Much Fun With Lens Flaws

If you have not read Kirk Tuck's blog entry on how real life photography shooting is a lot more than just shooting images with edge to edge sharpness and excelling in test chart performance, please do so here. He pointed out how he had enjoyed using even the mere kit lens 18-55mm on his new Sony NEX-7, and how he loved the 50mm F1.8 lens for his latest portrait shooting. Those lenses may not be the sharpest or most technically perfect lens in the market, but Kirk has proven that those lenses did their job splendidly well for his needs. While many others would argue and disagree, Kirk had plenty of impressive portraiture images to prove his point. 

Feeling super inspired after reading that blog entry, I stormed the streets today after work with my CCTV lens. I was actually taking a step further, because the CCTV lens exhibits very evident corner softness, heavy vignetting, and has many other issues such as strong chromatic aberration and suffering from flare/ghosting problems. Furthermore, the distortion (barrel) that the lens created, curving every side of the image is enough to send most modern "technically-obsessed" photographers screaming in pain. Every single thing that any modern lens is trying to be perfect, is the characteristic that this CCTV lens would not have. The CCTV lens is so flawed that many would not take it seriously, and just treated it as a toy. I begged to differ in opinion. Sometimes, instead of obsessing over how sharp our image is, or how technically superior our gear performs, take that all away, we should pay closer attention to many other things that make good photography. Focus on the choice of subject content, how to approach your subjects, better composition and use of creative execution to accomplish that image you have pre-visualized in your mind. Work some artistic sense, instead of just relying everything on technical superiority of the gear. 

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and CCTV Lens 25mm F1.2 (C-mount)

Young Generation

Oh Crap...

Long hair

No, that guy did not just point his camera at me !!

Nick warming up to his beautiful Nikon FM3A

Plastic hands

Luke Winding his Film. Time to load another. 

Coffee + Camera = Bliss

Low Cost Apartment

The passion

Glowing Ketupat

Who says you can't get thin DOF with Olympus Micro 4/3 system????

This was not a shocked expression. I was manual focusing and it took me about more than 5 seconds to have his eye in focus. His expression was frozen like this for that period of time, and I thought it was very photo-genic. 

On shoulders

Same kid as earlier, now he had a friend. 


Jeff Liew and his great M6. 

New Generation camera

Dinner: Char Kuey Tiaw, Pork Satay, Hokkien Fried Mee (not in photo) and Snowflake for desert. 

The easiest, and sometimes best subject to attack, would be your friend. Luke Ding in action. 
If you have not checked out Luke's blog, you might want to do so. We have shot side by side on many occasions, and the photos we both captured were completely different. I enjoy seeing his photographs, and I am sure many of you would to. It is interesting to see that a few photographers can be shooting together, at the same place and time, but come back with totally different results. Difference in perspective is what gives the photographer his identity and style. 

Again, please be reminded that my thoughts are based on a photographer-enthusiast's point of view, and may not apply for working professionals. 

Speaking of shooting as a hobby, do we really need to use cameras and lenses that are highly superior? What if the camera of choice focuses that bit slower, or does not have the best low light shooting performance (high ISO noise control), or does not produce that much bokeh. What if the lens is not sharp, and have some technical imperfections (which does not affect anything in most practical cases anyway). Having that much less than "technical excellence" does not create that high of an impact to photographers who are shooting just for hobby sake. If having fun is the main goal, and having a fulfilling activity shooting, there really is no need for super expensive equipment or that best of the class lens. 

We all want something better, no matter how good the tool at hand already is. As humans, we will never be satisfied with what we own. 

As for me, when I am doing my shutter therapy, I shoot only for myself, and myself only. Hence, the imperfections and technical flaws of the CCTV lens did not bother me at all. Of course those images would have been better if they were being shot with a Voightlander 25mm F0.95 or a Panasonic 25mm F1.4, but hey, the fun part of it all has nothing to do with the choice of lens. 

The fun part of this shooting session was me actually being out there shooting. It was blending into the crowd, opening my eyes to my surroundings, spotting possible subject of choice, and when I have done that, the next fun part appeared. Moving closer and approaching my subjects, and making that shutter click happen. Capturing random people with various facial expressions on the street, in their midst of everyday routine and activities, that itself has provided me with much sense of satisfaction in street photography. It was the process of making images happen that I truly enjoyed. It was the hunt, and the kill. Everything else comes secondary. Did I worry for a second that the CCTV lens was not good enough? Of course I did, but I did not let that get the better of myself. I missed some shots (manual focus on this lens is a bit cumbersome) but for every shot that I missed, I knew, better shots were coming, and I just had to try harder and go for it. 

I always remind my friends that the most important part of photography is actually the shooting process. No matter how much you have read or thought you know theoretically, no matter what most powerful camera and lenses you have purchased, and no matter how many professional photography workshops you have attended and paid a fortune for, you won't improve further if you do not go out and shoot.


  1. I recently got a Fujinan 35mm f1.7 CCTV lens and I love it. It's my favorite lens (out of the three I have). It's really sharp in the center and has less of that swirly bokeh effect than your 25mm lens.

    Just want you to know that I love your blog, your posts are always an enjoyable read and your photographs are wonderful. Your blog is usually the best thing I read all day!

    1. Hello JOn O,
      That Fujinon is in the list of to buy next !! I think I will love that lens too.
      Thanks for the kind compliments on my blog and my photographs, it was my pleasure to share !!

  2. i love my cctv 25/1.4(i think it is) on my oly cams! when you get the focus and exposure right, its just amazingly cool looking. the center is SO crisp and the colors are so contrasty... i get more pics people refer to as having that ff/leica/zeiss/voigt/whatever... POP! to them with that $15 lens, than any of my expensive native m43 glass. tho.. its ONLY the very center :) but i still like it. i wish the focus ring turned as easily as the aperture ring... or that the screw mounting didnt turn easier than the focussing ;) lol

    1. Hello Mr,
      The CCTV is indeed a wonder, once you get the focus right. I agree that the photos have a certain pop, probably due to the imperfections and flaws, especially the soft corners that gave the impression that the middle of the image stood out.
      It is annoying when the screw on the mount comes off very easily !!

  3. Here, here, Robin. Once again you are right on target. Sometimes I feel that I've squandered the past couple of years getting caught up in all the technical hub hub about low light performance, best sharp lens, fastest focus and so on, when all I really want to do is shoot and have fun. I recently sold all my big Nikon gear in favor of the OMD EM5. Mostly for its portability. It's always with me, it's always fun and my hobby has become relevant again. My pictures tell stories again, honor my family and friends and the life that's happening around me. I've quit pixel peeping and concentrate on the story I'm trying to tell with the photo I'm taking. Your blog is an inspiration and truly motivates me. And I agree with JOn O, your the best read of the day. Thanks for all you do.

    1. Hey Tom,
      Like Jon, you were being too kind, those praise was undeserving indeed. I just merely shared the photos I had during my shutter therapy and the random thoughts that I had along them. Nothing spectacular really !!
      I am glad you have found the joy of using the OMD !! It is an entirely different camera, I am sure it gives you a whole new perspective of seeing the world. The fact that its so small and light means you can carry it with you anywhere, and that itself is an encouragement to shoot more photos !!

  4. Thank you very much for this great post.
    amazing cool pictures.

  5. Hello Robin,
    Thank you for sharing another great post, Robin. Interesting images and valuable thoughts.
    May you a great afternoon.
    John Ragai

    1. John,
      Thanks for your frequent visits and continuous words of encouragement !

  6. hey Robin,

    NOW NOW, where the heck is that "crap" kit lens of mine?? I NEED it NOW to shoot


    1. Hey Eric,
      Yes yes don't neglect the kit lens !!

  7. Hey Robin

    Thanks for the great photo, it prove that this is not the equipment who took great picture, it is the person who use the equipment to take great pictures. Lot of people thought buying good equipment will improve their technique but you prove them wrong.

    Francis from Toronto

    1. Hey Francis,
      Thanks for the kind words ! Indeed it is the photographer that takes pictures, not the camera. If we want to improve photography, we have to improve ourselves, not the gear we use !

  8. Good entry Robin. I have an OM 50/1.4 that I'm sure an earlier owner used as a hammer, the objective is so pitted. But it's great for casual, soft portraits. And really good for low light videos that are only going on YouTube in low res anyway!

    1. Aaahhh OM 50mm F1.4 !! One of the popular lenses amongst my friends too !!

    2. Great lens indeed, I had 3 copies of those :) though I find them longish for my taste, at least on m4/3.

  9. Robin, if you get the chance try the Pentax CCTV 25/1.4, I really like that little lens, and with your skills I bet you'll make it shine ;)


    1. Hello RTI,
      Thanks for the kind words, but if I were to get another CCTV lens it would have to be at a different focal length, such as 35mm or 50mm. There is no point for me to get a similar one !!