Bringing a 160 year old giant Petzval lens back to life

It was a normal Saturday afternoon in November when I walked into a flea market. I met some friends there and looked around a little bit. In the end, I bought this Gasc and Charconnet 500mm petzval lens. If you are as old as I am and have seen the movie “Big trouble in little China”, you know the Quote from Egg Shen: “But that’s how it always begins. Very small.” I think that is how my projects always start.

Mostly, I ask myself a month later, what I got myself into again. It was a bit easier this time. By the way, Gasc and Charconnet was founded at about 1860 in Paris and manufactured lenses under their name until 1880 when they changed to the name Laverne. 

The lens did not come with a retaining ring to secure it to a lens board, so I engaged the services of Haumberger Fertigungstechnik Gmbh to made the threaded ring I needed. I can strongly recommend them if you are in the need of something like that.

I’m sure this lens could tell lots of stories of what it’s seen over the years but the first wet plate portrait I took with that lens with this Lens was of Prof Dr Sobotka.

As the president of the Austrian photographic society, he has lots of knowledge about this topic, so it seemed fitting that he was my first subject.

He seemed to me like the Austrian Einstein of photograohy and with this idea in mind I did the portrait. You can find more information about mr Sobotka here.

As the president of the Austrian photographic society, he has lots of knowledge about this topic, so it seemed fitting that he was my first subject.

As a photographer here in Austria I can strongly recommend you become a member of the Austrian Photographic Society. With a membership, you can benefit from lectures, exhibitions, knowledge from other members and lots more. I enjoy my membership a lot. Use this PDF form to become a member.

Ultimately, I felt in love with this unique look this lens produces. It forces you to look at the center of your frame. For me, it is a new tool that I can use to generate unique and special portraits. Let’s see what I can do with it on my next one.

See you next time!

~ Markus

Editor’s note

On a side note (and because he’s is too humble to say so himself), Markus just won the Best of Nation Award for Team Austria with a wet plate portrait at the World Photographic Cup. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the first time a wet plate has won in any category and I couldn’t be more pleased for him!

~ EM

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