Friday, May 2, 2014

To Infinity and Beyond

Again in a adventure using really cheap lenses. This time I went CCTV-style, using very a very in-expensive C-mount Bokeh-monster.

Concerning the title, this lens, mounted on a m4/3-camera, using the appropriate adapter, will actually focus at infinity, and even beyond (which is of no use what so ever).

Setup
Have a look, here is my Olympus PEN E-PM2 with a 25mm f1.4 CCTV-lens
Olympus w/ VF2 and 25mm f1.4 CCTV lens
Yes, this does look ridiculous, I agree, however, the EV (electronic view-finder) make focusing so much easier... highly recommended! And yes, the lens look kinda out of proportions.

CCTV-lens on Olympus E-PM2
Some words about the 25mm lens. There are several models available for cheap from the Far East. When browsing evil-Bay, you want to make sure to get a good one, or let's say, the one you really want. On youtube "Blunty" reviewed a CCTV-lens with a rather poor iris, which went from odd to square when stopped down. It seems that this lens employs an iris having 6 blades.

Contrary to Bluty's lens, I ordered one, on Evil-Bay, which was mentioned to have an 12 blades iris. And guess what, the lens that was sent to me got 12 blades in the iris! So, if you are looking for consistent bokeh, pay attention to which lens to order...

Pics
Now, let's dive into some pictorial goodness...
Very much like the lensbaby stuff, the CCTV-lens has some sort of a sweet-spot, which can be controlled by the iris, hence the importance of having a homogeneous iris in the first place.

25mm @ f1.4
25mm @ f4.0
25mm - closed as much as possible
Right, technical stuff done, what about real files?
Don't know what drove me to take picture of moving subjects... the manual focusing with this lens is really sublime, i.e. very slow. Good for getting the focus on stationary subjects.
Although sheep are not belonging to the group of fastest creatures of the world, they gave me a hard time getting focus, lens wide open.

sheep running - f1.4
This little fellow was storming towards me from meters away... no chance getting a picture.
Then, close to the fence, he started to browse, however, he was moving is head sideways in a very fast pace, making it nearly impossible to get a good shot. Below, that's the best I could do... with a fully manual lens.
f1.4
Moving to more stationary subjects, what about some flowers?
Flowers @ f1.4
The shot above clearly shows the sweet spot effect of the CCTV lens. Still, this is just a regular shot.
In the next photo, I went a close as I possibly can, i.e. some sort of "closest up possible".
Minimum focus distance, f1.4
The following 2 images are HDR... for all you haters. For taking 3 shots, I had to stop the lens down, since it was impossible to get an underexposed frame with the lens wide open... and there is not ND-filter in the PEN-Mini2.
And yes, I used photomatix, for styling too. Argh! Should be a no-go, according to many photographers.
Anyway, here is what the results are:
Sundown HDR, stopped down CCTV lens
Sundown HDR, stopped down CCTV lens
Summary
CCTV-lenses are interesting, inexpensive alternatives to rather expensive micro-4/3 system lenses.

There are some down-points to such lenses:
  • Those lenses look really quirky on an actual m4/3-camera.
  • They create severe vignetting, when stopped down entirely the vignetting is beyond being acceptable. 
  • Wide open the focus falls into a sweet spot rather than a decent focus plane.
  • f8 seems to be the limit of stopping down the lens decently.
On the positive:
  • Those lenses are really inexpensive.
  • The Bokeh, using the right lens, is beyond any available pro-grade (D)SLR-lens.
  • The low-light performance is exceptional.
  • C-mount lenses are really small, not filling up the bag.
  • Focus action is really slow, making it easy to focus w/ the aperture wide open, provided the subject is not moving too fast.
Summing up, C-mount lenses are worth the consideration. There are some legacy specialty lenses available for this format... certainly worth to have a look at.

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