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.
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:
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!