For the Love of Swirly Bokeh

I am starting to really love this CCTV lens that I have, the 25mm F1.2 C mount lens. It is difficult to manual focus with this lens, it is not sharp anywhere off center, it exhibits strong vignetting and corner softness, and suffers heavy barrel distortion all over the frame. Landscape shooters would hate this lens for not being able to keep straight lines straight, and portrait shooters hate the bad distortion on facial profile, or the lack of sharpness in most shooting conditions. As for me? Did I complain about all those things I have mentioned before? Of course I did. However, did any of those complains matter in what I shoot so far? Purely for my shutter therapy session, I think I am enjoying this lens more and more. In contrary to all the unforgiving technical faults of the lens, I was actually in love with the lens flaws, that exhibited specific and unique characteristics in the photographs the CCTV lens produces. 

Thursday nights have become a ritual for me and my friends for night street shooting. Luke Ding, Kelvin Ng, Scott Chung, Nick Wade and myself attacked the streets of Bukit Bintang again. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and CCTV Lens 25mm F1.2

Who says Olympus Micro 4/3 system cannot render shallow DOF? 

Luke's new addition to his Nikon camera system. An External Flash for extra "oooomph" in street shooting. 

Waiting patiently

Roar like a tiger

One way to test if the flash is working. 


Faceless Void

Where we had our dinner

Honestly, I can't read Chinese. I am not ashamed to admit this. 


The giant cube

High Angle Photography. 

Loving Mother

Scott Chung going low angle

Dining at a hawker style stall by the road side


Everyone is a photographer

Free TV

Didn't your momma tell you not to play by the road?

Ooops, wrong ISO setting

Big Hair

Kelvin Prefers Kodak. 

Did you see the swirly bokeh? Gosh, as much fault as the lens can do, it is all forgiven, seeing those beautiful, dreamy, swirly bokeh in my photographs taken with it. We can go on complaining on how "perfect" or how much better we want our gear to be, in the case of some friends, chasing that upgrade to better equipment to produce better photographs, but if the motivation to shoot comes from gear, I don't think you can go far. I had a very proud moment today, when an old friend whom I have not seen in a year, asked me if I have purchased anything new, and my answer was yes, it was the one and only CCTV lens !! That itself was a very satisfactory achievement for myself, not succumbing into the never ending temptations of gear purchase, changing, or upgrading. Stay with one system, learn to optimize and fully utilize it, and squeeze everything I can out of the same system. 

My gear may not have changed in one year, but I can tell you, very, very confidently that I have grown to be a better, and more mature photographer that I was a year ago.  Perhaps not by that much, perhaps I am still no-one significant in comparison to many others who have done it, and been there. But I can also tell you that I am a much happier photographer. I shoot, and I enjoy shooting. It is that simple. It should have always been that simple. 


  1. Glad to see you using your M43 today. I too love my CCTV lens and bought one because of you. Are you shooting wide open? If so, I am very impressed.

    Quick question, your friend listening to the he using a diffusor? Do you happen to know what it is and if it would fit on the OMD's snap on flash?

    You continue to inspire, my friend

    1. Hello Dino,
      Glad to hear that you love CCTV lens too !! Yes I shot most of the shots at wide open, unless I did not need the bokeh and wanted for DOF.
      That flash on Nick's NIkon was a lomo flash. It works with Olympus OM-D but you wont have any control over it. When you click the shutter button it just fires.

  2. Great pictures as always, Robin. My favorite is "Distraction." I've got a similar lens, a SOM Lytar 25mmf 1.9. The focusing ring is narrow and towards the back, very close to the base. It makes it extra hard to focus.


    1. Hey Santo,
      Thanks for the kind words. Distraction is my favourite too. Glad to know you use CCTV lens too.

  3. The Loving bother and the 2 little boys at the table, Distraction - wow. The boys are especially expressive. Thank you, thank you ;-)

    1. Thanks Libby !! Those are my favourites from the set too.

  4. Hi Robin:
    I am with you that taking your EPL1 out for a spin and seeing what it can do with a new purchased lens is a lot of fun. I love your artistic images with lots of splashes of colour in bokeh and shallow DOF. Despite having a couple of larger Nikon cameras for work, I use my Olympus EPL1 for most of my personal fun stuff and it's liberating to mostly concentrate on composition at interesting angles (in its live view, that is faster than live view on most DSLRs) and catching moments fairly quickly including moving subjects, due to its light weight make the m43 cameras the fun take anywhere cameras. The new 12-50mm locks focus on fairly fast on the older EPL1.

    I am also trying all the different flash settings the EPL1 popup flash has, in dim lighting to learn about each one like Slow 1, Slow 2, 1/4 power and mixing low flash with ISO settings like 1000 - 1600 and 2000 up, for mixing ambient light source with flash, to record museum coloured lighting setups etc. and it works well to have a bit of low power fill with ambient room lights. With higher ISOs in this range the popup flash becomes more powerful as image is more sensitive to its light. Some of our experimentation, we can carry from m43 to DSLR and vice versa to what works, when we achieve results we like and test out the menu functions we do not use often (as yet).

    I also just came back from a one week Banff Rockies vacation in mountains of Alberta Canada, and have Hoya UV filter on the 12-50mm which helps with light flairing in distance mountains for better contrast and better tonal density and clarity of distance objects in bright or hazy sun. Did not realize the difference until I compared with kit lens and no filter vs. new lens and UV filter, (very good for landscapes and very sunny days) and I hear polarizer filter works well too in hazy light.

    These filters do not cost much and worth it I think, at least at times when needed. Some professionals do not subscribe to lens filters, and others like them, so I guess everyone has their opinion. With the Nikon camera I also have, the Nano coating works about the same on Nikon lens, so no need for filter (except for lens hood). What is your view on filters on lens or hoods on m43 pens? I know perhaps some of the Olympus Zeiss lens may not need them at all with multiple coatings, however lens hood can be useful in full bright sun at times.

    1. Hey Adrian,
      Thanks for the kind words, and yes, E-PL1 is a lot more fun to just bring around and snap at whatever that caught my attention too. As you have put it, "personal fun stuff", and I agree, it is very liberating.

      The pop up flash on the E-PL1 should have been included in the earlier Olympus E-P1 and E-P2. Without the flash, there are just something "missing" from such a great and versatile small camera system. Indeed playing with the slow synchro and rear curtain flash would yield interesting results, and as yourself have praticed, I often shoot my flash with higher ISO setting, and in addition to that slowed down my shutter speed to capture as much ambient light as possible, at the same time having the flash to blend more naturally with the available light. A lot of trial and error is necessary to get the right balance.

      I rarely use filters, and am not the expert of the subject. I think the reason why some professionals refused to use filter is because any glass you place in front of the lens will surely reduce the amount of light coming into the camera sensor, no matter how small the amount of light, there would still be some data loss (details). Other than that, if you seek certain outcomes and photography effects, that only filters can do (ND filter, polarizer, etc), I do not see the reason why not.

  5. Robin, where can I buy a CCTV lens? Poison...

  6. Have u used any flash for the niced photos & what the iso max..

    1. Anonymous please leave a name the next time you comment.
      No, all the photos in this entry were shot without flash.

  7. I found your blog through keyword PEN. Last January I use my old grandpa lenses with adapter for my PEN and somehow the result is kinda like yours he he (you can check it on my blog

    Now you make me want to buy CCTV lenses for its small size & probably light weight (my grandpa lenses heavy as hell). Thanks for sharing bro. Nice blog.