The f/2.9 64mm lens is a replica of the very first camera lens from 1839, which was designed to be used with daguerrotypes, but this one fits on three modern DSLR mounts for Canon, Nikon, and Pentax. Adapters also allow the lens to work with a handful of other brands, including mirrorless cameras.
The vintage appeal goes well beyond the look of the lens (which is available in both brass and black). The images tend to be softer at the edges but have a sort of glow to them. Essentially, the lens recreates a vintage photo look without using any digital filters. Images shot below f/4 have a soft look, while those produced using apertures at or above f/5.6 are sharp with deep contrast, according to the manufacturer.
The lens doesn’t have the modern conveniences of most, however. Changing the aperture requires actually swapping out different aperture plates instead of simply turning a dial. Thanks to the great success of the campaign and the aperture plate design, though, photographers can also use shaped aperture plates, which will create shaped bokeh. Getting the shot in focus is also tougher than usual, but that’s a trade-off for a lens that’s versatile enough to get sharp shots as well as softer dreamy shots.
And the trade-offs don’t seem to be discouraging consumers — or at least that’s what the initial Kickstarter suggests. The campaign reached five times its initial goal in just a few days, and since then has again about doubled. The campaign was so successful that Lomography added several “stretch goal” features, including, as mentioned, shaped aperture plates (for shaped bokeh), a Pentax mount, leather carrying pouch and a macro adapter — all features that weren’t planned with the original.
The first 250 lenses have already started shipping to Kickstarter backers, but for the Kickstarter-wary (or simply latecomers), the lens is now available for pre-order from Lomography’s website, with an estimated ship date of January 2017.