Adding onto our Petzval collection, we are thrilled to share the capabilities of our New Petzval 80.5 MKII Art Lens. Designed for (d)SLR photographers and filmmakers, the Lomography Petzval lens allows for a wide range of creative experimentation, with standout features like a Waterhouse Aperture system and Bokeh Control.
Massachusetts-based photographer James Joiner is here to give his impressions of the new lens. In our first introduction, James shared with us his excitement of returning to live concert photography with Modest Mouse, as well as his dynamic on-stage and behind-the-scenes shots. See how he applies the Petzval 80.5 Art Lens to his work and why it has earned a permanent spot in his camera bag.
Hey James, it’s great to have you back in our Magazine. How have you been since we last spoke?
Hey! I’ve been pretty great… Well, mostly. Had a small downtime due to surgery (nothing major) but at least I almost caught up on editing and archiving photos. These days I think it’s important to just try to live in each moment and not give in to the panic-fest that’s always erupting around us.
You recently shot with our New Petzval 80.5 Art Lens, what was your setup like?
Okay, so full disclosure I had the very first Petzval Art Lens, and loved it, even though I immediately lost all of the aperture plates. This latest iteration is just better across the board - having the aperture attached to a ring like a modern lens is huge for a scatterbrain like me, plus the Bokeh Control ring is A+++. Also, it’s sharper across the frame. And that’s saying a lot - I have the Nikon F version, but instead of shooting on Nikon, I had it paired to my new favorite digital camera, the medium format Fujifilm GFX 50s II. Amazingly, even wide open, the lens didn’t disappoint from edge to edge, and the minor vignetting was either pleasing or could be easily fixed. This speaks to how well made the lens is, I have an extremely high-end 35 mm glass that can’t even begin to stand up to Fujifilm’s medium format sensor, especially without disintegrating at the edges.
How do you describe your experience with the lens and its abilities?
Flabbergasting. Really. I loved this lens before I got it, but in real life, it’s somehow even better than I imagined. It’s much easier to focus than its predecessor - Fujifilm's crazy good viewfinder and focus-peaking didn’t hurt here, but I also shot it on my Nikon FM2N and it was equally as great - and having the bokeh control ring really changes the game. As someone who shoots a ton of analog still, Fujifilm’s interface and color profiles really bridge the digital gap, and this lens has the same retro-modern hybrid feel as the camera, which suits me perfectly.
The build quality also stood out, plus the way I as the photographer had to interact with it made subjects notice it, creating conversations that lent to better images.
You captured a variety of scenes, including portraits and nature landscapes. Is there a subject you think the lens is best suited for?
This is a hard one… I love the way the signature swirly bokeh makes even average scenes feel super artistic, but if I had to choose I’d say portraits. It renders in a way that feels both modern and classic / instantly nostalgic, which both perfectly suit my attempted style and presents well when shown.
Do you have a favorite Petzval shot so far? Can you tell us the story behind it?
Oh, man… This is tough. Can I have three? For landscape, the red leaf with the crazy swirly bokeh behind it. Its peak foliage on Cape Cod, and Fujifilm’s colors mixed with the Petzval character really make the whole frame grab you and pull you into a vortex of fall color. Next would be the tryptic with the bar bottles. I love the way it fades into and out of frame. But I think my all-time favorite is the portrait of Isaac and Jeremiah of Modest Mouse. The way the lens keeps them just in focus enough -- this was shot wide open -- and the swirls the rest away gives the image a timeless feel. This could be a modern shot or a colorized vintage image from a century ago.
What would you say to someone interested in trying this lens?
DO IT! Even if you’re the full-auto photo type, engaging with the manual focus and bokeh ring will bring you out of your green box and into a newly-creative mood. For people already used to experimenting with looks and gear, it’s a perfect tool for unlocking some next level-images. I love the way the all manual interface forces you to be more at the moment.
Are there any upcoming projects you’d like to use the New Petzval 80.5 lens for? How do you plan to incorporate it into your creative work?
It’s earned a permanent place in my Pelican case/camera bag, to be honest! I’ve been really enjoying it for day-to-day carrying and street photography (see Provincetown pics) I think it lends a unique look that easily stands out from your average lens. I’ll certainly be employing it for portraits going forward, you can bet you’ll be seeing more of the Petzval signature look in my future images! Plus, again, the fact that it renders a full-frame image on Fujifilm’s medium format cameras really sets it apart.