canon EF and Nikon F mount cameras, both analog and digital. With DSLR versions, the stylized lens can also be used for recording video, which can create some very interesting shots.

Lomography is seeking funding for its modernized version of the Petzval lens on Kickstarter. It has more than tripled its US$100,000 goal. Buyers looking to get a lens can do so for a $350 pledge for the time being. Once those run out, a pledge of $400 is required. The company expects to deliver the lenses in February 2014.

The Kickstarter pitch video below provides more information and is actually shot using the Petzval lens.

Sources: Lomography, Kickstarter

About the Author
Dave LeClair Dave is an avid follower of all things mobile, gaming, and any kind of new technology he can get his hands on. Ever since he first played an NES as a child, he's been an absolute tech and gaming junkie. All articles by Dave LeClair

It will certainly make it harder for the photo-bombers.


Wonder how this would work with two variable focus 8 megaray Lytra cameras.


Lomography = spending a lot of money to deliberately take bad photos.

199 years of research since Joseph Niepce captured the first photographic image (10 hour exposure time and the image didn't last) to make photos clearer, sharper, with greater depth of field - and now people want to go out and snap pictures that look like a newbie with a brownie (or worse) took them.

Gregg Eshelman
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