Historic Petzval Lens Origins Close to the SeeSense EU Office

Categories: LensesPublished On: April 28th, 20219.7 min read
Nigel Paine

We like lenses!  Ever since the company was formed, SeeSense has  specialised in the supply of lenses for C, CS and S-mount cameras.  SeeSense CEO Nigel Paine worked for Pentax for many years selling lenses to the surveillance industry and assisting specialist “industrial” lens users find the correct optical solution for their specific requirements.  He still does this today, advising, specifying and sourcing lenses from one of the many lens manufacturers SeeSense works with.  More details HERE.

It was therefore hugely interesting for us to discover a major piece of photographic history very close to our European office.  The Petzval 160mm lens was the first objective lens developed for photographic portraiture.  It was developed by the German-Hungarian mathematics professor Joseph Petzval in Vienna and first manufactured in 1840.  The lens was the first mathematically calculated precision photographic objective in history.  Previously lens optics had been ground and polished according to experience using trial and error whereas Petzval actually calculated the composition of the lenses based on optical laws.  Petzval’s lens was therefore a far superior product with a maximum aperture of 1:3.6, and having 22 times the light-gathering capacity of the Daguerreotype camera lens of 1839.  This meant that, for the first time, portrait photographs could have exposure times of less than one minute.

Jozef Maximillian Petzval was born in January 1807 in the Hungarian town of Szepesbéla which is now the small Slovakian town of Spisska Bela close to the High Tatra mountains and just a few minutes drive from the SeeSense EU office in Kezmarok.  Petzval attended the elementary school in a small building on church land less than 100 metres from the SeeSense office.

There is a very nice small J.M. Petzval Museum in the house where Petzval was born in Spisska Bela.  It is dedicated to his work and the history of photography and houses several examples of these 180 year old lenses.

Petzval Museum Spisska Bela

Petzval Museum Spisska Bela

Petzval Lens 2