A very ‘Filmic’ mood
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It began as a Kickstarter project that caught on and went viral in a big way. I too was bitten by what we camera geeks like to call GAS thats ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ :). I initially did back the project but was unsure about its credentials. It was a risky $400 investment back then. I did read an article which listed the Petzval in the ‘Top 10 Things the Photography World did not need’ and right then I decided to pull my investment back. This lens has intrigued me ever since, so a year later I decided I just had to have it.


This is a new version of the old Petzval portrait lens designed for use on modern Nikon and Canon cameras. Lomography had it manufactured by the Zenit camera company in Russia.


The focal length of the lens is 85mm — a perfect size for a full frame portrait lens. Aperture is set using waterhouse stops that slip into the lens from a slit on the top. Stops range from f/2.2 down to f/16.  I found myself settling in on the f/2.8 setting for almost everything.


Even before I put it on my camera, I was pretty darn impressed by the build quality. When you pick out of its packaging, what you immediately feel is something that really feels vintage. The unpainted brass exterior gets a lot of attention and has a fair amount of heft (Hey this could be my bling for big fat Sindhi weddings). The hood (also spun brass) attached as a magnet gives you access to the front element for cleaning or mounting filters. Similar its older avatar, the photographer has to focus through a wheel at the bottom of the barrel.


It’s time to take this baby out in the open.


I couldn’t have asked for a better set-up to review my latest acquisition. I volunteered for a promotion shoot to raise awareness about Mumbai Academy Of Moving Image (MAMI) which almost came close being called off when the primary sponsors pulled out. Several industry captains and the film fraternity came to contribute and keep the festival afloat. Among them are filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani, Aamir Khan, Anurag Kashyap and new-comer Varun Dhawan.


Phase 1 of the shoot was set up in Anurag Kashyap’s office in Versova. The vibe was raw and it felt like coming home. I did manage to candidly capture a few stills from a brief encounter with the man. He has changed my vision towards Indian Cinema and his ideologies have been revolutionary.


Anurag Kashyap: Film director, Producer, Dialogue Writer and Screenwriter


The center is where you’ll have your sharpest and more clear subject matter


As you go out toward the edges, you’ll find that the swirly bokeh takes over more and more


Negative space = Positive Space


Phase 2 was was scheduled to be at Varun Dhawan’s office. Son of film director David Dhawan, Varun who made his acting debut with Karan Johar’s 2012 romantic comedy Student of the Year, is a very animated character to say the least. I’ll let the images below speak for the man.


Background matters: Choose the one that best fits your scene. The swirly bokeh works best with textured backgrounds or rice lights


Character matters: The lens does give out a sharp focus but patience is a virtue. Perhaps, that’s the lesson it teaches you. Slow down and feel the moment


Flare: Shooting against the sun does give out a totally distinctive look. It helps to get creative. You get soft, creamy bokeh that really helps to separate your subject from the background


The manual focus takes a little getting used to. Holding the brass focusing wheel and rolling your picture into focus has a satisfying feel, much more so than using one’s thumb for that famous “back button” on the Canon



The original lens was only optimised for black and white photography, The new Petzval lens has colour rendition that can easily rival prime portrait lenses. It was real treat to see just how good the colours were


Satyanshu Gupta, Director & Writer of this sketch


Anil, Spot Dada


Varun Dhawan gets a prep talk


Sahir Raza, Camera A


Vivian Singh Sahi, Camera B




I can’t wait to use this lens in more and more situations and specially over the upcoming wedding season. I can see this quickly becoming a favourite of mine.

It is now officially available in India through Photo Vatika. To know more about the Petzval visit the Lomography microsite.

All of the above images were shot by Raonak Hathiramani with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III;; RAW format and edited to taste in Adobe Lightroom 5.

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