The Daguerreotype Achromat is directly inspired by the world’s first photographic optic lens – a 19th century invention created for the Daguerreotype camera by Charles Chevalier. Almost two centuries later, we’ve reworked it as a powerful tool for modern-day photographers and cinematographers. Lomography
The above quote gives a brief explanation as to what the Daguerreotype Achromat art lens is all about. A throwback to the past with all the technology and convenience of the modern day – but for £399+, what exactly are you getting?
Upon ordering the lens I had no idea what I would receive in the post. However, I was not disappointed. The packaging is beautiful and feels like something truly worth treasuring.
Having opened the box, the first things you see are multiple small cards and papers revealing information such as the warranty details and the serial number of your unique lens. Straight away, the impression is given of this lens being a collectable as well as something practical and artistic.
Next, we have a fairly comprehensive booklet giving an introduction into areas such as history, facts and figures as well as examples of what the lens is capable of. For example, what the hell is a Daguerreotype? A similar brief history can be seen [here].
This booklet is beautifully designed and feels in keeping with Lomography‘s established brand. Potentially the most important part of this booklet for those of us new to art lenses is the explanation of what exactly the ‘Waterhouse aperture system’ is. Also used in Lomography’s Petzval art lens, below is a quote demonstrating the history and purpose of this system.
The Waterhouse aperture system is a unique and easy way to change the aperture on a lens. Simply by switching between different sized aperture plates, you can control the size of your aperture opening. And not only do they add a touch of 19th century charm to your photography, they also allow for even more creative opportunities by using specially designed aperture plates. – Lomography.
I remember learning about such aperture plates back in college. However, on a practical level it does mean the slot in which these plates are inserted into the lens makes the lens feel somewhat vulnerable. The loop/keyring pictured above sadly does not come with the lens, but for a small price I believe it is a worthy addition to such a kit.
As beautiful as the booklet is, taking it out of the box reveals the main attraction. The striking brass build of the Daguerreotype Achromat lens creates something fascinating and precious. One cannot be to blame for bypassing the booklet entirely in favour of unwrapping the lens from the protective plastic it is shipped in.
It is stated within the paperwork that each lens is unique and some colour differences or small marks/scratches may be visible. I enjoy this, it adds to the authenticity of such an item. The lens is elegantly engraved on both the body and lens cap as seen above, and the design feels like the perfect balance between the old and new. Is it a little bit over the top? Probably, but do you buy a lens like this for it to blend in? I have some thoughts on that for later in this article.
My immediate reaction once I had attached the lens to my Nikon D810 was to laugh. Over the top? Definitely.
Having looked past the initial juxtaposition of the lens on my shiny new camera, I inserted the first of the aperture plates and was thrilled by the novelty of trying something new in an art I am otherwise so accustomed to.
So far I’ve spoken very highly of the art lens, so what could possibly be wrong with it? A number of small details do bother me. For example, the lens cap feels loose and has occasionally been knocked off and although I have not had it for long, I can imagine with some extended use I will have to be even more aware of dust and damp settling inside the body of the lens. More issues may come up, but for now I have one major gripe and unfortunately, it may not be a fault with the lens.
I briefly took my camera with this lens out into Southampton city centre. Usually, I would be somewhat aware of having such kit out in a busy public space. This day however, I was more aware than ever. It wasn’t the value of the lens, but how gleamingly obvious it was to anyone who may catch a look. People looked at it, blending into a crowd simply is not an option. When I first ordered the lens I saw that a black version costing £80 more would soon be on sale I thought, why would you want black when you can have it in brass?! Well now I know. I’m not sure it’s worth the extra money, but I imagine it would go a long way to eliminating this problem.
Also included in the package, a cleaning cloth, a small manual book and the somewhat flimsy (yet fashionable) lens pouch. Reading about this lens, there is a lot to be said about why a professional photographer would need this lens. Why have a 19th century quality to your photographs when they could be crisp, clear and without distraction? And of course, those dirty photography words cannot be ignored: Instagram Filters.
Yes, the results can look somewhat ‘Instagram’, but there’s a reason that style became so popular in the first place. It has a beautiful, playful quality to it. Nonetheless, the impressive f/2.9 capabilities of the Waterhouse aperture system cannot be ignored. That’s only .1 away from what I use to photograph live bands.
I will be testing the versatility within a professional environment using this lens later this week. For now, I will have to get over people staring and put this lens to the test. After all, what’s not to stare at? The Daguerreotype Achromat Art Lens is STUNNING!