How to Bring a 160-Year-Old Giant Petzval Lens Back to Life

How big can a vintage Petzval lens get? Markus Hofstaetter shows us in yet another awesome video. Clue: It’s really BIG!

When you’re a wet plate photographer like Austrian wedding photographer and wet plate artist Markus Hofstaetter, you have to be a bit of a handyman and craftsman. He has proven just that in previous videos about preparing his own plates, and making ground glass for large format cameras. However, always one to outdo himself, his latest DIY project involved restoring a 160-year-old MASSIVE Petzval lens he found at a flea market. Whether you’re a bit of a handyman yourself or simply enjoy anything related to wet plate photography and vintage cameras, we’re sure you’ll find this interesting!

The fine specimen is a Paris-made Gasc and Charconnet 500mm Petzval lens with an aperture of around f4.5 or f4.7. Markus needed to have a bunch of things custom-made to restore the lens: a threaded ring, a lens board, and a lens cap. He had the threaded ring made by Haumberger Fertigungstechnik Gmbh, while the lens cap and the lens board he made himself. It’s definitely fascinating to watch everything come together with Markus’ exceptional craftsmanship.  

As a bonus, Markus also showed us how he was able to figure out the focal length and the aperture of the Petzval lens. He even made the illustration below to make it easier for us to understand:

After the restoration process, of course, Markus wanted to test it out. For this, he had a very special sitter: Prof. Dr. Werner Sobotka, the president of the Austrian Photographic Society, whom he dubbed as the country’s Albert Einstein of photography. The portraits turned out really impressive and have a unique look that has the focus at the center of the image. 

Don’t forget to check out Markus Hofstaetter’s blog for more of his thoughts about the huge Petzval lens, the restoration process, and the portrait session. 

Screenshot image from the video