Outdoors with the Petzval Lens

I backed Lomography’s Petzval lens on Kickstarter back when the campaign was running in August last year and a couple months later got the lens in the mail, which I immediately took out and played around with. I’ve used it multiple times since for its artsy effects and swirly bokeh, though it struck me I’ve yet to share my images from it. So, I grabbed my Petzval and my T3-i and headed outside for some nature shots and experimenting.

Exploring the outdoors

The Petzval is known for its swirly bokeh, which – despite being used largely for portraits – I’ve found to be awesome at nature shots.

Above are the final, edited versions from my Petzval excursion, though there are a couple I’d like to offer some more insight into.

A closer look at the bokeh

I’ve mentioned the infamous Petzval bokeh a couple times above, which you can kind of get an idea for by looking at the images of the ground cover and flat leaf Italian parsley (shown both above and below).

You’ll notice the blurring around the edges of the frame and the circular, swirly pattern of the bokeh (the little blurred dots) with a relatively sharp part of the image in the center. Both of these were shot using an ƒ/2.2 aperture, which helped to make the bokeh and blur even more pronounced.

Using the Petzval

The Petzval is pretty easy to use, though there are a couple modern lens features absent from it, and understandably so. The first would be the lack of autofocus and an image stabilizer, though this is to be expected firstly for the sake of its historical accuracy and secondly due to the fact that there are no camera-to-lens electrical connections on the lens mount.

The other caveat is that photos taken with the Petzval are missing aperture information from their metadata, as the camera doesn’t receive any aperture information from the lens (the aperture is set using drop-in plates). This also makes it a little tougher to use certain modes on the camera, though a little tinkering should be able to solve those problems.

Getting close up with the Petzval

I also decided to try using the Petzval for macro, which I was surprised to see turned out pretty good for the most part despite the blur of the lens.

I used the Petzal in conjunction with my set of Hoya close-up filters (I used the 4+ filter; luckily the thread size I had for my set happened to match that of the Petzal, 52mm) and two different apertures: ƒ/2.2 and ƒ/5.6.

While I was shooting using the filter, I noticed that at smaller apertures (like the ƒ/2.2) the images became increasingly fuzzy. You can see what I mean by looking at the two images of the same plant below, the first shot at ƒ/2.2 and the second shot at ƒ/5.6, taken directly as shot in-camera.

Excusing the slight difference in exposure, the difference in clarity is really noticeable. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, since it can easily be overcome by using higher apertures. The blur can be used to create additional artsy effects as well, making for a very versatile lens and filter combo.

In fact, the lens is capable of picking up pretty great detail with the filter, as shown in the leaf below (the first straight from the camera, the second edited in Aperture 3).

Overall, I’ve been really impressed with the Petzval and its performance for macro, which is one of my favorite styles of shooting. If you’d like to pick up a Petzval and try it out for yourself, you can head over to Lomography’s online shop and snag one.