Restoring and Using a 160-Year-Old Petzval Lens

Many of us photographers have a penchant for vintage lenses, but this one might top the lot.

The first vintage lens I bought was the "original bokeh monster" 135mm bayonet lens that I adapted to my Canon 6D. It was soft, possibly harboring some fungi, and awkward to use, but it did some damage to me. I suddenly had this burning curiosity to try different film bodies and vintage lenses and while I've tamed it to a certain extent, I'm still drawn in by rare pieces of photographic history. 

In this video, Markus Hofstätter — a rather singular photographer on YouTube, restores a 160-year-old Petzval 500mm f/4.5 lens to a usable standard and then shoots a wet plate portrait with it. It's such a beautiful lens, albeit massive and presumably very heavy. The requisite dedication and effort that goes into taking a shot like this is staggering!

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12 Comments

Joe Svelnys's picture

Absolutely love this, thank you.

Alex Herbert's picture

Saw this article and thought "this guy would get on well with Mathieu Stern", then went to your YouTube page and saw you already have a video together! I'll be watching that tonight.

Markus Hofstätter's picture

yes, we had a blast together, Mathieu is a great guy. If you check my profile here, you'll find two images of him I did :)

Jim Kennedy's picture

Wow. Thank You

Joseph Barber's picture

Can i use that on my sony a7iii? haha

Markus Hofstätter's picture

basically yes - you just need some extension rings and it will be pretty sharp too ;)
But you won't get this nice look on it as on a 30x40cm plate. Speaking of 35mm, the plate I shot has a 0,086 crop factor hahaha ;)

John de la Bastide's picture

Great Work Markus.I Enjoyed this video.

J W's picture

Amazing work. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for keeping historic photographic methods alive.

Markus Hofstätter's picture

my pleasure - thank you!