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Lomography Petzval lens
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Chris S.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2014 6:30 pm    Post subject: Lomography Petzval lens Reply with quote

In a gallery thread, I posted a few close-ups taken with a Lomography Petzval 85mm f/2.2 lens. This is a lens of antique design and modern manufacture.

Here is a look at the lens and its Waterhouse stops:


The lens is very finely machined and finished. Fit-to-camera (Nikon and Cannon versions are available) is crisp and snug. The rack-and-pinion focus knob—something I expected to dislike—turns out to work easily and well.

The Waterhouse stops—another element I expected to find bothersome—also turn out to be easy to work with. And as a huge plus of Waterhouse stops, no matter what aperture you shoot, the out-of-focus highlights are perfectly round or elliptical—never a visually-irritating polygon. For those unfamiliar with Waterhouse stops, they are a precursor of twist-to-adjust irises; the lens has a slot, into which you drop a flat piece of metal with a hole in it. You carry a separate stop for each aperture you want to shoot at.

But a pocket-full of loose Waterhouse stops is a bother. A good way to manage the stops is to put them on a Nite Ize S-Biner Size 3 (pictured above). With this carabiner hooked to a lanyard around the neck, using this lens is a lot more fun.

Joseph Petzval invented this lens design in 1840. It was revolutionary at the time, offering a maximum aperture as wide as f/3.7—much greater than other lenses then available. This permitted faster shutter speeds, greatly increasing the range of subjects photographers could shoot. During a big chunk of the 1800’s, most photographs were made with Petzval lenses.

Eventually, lens designs moved on, bringing improvements in resolution, spherical aberration, coma, astigmatism and other things. Petval designs were left behind. Yet some photographs from the 1800s have a look that to my eye is wonderful, and impossible to create with modern lenses. Not even aggressive Photoshop manipulation can easily create it. "Swirly bokeh" is a big part of the look.

For a long time, I'd thought about buying an antique Petzval and modifying it for a modern camera. This is certainly possible, but has its difficulties: Lots of antique lenses have serious condition issues, such as lens separation or fungus, and optically good specimens tend to be expensive. Also, most antique Petzvals have longer focal lengths than I'd generally want to use on a DSLR, since they were intended for use with much larger film formats.

So upon learning that Lomography is now selling a Petzval lens of current manufacture, with a lens mount and focal length well-suited to modern digital formats, I hit the “buy” button pretty quickly.

The Petzval turns out to be a lot of fun to use. The swirly bokeh gets addictive, and is surprisingly controllable. If you want a lot of it, set up a shot where your subject has lots of out-of-focus elements at varying distances from the camera--and the busier the background, the better. (How often do you find yourself wishing for this? Very Happy) Another thing you'll find yourself looking to include is out-of-focus highlights, since they will have nice round edges, and float in circles around your subject. You'll want to shoot wide open, or at least at fairly-wide apertures--say, f/2.2 through f/4--to maximize these effects.

For me, this is a lens to use without a tripod. Ultimate sharpness isn't the point--you're playing with the blurry bits. When the lens is focused close, these change a great deal with different framings, so it's nice to be able to experiment quickly. With the Petzval, I find myself dancing with the negative space in my photographs. Though I'm not much of a dancer, I'm enjoying it just the same.

For close-up images, the lens works just fine on an extension tube.

I can highly recommend Lomography Petzval lens for photographers whose interests are well matched to it. This said, another lens deserves mention in the same breath: The Zenit Helios 40 2, 85mm f/1.5. This is of design later than the Petzval, but still not modern. It can give swirly bokeh (though less of it than the Petzval), but with far greater sharpness away from center than the Petzval. I bought one of these because I like the Petzval so much; the Helios would seem to be similar medicine, but at a lower dose. So I think they'll both have a place in my Pelican case. (I should mention that I haven't spent enough time with the Helios to really judge it, though my initial sense is very positive.)

More views of the lens here.

--Chris

--edited typos


Last edited by Chris S. on Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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ray_parkhurst



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very intriguing. 85mm is an excellent length for my coin photography. Can you comment on how flat the field is? I assume not very, so I further assume I'd need to stack to get good sharpness over a coin's surface. While I don't care about bokeh, I do care about the "look" of the in-focus areas and this lens has some intriguing qualities.
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Chris S.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ray_parkhurst wrote:
Very intriguing. 85mm is an excellent length for my coin photography. Can you comment on how flat the field is? I assume not very, so I further assume I'd need to stack to get good sharpness over a coin's surface. While I don't care about bokeh, I do care about the "look" of the in-focus areas and this lens has some intriguing qualities.

Ray,

I haven't examined field curvature for this lens; the world I photograph is not flat, so flatness of field has seemed a rather arbitrary standard. But coins are indeed flat, so you're interest in this characteristic makes perfect sense.

So far as I know, Petzval lenses are known for exhibiting strong field curvature. Also, Roger Cicala of Lensrentals.com tested a Lomography Petzval on his company's new, cutting edge test equipment (something he referred to as "just wrong" for this lens, but which he couldn't resist).
    Quoth he: "I know that most of you, at this point, are thinking, “Sure, Roger, we expected these MTF results. But can’t you please show us the field curvature, too?” Fear not, my friends. I can and I will. As Kingslake said, the astigmatism of the lens flattens the tangential lines pretty well, but the sagittal lines have some wicked field curvature. Although in this case that’s a good thing, since a major purpose of the lens is to blur everything off-center."
If you're interested in testing the Petzval on coins (and/or the Helios 85mm, for that matter), we can arrange for you to borrow my lens(es). (This said, Lensrentals offers the Petzval for an almost trivial price, and is undoubtedly expert in the logistics of such things--so might be easier).

Cheers,

--Chris
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Photo-DIY



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 12:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Lomography Petzval lens Reply with quote

Chris S. wrote:
...
For a long time, I'd thought about buying an antique Petzval and modifying it for a modern camera. This is certainly possible, but has its difficulties: Lots of antique lenses have serious condition issues, such as lens separation or fungus, and optically good specimens tend to be expensive. Also, most antique Petzvals have longer focal lengths than I'd generally want to use on a DSLR, since they were intended for use with much larger film formats.
...


The old photo taking Petzval lenses are really long.
But some (not all!) of the cheap projection lenses are from Petzval type, or slight modifications. The work well on 24x36mm cameras, but it could be hard to convert those with a focus helicoid.
They give center sharpness, and image field curvature, and swirl. I think they are even more effective than the Lomography Petzval.

I have repaired fungus and lens separation, but I agree this is not what one wants to do on a expensive lens.
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austrokiwi1



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have had this lens for some time. I think its great for its bokeh. As for macro I really don't think it works. The field of focus is just far too curved. You have to drop all the standard rules of composition as the sharpest area is dead centre. However you can get some good shots if you apply the rule of thirds to the out of focus background while ensuring the subject is centered. Heres an example of the typical swirl ( @f2.2):



It took a bit of practice to get the swirled background you have to compose pictures ensuring the background is the right distance from the subject.


When you use the Star shaped waterhouse stop you get this effect( look at the out of focus areas





I use it on a Sony A7r via an eos-nex adapter. The unique Bokeh is only really seen, to full effect, on a full frame camera, so with extension tubes you might get some interesting macro shots on APSc......but I have to ask rhetorically Why? The advantage with this lens is in the wonderful non-macro shots it can produce on a FF camera. It is first and foremost a special effects portrait lens.


One of the biggest pains with the lens is the fact the waterhouse stops can fall out easily. I was advised by Lomography that to stop this you need to bend the small tabs, on the stops, slightly . That fixed the problem. I was warned not to bend the tabs too far as it would prevent the stops from seating properly. I love the lens!!!
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Chris S.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 12:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

austrokiwi1 wrote:
As for macro I really don't think it works. The field of focus is just far too curved.

(snip)

. . . so with extension tubes you might get some interesting macro shots on APSc......but I have to ask rhetorically Why?

I’d submit that your first picture is a powerful counterargument to your words. It strikes me as beautiful. This sort of image is not the norm here at PMN, where we tend toward literal, perhaps even clinical, depictions. But plenty of good photographers take a more subjective view, and find appreciative audiences. Consider the macro section at 1x.com, a curated site where images are available for purchase. Your first image might be right at home there.

Of course, what 1x calls “macro” might be called “close-up” by purists, as most of the images there are less than life size. But such close-up images are definitely within the scope of our PMN fora.

As for the field curvature of the Petzval lens, don’t forget that you can focus stack with it, which reduces the need for a flat field. Two of the images in my Petzval image thread are focus stacks. And a couple of the images in that thread were indeed made with the lens on tubes.

Quote:
It is first and foremost a special effects portrait lens.

No argument here. Portraits are what I bought this lens for. But if the lens also does beautiful things with flowers, why not use it this way as well?

Quote:
. . .you can get some good shots if you apply the rule of thirds to the out of focus background while ensuring the subject is centered.

This is a vital point. This lens forces you to consider the out of focus portions—especially highlights—as strong elements in your composition.

Quote:
When you use the star-shaped Waterhouse stops, you get this effect ( look at the out of focus areas).

I don’t happen to like the star-shaped OOF highlights. And I didn’t purchase the additional set of “shaped” Waterhouse stops because I can’t conceive of ever wanting to use them. This said, your example does seem a useful teaching tool for helping viewers grasp how OOF highlights are rendered by a lens.

Quote:
I use it on a Sony A7r via an eos-nex adapter. The unique Bokeh is only really seen, to full effect, on a full frame camera. . . .

That may well be the case. I have only used this lens on a full frame camera.

Quote:
One of the biggest pains with the lens is the fact the Waterhouse stops can fall out easily. I was advised by Lomography that to stop this, you need to bend the small tabs on the stops slightly. That fixed the problem.

This bugged me, too. Luckily, bending these tabs is not difficult.

Quote:
I love the lens!!!

Me too!

Cheers,

--Chris
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austrokiwi1



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I’d submit that your first picture is a powerful counterargument to your words. It strikes me as beautiful.

LOL Thanks for the compliment. I am also going to have to be much more careful with my interpretations/use of the term "macro". I would never have thought of calling that shot a macro shot. Close up maybe so I take your point that it fits in the realm of PMN.

That shot is one of my favourite shots. I took it last september just after I got the lens.....I had spent an afternoon wandering around the neighbourhood taking photographs and learning how to use the lens. The shot was one of the last of the day and was composed using the skills the lens had taught me in the couple of hours before hand.

It was a worthwhile exercise I learnt the basic principles of centering the subject, then moving so that the background and edges were the correct distance from the subject. It takes some composing to get the full "timewarp"( photographic pun intended) bokeh. It was an afternoon well spent as the Petzval design demands techniques very different to those for modern lenses.

I obtained the extra special effects stops for fun......And recently purchased some 3rd party examples on Ebay. The star shaped stop produced the christmas cards we sent out for this last Christmas. What I really want to try is drilling the one blank stop I have, to produce a soft focus effect.

My only regret is not getting the black version.......when I am in town the brass lens attracts much more attention than I prefer.
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Chris S.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

austrokiwi1 wrote:
It was a worthwhile exercise I learnt the basic principles of centering the subject, then moving so that the background and edges were the correct distance from the subject. It takes some composing to get the full "timewarp"( photographic pun intended) bokeh. It was an afternoon well spent as the Petzval design demands techniques very different to those for modern lenses.

Doesn't it, though? I did just what you did--took the lens out for a few afternoons to learn what it was and how to work with it. And like you, I found that while it didn't take long to learn the techniques that suit this lens, it requires very different handling from any lens I've used before.

Quote:
What I really want to try is drilling the one blank stop I have, to produce a soft focus effect.

Care to elaborate? I'm not following.

Quote:
My only regret is not getting the black version.......when I am in town the brass lens attracts much more attention than I prefer.

I pondered this myself before choosing brass, rather than black. Normally, I like my equipment to be as unobtrusive as possible, which would argue for black, rather than brass. But as we've discussed, the lens is mostly for portrait photography. And when making photographs of people, I find the biggest challenge is getting them to relax, disregard the camera, and just be themselves. I thought that perhaps a funky, antique-looking lens might help people disinhibit and have fun with the shoot. So I went with brass. So far, I've found that this has been a good choice.

Cheers,

--Chris
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austrokiwi1



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 3:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Care to elaborate? I'm not following.



I used to have an example of the MInolta MD 85mm Soft focus lens. I am pretty sure that lens actually used an extra element in a petzval like lens arrangement to produce the soft focus effect and was possibly evolved with/from the Minolta 24mm VFC( variable field curvature). My example wasn't that great and when I got the petzval I sold it. Other manufacturers applied a different approach to soft focus. Describing it, for me, is a little hard and a picture is always worth 1000 words. Heres a link to an Ebay sale of a Mamiya RZ67 soft focus lens. The photograph of the soft focus "apertures"/filters is probably all the elaboration that is needed( I hope):
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/BRAND-NEW-Mamiya-RZ67-Soft-M-180MM-F4-D-L-Lens-W-Disks-for-all-RZ67-Cameras-/251861833839?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3aa422986f

I would hope with a similarly modified stop, the Petzval would render the subject in a similar fashion to the minolta soft focus lens......each image point having a sharp component surrounded by a soft "halo". Such a picture has a very different quality to the old vaseline on a UV filter approach. Of course I could just buy the Sony STF lens or a better example of the minolta......but it isn't as much fun as creating the effect yourself( and I don't learn as much)
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Chris S.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 10:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ahah. So like this Mamiya RZ 180mm/4 DL lens (soft focus w/disc set) for sale on eBay (vendor photo)?




In a quick look just now, I found a similar-looking stop installed in a Fujinon vew camera lens, also for sale on eBay (vendor photo).



And I see that Lensbaby offers similar multi-hole stops for soft-focus effects. Must admit that none of the examples shown appeals to me. I tend to want a sharp subject, along with more control over how the non-subject elements are rendered.

If this sort of multi-holed aperture has a name, I'd be interested in learning what it is. It seems related to, but not the same as, an apodizing stop.

In a similar same vein, two lenses I'd enjoy experimenting with are the Fujifilm 56mm F1.2 R APD and the Minolta 135mm STF--both of which incorporate apodization filters. I haven't done this, yet, since both are expensive optics, and neither is readily mountable on the Nikon bodies I favor.

Cheers,

--Chris
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Photo-DIY



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2015 1:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those soft focus lenses like the Imagon or that Fuji use those special multi hole apertures to get different amounts of good corrected image and spherical aberration. The center has good correction, and the borders have a lot of spherical aberration. Many holes gives a softer image, less holes at the border get a sharper image. And with only a central hole it gets sharp.
Bokeh from these lenses is very special (bad) cause one could see the hole structure.

The apodization lenses are no soft focus lenses, these lenses are sharp.
There the apodization filter in the aperture gets a gradient between 100% transmission and 0% transmission. This results in a smoth bokeh - both in for- and background.

For Nikon there are the defocus control lenses which can be used as soft focus by introducing spherical aberration - both under or over corrected.
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Chris S.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Photo-DIY wrote:
Those soft focus lenses like the Imagon or that Fuji use those special multi hole apertures to get different amounts of good corrected image and spherical aberration. The center has good correction, and the borders have a lot of spherical aberration. Many holes gives a softer image, less holes at the border get a sharper image. And with only a central hole it gets sharp.
Bokeh from these lenses is very special (bad) cause one could see the hole structure.

Thanks, Photo-DIY--you have eliminated any temptation I might ever have of buying one of these lenses. Soft focus and ugly bokeh--yuck.

Quote:
The apodization lenses are no soft focus lenses, these lenses are sharp. There the apodization filter in the aperture gets a gradient between 100% transmission and 0% transmission. This results in a smoth bokeh - both in for- and background.

This, I've understood for some time, which is why I'd love to try an apodization lens. If one ever gets made for Nikon, I'll likely buy it. And as others have observed, an apodization effect might easily be done without special optics, by simply moving the aperture during the exposure.

Quote:
For Nikon there are the defocus control lenses which can be used as soft focus by introducing spherical aberration - both under or over corrected.

I regularly use a Nikon 105mm f/2.2 DC (Defocus control) lens as my go-to lens for portraits. For portrait work, I find it, quite simply, exquisite. For close-ups, I once tested it briefly on extension tubes, to answer a question from a forum member. It did fine, but rendered almost identically to my Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AF-D macro lens, which did the job without tubes--and consequently with less hassle--and at a lower price.

Cheers,

--Chris
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Peter De Smidt



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2015 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

With the LF Fujinons, you can remove the disks. I wouldn't dismiss them so quickly, at least for large format work.

For lots of samples of various lenses, check out: http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com/

I recently visited a photographer in Chicago. He had a tremendous amount of interesting stuff, including a 11x14 Deardorff studio camera on bi-post stand. He also had an Eastman portrait lens a Cooke portrait lens, both huge lenses. http://antiquecameras.net/softfocuslenses2.html

This lens gives terrific results with portraiture: http://www.cookeoptics.com/cooke.nsf/products/largeformat.html
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Peter De Smidt



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's another new SF lens that goes to 1:2

http://lensbaby.com/usa/velvet56.php
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Alex H



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 11:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another interesting soft focus lens is Tamron Adaptall-2 70-150/2.8, which, like Minolta MD 85mm and Minolta MAF 100mm (and probably others) introduces spherical aberration by moving some of the lens elements. It is rather sharp when soft focus effect is set to "0".

I have been shooting with one for few month now, on and off, but it is a difficult lens to master. I think I prefer my "home-made" soft-focus lens instead.
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