Lomography Resurrects the 19th Century Petzval Lens for Canon and Nikon SLRs


Want to shoot with the oldest looking lens on the block? Lomography today announced that it has brought an old school lens back from the dead. It’s the Petzval lens, originally introduced by optic inventor Joseph Petzval back in 1840. Lomo has reinvented and reengineered the lens for modern day Canon and Nikon SLR cameras.


Lomo calls the Petzval the “first and greatest portrait glass lens of all times.” The “New Petzval,” as its called,” is made out of Russian glass and features multi-coating that allows it to perform great for color photography (the original lens was meant for B&W).


It features extreme sharpness, strong color saturation, a swirly bokeh effect, artsy vignetting, and a narrow depth of field thanks to its large f/2.2 aperture — many of the same features characteristic of its 19th century predecessor.

Lomography says the main thing owners will appreciate is the distinct optical look that’s difficult to reproduce with filters or clever digital programs. It’s very sharp in the in-focus areas, but creates a distinctive look in the out-of-focus areas around the frame. The resulting images can feel like they were captured using “a vintage large format camera”, Lomo says.


The lens has an 85mm focal length, a field of view of 30 degrees, compatibility with Canon EF and Nikon F mounts, no autofocus (there are no electrical contacts), and a minimum focusing distance of 3.28 feet/1 meter.

Aperture is controlled using a traditional Waterhouse aperture system. You’ll get physical aperture inserts that you plug into the aperture slot of the lens. The available inserts are: f/2.2, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11 and f/16.


Here are some sample photographs captured using a prototype version of the new lens:





Here are a couple shots captured using the old 19th century lens on a modern DSLR:



Lomography is currently crowdsourcing the funding of this new lens. They’ve exceeded their $100,000 goal on Kickstarter less than 20 hours after opening up the campaign. A $300 contribution to the project will get you your very own New Petzval lens.

The company expects the first lenses to ship out in December 2013, and for most lenses to be delivered in February 2014. The standard retail price when it’s launched to the public will be $499. You can find out more about the New Petzvel over on its official microsite.

  • Genkakuzai

    I’ve yet to see the Helios 40-2 85mm f/1.5 for anywhere close to $200, pretty much all the ebay listings are around $500 and above. If you know where to find one for $200 lemme know, I’d be most interested.

  • Brian C

    Thanks Mike, this is helpful – probably gonna do 44-4 plus the grinding you mentioned. Thanks for a good starting point!

  • Sid Ceaser

    Y’all are *still* using any excuse to attack those silly hipsters, eh? Any new photo equipment that comes out and it’s suddenly labeled a hipster item. Ha!

    I’m actually kinda interested in this – I love wetplate and tintype stuff and I LOVE the lenses those mammoth cameras use. I’m looking forward to seeing how this lens performs and what the results will look like.

    Not auto? Don’t care. I can use my head and light meter to figure out exposure times.

    Love the brass look. Love the waterhouse aperture system. Love the brass knob. Don’t love the price though. If I were them since they are close to hitting the million dollar mark, I’d drop the price of the lens down. I’m looking forward to testing one out, but not at a MSRP of $500.

    I never heard of the Helios lenses until just now. They look good, but the brass retro design really sets itself apart. It’s very attractive.

  • Robert Pilla

    You freaking idiots! When you make a video about photography you have to get it right. At the 2:30 mark the moron using the medium format camera to shoot a portrait does NOT have a film plate in the back of the camera. She shot nothing. You go on and on about how great these lenses are but have little notion of how they are or were used. Anything that you sell because, “it looks looks amazing when connected to your SLR camera.” is pure rubbish.

  • Stan

    Its not just a toy lens, I don’t see what everyone is so amped up about. This thing puts out hideous photos, purely due to its differential focus character. It just sucks at F2.2! Those rings on out of focus highlights are very harsh and distracting. Bokeh is supposed to be smooth, so that whatever is in focus, becomes the attention point of the picture. However, in this situation, I can’t help but keep staring at harsh background.

  • joshmolina2

    This is ridiculous, the petzval lenses had such a drammatic effect because they were being used on large format systems, where the DOF gets razor thin. To adapt it to a 35mm format is just pointless, and as you can see in the samples, the effects just arent really that noticeable. IF, you happen to like this effect at all, you would be better off adapting an old jupiter 85 1.5 or Helios 58mm f/2, and you’ll get much more dramatic results, at a fraction of the cost.

  • Konstantin Ivanov

    What lens was used for the last photo ?