Lomography’s New Petzval 58 lens can create 7 levels of creative blurring

Photography may have gone digital, but, judging from the success of Lomography’s new Petzval 58 lens, there are still a lot of die-hard analog fans out there. With this new lens, designed for Canon and Nikon DSLRs, it’s all about the bokeh, that wonderful blurred background technique that makes photos look dreamy.

Like the first Petzval lens Lomo introduced (which was also a hit), the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens (the “new” designates that these are newly developed lenses based on old ones) has shattered its $100,000 Kickstarter goal, with (at time of writing) $868,327 pledged from 1,637 backers. There are three days left in the campaign, and it’ll cost at least $525 to be one of the first adopters. It might seem like a high price for a specialty lens that doesn’t auto-focus, but obviously not everyone agrees.

The 58mm lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.9 (up to f/16, thanks to seven aperture plates). Lomo says the 58mm focal point is more than suitable for portraits and landscapes, and an all-around good focal length for multiple types of photography – weddings, fashion shoots, street photography, architecture, landscapes, etc. It’s fully manual, and the amount of bokeh can be adjusted using a seven-step control ring, which Lomo says has never been possible before. It lets you create minimal shallow depth of field to maximum swirls in the background, while keeping your subject or object clearly in focus. And here’s the thing: you can use it for video, not just photos.

The New Petzval 58 lets you control up to seven instances of bokeh. (Credit: Lomography)

“In the past, the Petzval’s swirly bokeh effect has always been strongly dependent on factors such as the types of backgrounds you shoot against and the distance between you and your subject,” Lomo writes in its Kickstarter page. “So, in the two years since we first invented the Lomography New Petzval 85mm Art Lens, we’ve had plenty of time to mull over a different approach that would allow us to determine the strength of the swirly bokeh effect in our Petzval shots.”

To create the lens, the engineers at the Zenit factory in Russia had to develop new optical calculations to work with the current generation of DSLRs, including those with APS-C sensors. The Petzval 58, based on Russian optics and glass technologies, will work with analog or digital cameras, and is compatible with Canon EF and Nikon F mounts. With adapter mounts, the lens can be used with cameras from Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, and Olympus. Available in black finish or brass, the Petzval features handmade construction. (If you want to geek out, Lomo has an extensive description of the lens’ construction and other details on its Kickstarter page.)

Technicians at the Zenit Labs in Russia, where the New Petzval 58 is made.
Technicians at the Zenit Labs in Russia, where the New Petzval 58 is made. Credit: Lomography

With its successful funding, Lomo has been able to add several stretch goals, including a set of commemorative prints, four special shaped aperture plates, and ND or UV filter. If Lomo hits $900,000 before the campaign ends on Friday, June 26, it will develop a premium leather pouch for the lens.

Want to know what it’s like to use the lens? Lomo has an interview Geoffrey Berliner, executive director of the Penumbra Foundation non-profit photographic arts and education organization and a collector of Petzval lenses.

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