Petzval Lomography Portrait Lens Review


This post will share all the photos I shot with Petzval lens.

If you are looking for the Petzval lens open box, hand on or first impression review, you can visit my 2 earlier posts below:

1. Petzval lens – original version
2. Petzval lens – Special Edition in Black

Petzval portrait lens is a 85mm lens and classically know as focal lens suitable for portrait shot.

Petzval Lens bokeh effect.

Simply want to try the bokeh. With f/2.8 waterhouse plate, increased contrast and saturation using software.


First and foremost, yes, it is a full manual focus, and also aperture control lens. Furthermore, the manual focus is a challenging experience. The challenges mainly come from few reasons below:

  • the depth of field for Petzval lens is shadow – for sure you can choose to use a larger aperture number plate to improve this,
  • the focus minimum focus distance 1 meter, which means you need stand a distance away from your subject,
  • the focus movement for the barrel on lens was short, it takes about one turn screw knob to finish from 1 meter to infinity focus distance.

However, the large headed screw focus knob was well machined. It was large enough with plenty of rough vertical lines for better grip. Once you stop and let go the focusing knob, it hardly wriggle. The build in mechanism have enough resistance to prevent to lens element from moving, even at a tiled angle.

This might be the time where focus peaking comes useful in this situation. Unfortunately my Nikon D600 doesn’t have this feature build-in. I don’t have Nikon to Sony NEX mount converter to use on Sony NEX as well. So, can’t comment on this until I tested it out.

Metering or Exposure Control

Next, how you get the correct exposure with this manual lens? Simple, just try and try and keep trying 😀
Well, you can use the in-camera light meter on the camera to assist you on this. Just tune the shutter dial until the EV = 0. Increase or decrease the ISO if necessary.
If you are a more ‘pro’ photographer, you can even turn on the live view and use the histrogram (e.g. Sony NEX live view comes with ‘live’ histogram view).

Depth of Field (DOF)

If you intend to get a sharper photo, I would suggest you use aperture plate f/4 and above. Focusing with f/2.2 or f/2.8 or even without waterhouse plate is really challenging. You could miss the focus with little displacement. Or you can mount your camera on tripod to increase your chances.
I would say, over 70% of the times, I will miss if using shadow DoF aperture plate, especially with handheld.

In order to obtain the sharpest image from this lens, remember to place your subject in the center. The image will get soft very quick when moving to the corners, especially using a wide opening aperture plate.

The Waterhouse Aperture Plates

The waterhouse aperture plates are loosen parts. Which means it tend to get lost across time. Some clamp it with clip hook. Mine still here and there as I am yet to find a better solution.

Another cons about these plates, they are not tight when fit into the lens barrel. It might fall off if you turn the lens more than 90 degree. It did fall off from the lens a few times when I did not keep the lens in proper comportment inside the camera bag during travel.

For all the photos below, if I did not mention the aperture plate number, that means I have forgotten. As this is REAL full manual lens, aperture number is not recorded electronically to the EXIF. However, it should be around these 3 aperture values: no plate inserted, f/2.2 or f/2.8, unless otherwise stated.

How to get the swirly or circular bokeh with Petzval?

To get started, here are the first few photos that I managed to get the swirly or circular bokeh result.

I believe the trick, as any other normal wide aperture lens, to get bokeh is to have the background a distance away from your subject.
Next, you need to find a background that is high in texture and contrast, both in colors and brightness. For example, bushes, high dense leaves or forest, better still if there is light shinning through the bushes from the back.

Petzval lens at wild life park, Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia.

I think they key to getting the swirly bokeh background is to find a texture rich high contract background.

Petzval lens at wild life park, Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia.

First few satisfying shots with Petzval lens. The swirly bokeh background is simply amazing.

Petzval waterhouse aperture plates comparison.

Testing the Petzval waterhouse aperture plates. Focus is on the boats (blue one if not wrong) at foreground.

100% crop of tree at the background with Petzval lens.

100% crop of the tree at the background.

Portrait with Petzval Lens

Portrait shot using Petzval lens.

1/1250s, 1EV below ISO100. Forget the aperture plate number, should be either f/2.2 or f2.8.

Child portrait shot with Petzval lens.

1/160s, ISO 1EV under 100.

Child portrait shot using Petzval lens.

1/160s, ISO200.

Child portrait using Petzval lens.

1/200s, ISO 1EV under 100.

out of focus photo with Petzval lens.

I know it is blur and out of focus, because I miss the focus! But I still like the swirly bokeh background.

Little girl at garden, shot with Petzval lomography lens.

Again, can’t remember the aperture plate setting. Should be around f/2.2 to f2.8. 1/500s, ISO100, Nikon D600.

Little girl at bath.

With f/4 waterhouse plate @ ISO2000, 1/60s using Nikon D600 on tripod.


@f/2.2 if I remember correctly. 1/400s, ISO100

100% crop of photo from Petzval lens.

100% crop of photo above, @f/2.2.

Portrait shot with Petzval lens.

1/60s, ISO3200. A guy surfing with iPad.

Random walk around shot using Petzval lens.

1/250s, ISO100.

Wildlife with Petzval Lens

Eagle wild life shot with Petzval lens.

1/200s, ISO200

Ducks shot with Petzval lens.

1/125s, ISO100.

Duck shot with Petzval lens.

1/125s, ISO400.

Rooster shot using Petzval lens.

Rooster, 1/320s, 1EV under 100.

Flamingo shot with Petzval lens.

Flamingo, 1/1250s, ISO200.

Landscape wtih Petzval Lens

Building structure shot using Petzval lens.

1/1600s, ISO 100.

Light house landscape shot using Petzval lens.

1/2000s, ISO100.

light house landscape shot using Petzval lens.

1/1600s, ISO 1EV under 100.

With Experimental Plates

Petzval with water droplet shaped experimental plate.

Petzval with water droplet shaped experimental plate.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *