Lomography announces Kickstarter campaign to resurrect legendary Petzval lens


posted Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 5:00 AM EST


The Petzval lens is one of the oldest and most storied photographic lenses ever developed. Invented in 1840, it sparked a revolution in portraiture thanks to its ability to handle wide apertures and short exposure. The lens is now difficult to find and expensive, but the folks at Lomography have just announced they are attempting to bring the Petzval lens back to life for the digital age through a Kickstarter campaign.

The Petzval lenses are famed for being incredibly sharp at the center, while providing a unique, swirling bokeh around the edges. To recreate this, Lomography and their Russian manufacturing partners at Zenit went back to the original lens and reinvented the optic to recreate the look and feel of the original but designed for a modern digital or analog SLR.

While the total redesign makes us worry that Lomography might not manage to totally capture the magic of the original version, the samples that the company has showed on its site, and on the Kickstarter, are incredibly impressive. (You can see a few shots at the bottom of this post.) Seeing Petzval style images on video is particularly remarkable and makes for some beautiful footage.

If you're interested in backing the project, you can get the lens for $300-$400 through Kickstarter — and they'll go for $500 when they come to market. Lomography needs to raise $100,000 to complete the project, but given how big of a name they are, I wouldn't worry about meeting that goal.

The Petzval lens itself is a peculiar, Steampunk-style beast. It'll be constructed of brass, just like the original and to change aperture, you have to insert a special Waterhouse aperture diaphragm. The new design has also improved the aperture range of the original lens, which now is able to get to f/2.2 and runs to f/16.

The Kickstarter is for Nikon F and Canon EF mounts, with no word about other mount types in the works. It has an 85mm focal length with a minimal focusing distance of 1 meter. Since it's a totally manual lens, you can bet it'll be pretty finicky to use, but if the samples Lomo has shown (see below) are anything to go by, it might totally be worth it.