View Full Version : economical 4x5 petzval portraits

Victor Samou Wong
5-Jan-2006, 11:27
well I was browsing around in the "rainy day" thread when I stumbled on the link to Jim Galli's website. I really love his pictures with the petzval portrait lens on 4x5. But now I have a problem, I have the bug but I'm a student and it's after Christmas. Can anybody recommend a good petzval for 4x5 that performs alright, but isn't as crazily priced as say a cooke, or the other lenses? Are there any relatively overlooked petzvals?


5-Jan-2006, 11:38
Its a trial and error kind of thing. Look for old brass lenses that the sellers are clueless about. If it has a focusing gear chances are its a petzval. Many wont have much info on them, and the magic lantern lenses wont have an aperature or a slot for water house stops. I have one I picked up with only the barrel and the air spaced doublet element, the single element had a FL of about 24", I taped a cemented doublet from a Rapid Rectilliner of about the same FL on the front of the barrel , sharp center, swirly fall off.
Count on it taking some time and getting a few duds along the way, or be prepared to drop the dime.

Jim Galli
5-Jan-2006, 12:04
Another entry level possible is to get an old rapid rectilinear (spelled cheap) about 6 or 7" focal length and replace the front group with a +3 close up lens. Won't be quite the same, but fun to play around with.

Here's (http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com/4InchGundlachPetzval4X5Pics.html) the pics Vic referenced.

5-Jan-2006, 12:23
And if you follow Jims advice you wont go through the anguish of having Jim snipe the prize you thought was yours, and end up just buying one from him : ) The things we go through to get a curved field....

David A. Goldfarb
5-Jan-2006, 12:37
There are lots of cheap Petzval types out there. Projector lenses are sometimes Petzvals. You might try borrowing one from a slide projector and seeing what it covers at portrait distances.

Ole Tjugen
5-Jan-2006, 12:52
When searching for something like that, I ended up buying a 13x18cm plate camera because it came with a complete 7-element Aplanat casket set. I can confirm that a rear group of an aplanat (=rapid rectilinear) has an amazing field curvature! I discovered how the old photographers managed to get everything in focus when shooting down a city street - field curvature again!

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
5-Jan-2006, 14:13
There is a parallel discussion going on here: www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=23132 (http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=23132)

Note that the Cooke PS945 is not a Petzval, rather it is a modified Rapid Rectilinear. Are you are looking for a soft focus lens? If so, you won't find it with a Petzval.

If you want a cheap Petzval your best bet is a Magic Lantern lens.

Victor Samou Wong
5-Jan-2006, 14:34
Thanks for the terrific input. not the least to mention Jim Galli. Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures and other materials!

Brook, am I correct in thinking that a rapid rectilinear WITHOUT your treatment provides a standard undistorted image, but it gets that way by putting the doublet up front? Just want to confirm.

Nope I'm not looking for a soft focus lens really.... just something with the same look and feel as the gundlach that Jim was using. blur by distortion is it? I dunno... I guess I'll just have to drop by the nearest photographica fair. One's happening soon in Toronto I think.....

Cheers all!

5-Jan-2006, 14:54
My understanding is that a petzval is an air spaced doublet in the rear and a cemented doublet in the front. A RR would be two cemented doublets, and is an adaption of the petzval design. Both are rather sharp designs, with the petzval having a smaller area of sharp coverage, thus the need for longer that "normal" focal legenth, unless you are looking for the fall off and distortion.

I will humbly defer to some of the other posters here as most of what I know beyond my own fooling around with old glass I picked up from them.

domenico Foschi
5-Jan-2006, 19:26
A Petzval has always a large aperture, usually 3.5 , which is one of the caracteristic why is so sought after, blurring the background in a way that only such lens can( the oter lens I love is the Heliar for this matter). The other is the sharpness in the center of the image and then there is the distortion at the edges .
My feel is that if you don't get a real petzval design, you won't be satisfied.
Unfortunately, these lenses don't come cheap.

5-Jan-2006, 19:46

I think that's a Petzval design.

Victor Samou Wong
5-Jan-2006, 21:38
That's frooging huuuuuuuge.... something tells me that it won't fit on my speed graphic lens board......

Sanders McNew
6-Jan-2006, 09:09
Petzval lenses are quite sharp. Their signature look comes from two characteristics. One is, as another poster noted, attributable to the huger f/3.5 maximum aperture -- nearly everything blurs out of focus in large formats at f/3.5. Jim Galli's experiments with Petzval lenses are perfect examples of this.

But there is a second reason, that becomes apparent as you stop the lens down. Petzval lenses (again, as another poster has noted) have curved focal planes. I've been using a Petzval-design portrait lens for several months now, stopped down to f/10 (apparently f/10 was a measured stop for French lensmakers in the 19th century) -- the effects are much less blurred than Jim's examples at f/3.5, but still show tremendous character because of the curved focal plane. Here are links to some examples from my photos:





One last observation. It is not at all accurate to suggest that a Petzval lens is sharp at the center, and distorted at the margins. Rather, the lens is sharp wherever in the field you choose to focus. If you focus on an object at the margin, it will be sharp at the margin. But the curved focal plane will do its work elsewhere in the frame. Again, if you look at the images linked above, you will see that I've laid focus in each case on my model's eyes and they are sharp, even when positioned near the film margin.

If you want to buy a Petzval inexpensively, watch for magic lantern lenses on eBay. Most of them are of Petzval design. The problem with them is they have no adjustable iris. But you can improvise by measuring and fitting a Waterhouse stop to the lens.

Sanders McNew (www.mcnew.net)

David Van Gosen
10-Jan-2006, 10:20
I believe I've read that the Dallmeyer Pentac lenses are the same design. I have a military surplus version that was very reasonable.

Dan Fromm
10-Jan-2006, 10:29
Dave, the Pentac isn't a Petzval type, it is a heliar type. Designed 1919 or so.



Lynn Jones
3-Mar-2006, 12:42
It appears that the lens mentioned is the Kodak Aero Ektar, 7" (178mm) f2.5. During WWII Kodak paid the government $800 each and they covered 4"x5" film. They were, we believe, 5 element Pentac/Heliar types (at which only Kodak was very good at) just as the medalist 101mm f3.5 was, and the 50mm f4.5 enlarging Ektar, 75mm f 4.5 enlarging Ektar, and ll of the microfile Ektars were.

Kodak also made 12", f 3.5 Aero Ektars at the same time. All of the lenses highly regarded.

Post war, they sold as war surplus originally fr $79 each and later for $49. While I was VP of B&J, I bought a Nikon 7" 2.5 and a shutter mounted 7" 2.5. You don't want to know how much I paid for them (the price that the feds had closed out), but those lenses shure are sharp.