On a snowy day here in Chicago, I was playing around with my "collection" of cheap CCTV Fujian lenses seen below. These can be purchased on eBay or other "China Direct" sites for dirt cheap. Maybe $15 shipped for each lens. I've had them for a while now but haven't played with them much. Since I've been shooting a lot of film lately, I thought maybe it'd be fun to see how close to a "filmic" look I could get with them. What I stumbled across was a pretty cool "Lomo" type of look. The "filter" here is the in-camera "cross process" setting on the olympus epl7. I typically don't mess with these in camera filters since I generally shoot RAW and then process the DNGs later. However, it's fun to have fun every once in a while.
Now, these are some quick shots from around the house and the composition here is not what I'm trying to demonstrate, but rather the lomo-like results that you can get with these lenses with the in-camera filter. Here's a couple points about these lenses that I think are interesting:
- Mega bokeh - You love. I love it. With these very high apertures, those backgrounds blow the f out. However, this isn't without a trade off. The depth of field is so shallow, that trying to get something specific in focus is very tough. A slight shift of your hand or body throws that field off pretty greatly on the crop sensor.
- Swirls galore - the cheap, spherical nature of the lens elements yields some super swirly effects, especially in the bokeh and toward the edges. It's pretty trippy and surreal. I feel like lomo fanatics shooting on a Diana or Lomo LCA can only dream of this type of dimensional distortion. See the photo of the tree above to see this in action.
- Softness abound - Only very rarely does something show up sharp with these lenses... especially if you're using these lenses wide open. You need to stop down the aperture pretty significantly in order to get anything sharp. However, this softness adds to the dreaminess and vintage feel of the photos.
- Encourages "don't think, just shoot" - This is the "mantra" of lomography - and I have to say, I kind of hate it. I get the appeal of whimsy, fun and shooting for shooting sake. I try not to take my photography too serious because, the main reason I'm doing, is for the fun of it. I'm not trying to be a professional photographer. However, largely, the fun of photography is learning to get better, advance my composition, find new perspectives, master the exposure triangle, etc. I think "thinking" and photography go hand in hand. So, that mantra is a bit silly, IMO. I digress. Since these lenses are clearly not meant for photography, they lack just about every element that would be the hallmark of a good photography lens. So, you need not try and nail focus, avoid flare, or contemplate the perfect aperture... because none of it really matters in the end. That said, that won't prevent you from capturing some pretty cool, interesting and bizarre photos with these fun, little lenses.