Weird Lens of the Week! Lomography Petzval 85mm f/2.2
The original Petzval lens was designed in 1840 and has been long prized for it’s soft and dreamy effect.
A Russian company called Lomography has brought this classic design back to life with an 85mmm f/2.2 lens available in Nikon or Canon mounts. I’m using a Nikon to NEX adapter on my Sony A7r.
The lens uses waterhouse stops to change the aperture. These are metal plates with various sized holes drilled in them. You slide one with the aperture of your choosing into a slot in the lens barrel . This works fine but if you turn the lens upside down the plate falls out. This was worrisome until I realized that the whole reason I wanted this lens was to get the maximum shallow depth effect, and as I’m shooting wide open I don’t bother to even insert one!
Focus is achieved by turning a knob on the side of the lens. This was a bit awkward at first but quickly became natural.
Quality control left a bit to be desired (hey, this is a Russian lens- my old repair technician said he stopped worrying about The Bomb when he worked on his first Russian camera). Brand new out of the box the lens was missing two screws, and the focus had a bit of wiggle that was disconcerting. Lomography has agreed to replace it with a new one however, so hopefully that will resolve that.
This is a really fun lens, albeit with some limitations. Though coated it tends to flare. Its also not cheap at $700 ($600 in brass finish). The only alternative is to buy an antique Petzval lens and have it adapted to your camera. Probably even more prone to flare and might run well over $1000.