Lomography has offered yet another art lens for my review. The Petzval 58 is distinctively a better lens than the Petzval 85 (review here), and deservedly more expensive too. This review unit of the 58 lens captures sharper images than the 85 despite a larger aperture of f/1.9 compared to f/2.2.
Initially, I was concerned about the field of view since 85mm is always a better portrait lens than 58mm. However, as I am using an APS-C mirrorless system, the 58mm turns out to be a better range for me.
The other feature of the Petzval 58 is the ability to adjust the swivel bokeh by turning the ring marked with 1 to 7. The effect is very apparent as the numbers go up. The swirly bokeh is certainly easier to achieve and control with the Petzval 58.
It turns out that I don’t really want the swirly bokeh for all my shots, hence the ability to adjust makes the Petzval 58 a very versatile lens. The bokeh can look zoomed in, or swirly, or just normal blur.
Apart from the lens elements, both lenses are identical in build, design and feel. The focus is adjusted manually via a knob located below the lens. Aperture is set by inserting aperture plates, but the slot is positioned at an angle instead of direct top-down on the Petzval 85. Similarly, bokeh shapes can be manipulated with special bokeh aperture plates.
Young photographers might be put off by the manual focus. For me, it is quite a hindrance to my shooting workflow, because I need to check the focus accuracy regularly, unlike the old manual DSLRs with a split-screen viewfinder that aids focusing. The weight of full-brass body also adds weight to the camera gear.
But the result more than compensates the hassle. The Petzval is not a lens to create the modern pin-sharp look that the 21st century image makers have come to associate with. You can even brush off the fact that the swirly bokeh could be simulated with post-processing.
The Petzval lens adds an analogue feel to the images, an almost redeeming aspect of digital photography where everything is about precision. It’s exactly why some audiophiles prefer listening to LP records than 24-bit hi-res digital files.
The Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens comes in 2 mounts: Nikon F and Canon EF. Retails at S$1138, you can purchase from the Lomography online shop.
Lomography has published an interview of my experience on their online magazine. Read it at https://www.lomography.com/magazine/324690-lomo-showcase-chester-tan
Official product website: https://microsites.lomography.com/petzval-58-bokeh-control-lens/