Lomography pays homage to Daguerre and Chevalier with Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art Lens


posted Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 7:59 AM EDT


It seems to be the week for interesting lenses. No sooner have we told you about the affordable, Petzval-esque Lensbaby Twist 60 than we stumbled upon another very cool optic. This time around, it's a resurrection -- in spirit, at least -- of one of the first photographic lenses, created in 1839 by Charles Chevalier for Louis Daguerre's eponymous Daguerreotype apparatus. (It's actually being billed by Lomography as a reinvention of the "world's first photographic optic lens", but single-element photographic lenses go back even further, so we think "one of the first" is rather more accurate.)

Chevalier's lens was based on an existing achromatic doublet design used for telescopes, and dating back to some time in the mid-1700s. Lomography, too, are basing their new Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art lens around an achromatic doublet, but with modern touches including a choice of Canon EF and Nikon F lens mounts, and of brass or glossy black finishes for the lens barrel. Inside, though, it's a decidedly retro design with just two elements in a single group, and in place of a variable aperture iris, you're provided with interchangeable Waterhouse aperture stops. These are a newer invention than Chevalier's inspirational optic, but not by much, having first been appeared in the late 1850s.

Lomography Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art lens (right) with 1839 Chevalier achromat lens.

To be clear, Lomography's lens does differ significantly from that created by Chevalier, but that should be immediately obvious from the side-by-side image showing both optics above. What's more important for the company's potential customers is the look of the images it creates, though, and this is certainly retro when shot at a wide aperture, with a foggy, dreamy aesthetic quite unlike that of modern glass. Switch to a smaller aperture, though, and rendering looks to be fairly crisp. A variety of Lumiere, Aquarelle and other aperture plates will also be included for a more distinctive look.

Promotional video for the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art lens.

The Lomography Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art lens has, as the name would suggest, a 64mm focal length and an f/2.9 maximum aperture. And as you'd expect, focusing is entirely manual, using a helicoid system. 40.5mm filter threads are provided, and the optic has a 37-degree field of view with a 44mm image circle. As well as its native Canon and Nikon-mount variants, adapters are also offered for Fuji X, Sony E, Micro Four Thirds and Leica M mounts.

The Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art lens shown mounted on various cameras.

The lens was listed on Kickstarter a few days ago, with availability slated for August-December 2016, depending upon variant and pledge level. It has already blazed past its original funding goal about 6.5 times over, as of this writing, and is fast approaching its fourth stretch goal. With almost four weeks left on the campaign, it seems certain to surpass its fifth stretch goal, at which point a leather pouch will also be added to the product bundle. As of this writing, the lowest pledge levels that will get you a lens are US$400 for the brass version, and US$450 for the black version.

More details can be found on the Kickstarter campaign page.