Cinematographer Michal Dabal Waxes Lyrical About Lomography’s New Petzval 85 Art Lens, with 58 New Petzval Lens Coming May 2016

by Karin GottschalkLeave a Comment

Sometimes stumbling upon something amazing is more rewarding than the result of long days of careful research. That happened to me just now and I am all the more grateful for it. Two “something amazing”, actually.

The first, an interview at the Lomography website with Polish cinematographer Michal Dabal about his recent use of the New Petzval 85 lens for a no-budget not-for-profit short and a short documentary about electronic music in Poland.

The second “something amazing”, the New Petzval 85 lens itself. And there is a third “something amazing” too, due to make its online retail debut later this year, the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens. That particular lens will not be news to regular readers of My colleague Bret Hoy covered the New Petzval 58’s successful KickStarter campaign back in June 2015.

At the time Bret's article appeared, my thoughts were focused less on lenses and more on other aspects of independent moviemaking, so I paid less attention to the Kickstarter campaign than I should have. But I have been thinking about optics lately, about which lenses I need to fill the many gaps in my kit, especially now that I have two hybrid movie/stills cameras needing prime and zoom lenses, the GH4 and my more recently acquired GX8.

While the GH4 remains my go-to for shooting video, the GX8 makes an excellent MOS (without sound) on-location first camera or second camera with external audio adapter or recorder attached. Cinematographer Rick Young of Movie Machine seems to agree.

I stumbled across the Michal Dabal interview via social media the day of writing this piece and am I glad I did. I used to have my very own genuine, vintage Petzval portrait lens. It came attached to a glass plate stand camera found in a country township flea market, bought for AU$50, as I recall.

I loved that camera and especially its lens,  and I especially enjoyed looking through the wide open lens at portrait subjects, before completing the sitting with more conventional 120-format and 4”x5” sheet film cameras. I never fired off a shot with the camera, though, and could only dream of the day I might finally do so.

That day never came. The camera itself needed repairs and modifications so it could be used with 8”x10” sheet film or Polaroid instant film, but no such skilled technicians were to be had in the city in which I lived then.

I swapped the camera and lens for a Plaubel Makina 67 just before setting off on a long series of travels and the Plaubel Makina 67 was eventually stolen, sadly. I loved both cameras equally and miss them still.

I had twinges of regret at my long lost Petzval love when I spotted a New Petzval 85 Art lens at a now-defunct camera store several years ago, but dismissed them for hard-nosed practical reasons.

I was waiting for the Panasonic Lumix GH3’s rumored successor, which turned out to be the GH4, and the Petzval 85 was way too long for my coming Micro Four Thirds needs.

I am not a fan of portraiture with long telephoto lenses. Shorter telephotos for portraiture is more my style. Emotional engagement is my thing and the closest practical distance between my subject and me is a crucial part of the equation.

The New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens, on the other hand, has got me interested. Double 58mm to get 116mm for the lens’ 35mm equivalent and you have a focal length just at the outer limit of my preferred portrait range.

Add a Metabones or similar optically-equipped Smart Adapter, if that will work with this lens, and shorten the focal length a little. Then get lost in that lovely Petzval bokeh swirl and glow.

My kitbag and my wishlist already contain enough sharp glass. Time to dive into the visions my Petzval-equipped glass plate camera once awakened in me, and apply them to digital cinematography as Mr Dabal has done so well.

Just one question for the folks at Lomography: “Will an all-black New Petzval 58 be appearing this year?” I can see this lens being very useful for shooting in the street as well as the studio and lovely shiny brass may draw just a little too much undue attention in public. [bctt tweet=”Michal Dabal shoots luscious PSA and music documentary short with Lomo’s New Petzval 85 lens.”]

Cinematographer Michal Dabal on the Petzval Lens


You made a couple of videos using the Petzval Art Lens. Was there any particular reason you opted to use the Petzval in these particular projects? What cameras did you use?

I have probably shot with most available lenses, both old and new that are available on the market, and I was looking looking for a new look and a different texture. I’m a big fan of all the Lomo cameras and toys, and I was very happy to find out that you guys were bringing the Petzval back on the market. I got very excited by the concept, read all about it , looked at pictures. It got me excited and I immediately ordered the lenses well as some adapters to make it work with cine mount on cameras that we’re dealing with on set. We have adapted the lens to work with the Red Epic as well as the Sony F55. Both stunning looks with the lens. I tested the Petzval on one or two commercials prior to using it full time on a documentary for Boiler Room.

Please tell us about your experience shooting with the Petzval.

Everyone loved the lenses from AC’s to the Directors—the distinct build as well as the beautiful image rendition. It caught everyone’s attention.

For “Foster Families” we didn’t really have any budget or set dressing to work with, so we were trying to achieve an interesting look with the lens. And that’s what the Petzval gave us. That was the first thing I shot with it. And we loved the look.

Foster Families x PSA

“Boiler Room” was my second job with the Petzval. Here I knew we’d be dealing with a lot of recording studios, blinking lights, interesting backgrounds. I knew what to expect from the lens. And we really put it through its paces. It’s a very cool lens. I’m glad I stumbled upon it.

Read full article at “Cinematographer Michal Dabal on the Petzval Lens”

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(cover photo credit: snap from source in post)

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