Kevin Carter puts Lomography’s reimagined Petzval through its paces to see how it shapes up
Kevin Carter tests two more lens options this issue
Named after the inventor/designer, this is a new version of an old fourelement lens that dates to 1840. The Petzval is considered to be the world’s first fast lens – fast enough for it to be used for portraits anyway, where anything available before required at least a 10-min exposure, and were thus known as landscape lenses.
Made by Zenit, the bokeh meisters in Russia, this slightly faster, re-imagined version certainly looks the part. It features a heavy brass outer barrel and hood, drop-in Waterhouse aperture stops and is focused using a milled-knob and geared rack.
Naturally, there are a few further concessions to 19th century lens design. There is no AF nor any data communication between lens and body. There is a black version available, however, for those that think brass isn’t appropriate on a digital camera.
In use the lens has many of the appealing optical characteristics of the original. Used wide open, placing subjects close to the lens against well-lit and complex backgrounds, the swirly bokeh can be easily invoked. At times the effect can be overwhelming, but that’s likely to be more by accident than design. It also has wonderful colour rendition, particularly with warm tones. Its contrast is noticeably lower than modern designs.
Although this is not a lens for the casual snapper, artisans of the craft will likely appreciate it.
Left DEFINITION Although not particularly sharp at wider apertures, definition improves markedly on stopping down
Below BOKEH This lens is not all about the swirly bokeh, but if that look appeals it can be brought into play