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.

Markus Hofstätter's picture

Thanks a lot!!

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

Markus Hofstätter's picture

Thanks so much!

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.

Markus Hofstätter's picture

Thank you so much!

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!