Improvised Meniscus: Half-a-Petzval

I’ve been wanting to shoot with a meniscus lens ever since I saw some of Jim Galli’s work. Went so far as to plan a home-made lens using an element from Surplus Shed and a barrel turned by a machinist friend. Then, as things sometimes happen, a lens collecting friend let me know he had what amounted to half-a-Petzval: The barrel, mount, and rear air-spaced elements only. Was I interested? Well, yeah!

So, the “lens” arrived. Made a quick-and-dirty lensboard, mounted it on the Seneca, and was immediately disappointed. Nice, sharp image, all the way across the ground glass with little fall-off. Hmm. Not what I wanted. I contacted my friend about returning the lens. Set the thing aside for a few days, looking for a box to ship it home in.

Then I gets to thinking: I wonder if the elements are in right? I locate a diagram of the Petzval design, remove the glass from my half-Petzval, and sure enough, the glass is in wrong. I correct the reversed, backwards elements, put it on the camera, the ground glass glows.  It’s just what I was looking for! I make a decent lensboard for it, load some holders, and head to a local cemetery.

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The first shots, while far from perfect, showed potential. So, while my daughter was off school sick, I aimed the lens at her. And then her brother when he got home:

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Now I’m definitely seeing potential.

It’s a difficult lens to focus – it’s not a true Petzval, so there’s no zone of sharp focus on the ground glass. Using it is a compromise between good and good enough. But I’m really liking the results!

Home-made lens hood…

I needed a hood for the Neretta, my home-made 4×5 hyperfocal point-and-shoot:

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Hacked a Series VI hood last night, and while it might work, it’s efficacy is definitely diminished.  Needed something better, ’cause the Optar likes to flare.  Couldn’t find a reasonable wide angle hood anywhere, and I wanted to avoid buying multiple adapters to stack to get me a hood.  What to do?

So, I got to thinking.  Looked around at foam cups and such, but nothing had the right profile.  Then I dug through the recycle bin.

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The top looked like it might work.  I cut it off.

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I thought I could make an opening in the top that nests behind the Series VI adapter and glue it in place with some hot melt.  So, I started trimming.

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That looked about right.  Tested it with the adapter, and it’s a nice fit.  But clear obviously wasn’t going to work.  Dug out the multi-surface flat black spray paint.

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A few more coats of paint, and a few on the outside, finished the hood. Hot melt glue is easy; attaching the hood to the Series VI adapter was a matter of injecting lots of glue.

The hood, finished and in place:
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To do it again, I’d reverse the order of the cutting, and use a bandsaw to make the cuts smoother. But, for twenty minute’s work, I have a usable hood that doesn’t vignette at all!