Kevin Carter puts Lomography’s reimag­ined Petzval through its paces to see how it shapes up

Digital Photograper - - Contents -

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

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