View Full Version : Petzval Alternatives?

6-May-2011, 10:37
I've been looking at some portraits taken with Petzval lenses after a friend turned me on to them. I quickly realized that the characteristics of these lenses make for some fantastic optical effects. I also determined that they cost a fortune and are in very "finite" supply.

I also read somewhere that Petzvals were created with a distinct formula - the Petzval equation, I think it was. I don't know how reliable the source is, but it would make sense. I mean it's all brass and glass, isn't it? It's science and not magic that produces these fantastic optics.

So I'm wondering whether there have been any lens designs in subsequent years that recreate the Petzval effect, only having more modern (and hopefully large-scale) productions. Surely someone knows the formula or equations, if they exist?

Ramiro Elena
6-May-2011, 11:17
You don't need the super expensive Petzvals. There are projection Petzval lenses under $100 that produce beautiful images.

6-May-2011, 12:18
Indeed, the same formula was used from about 1847 until the 1950s for different applications. I have a 50mm projection Petzval in the for sale section now. See all the shots people do with Petzvals here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/868027@N25/

Richard Rankin
6-May-2011, 12:40
You don't say where you are or what you shoot, but if you are really a broke college student and can't afford one, I can probably loan you one to use for a while.

Also, you can usually find a meniscus, like a Scoville cheaper than a petzval. If you pop the lens out from behind the front stop, you can a very soft image of around f6 or so, instead of the 'built-in' aperture which will probably be f20 or smaller. It's not like a petzval, but has interesting effects in a different way.


6-May-2011, 13:18
Richard, Sorry - Broke College Student is just my general job description. I will alter my profile to show that I am in PA, though.

Anyway, I was more asking for the general sake of knowing what's out there. I'm not really interested in shooting with one yet, just learning more about Petzvals and their brethren - assuming they exist. As far as my own shooting is concerned, I'm still trying to determine a process that works for me, from shooting to developing. I'm perfectly happy with my Schneider Symmar-S 210mm at the moment. It should be at least a year* until I'm ready to look into specialty lenses like these.

*—Don't laugh too hard, self, when you see this thread again in a month and are bidding feverishly on new LF lenses.

Steven Tribe
6-May-2011, 13:47
I would say that there still plain (no lacquered brass, adjustment or mounting system) petzvals for around USD 30. A mounting system can be made quite easily for experiments. This way you get a achromat (front lens) for the same price which will double as a meniscus landscape lens. If Darlot and others did it - so can you! Focal length and coverage will be much greater than the petzval use.
The days of cheap meniscus lenses in mounts have gone, I think.

6-May-2011, 15:15
Petzval Lens article (http://antiquecameras.net/petzvallens.html)


Ole Tjugen
7-May-2011, 06:57
The "Petzval effect" is just the result of using a lens beyond it's design criteria - on a larger film size than it was designed for, and at full aperture.

My personal favourite "Petzvally lens" isn't a petzval at all, but an old Schneider Xenar Typ D 150mm f:3.5 which gives great swirly edges at full opening. Even better - it has a shutter! Literature claims that it is a triplet, but at least in the case of MY lens it's a "reverse Tessar". :D

7-May-2011, 13:59
Believe it or not, a modern Mamiya RZ 110mm 2.8 lens will swirl the out of focus areas quite heavily when used wide open...of course, we're talking medium format here, but still.