Canon FD good?

Discussion in 'Canon FD' started by steven_moseley|1, Apr 22, 2008.

  1. Hi,

    I am considering having a Canon F-1N & FD (new, not breechlock) lenses as a
    film system.

    How good are the FD lenses? is there a good website devoted to FD?

    In particular how good is the the 20/2.8 and in the 24/28mm range, which gives
    the best IQ? I am thinking about the 28/2. In the 85-100mm range, how do the
    85/1.8 and 100/2 stack up? is the 135/2.8 good? and does anyone have
    comparisons to the Contax Zeiss lenses?

    I had thought of: 20/2.8, 28/2, 50/3.5 macro and either 85/1.8 or 100/2.

    thanks for any insights, cheers Steve.M. (UK)
  2. FD lenses were designed in the 70s and 80s. Some of them are fine performers, others not. A few of the prime and L series lenses still perform to a reasonably high level by modern standards. I wonder why you are looking only at the new mount lenses and not the breech locks?

    There will be no comparison with this system and the new Zeiss manual focus lenses. No comprison in price and none in performance, either...

    In the FLs you sight, check out the 24/2, the 50/1.4 or aspherical/L, the 85 L, and the 100/2.8 or 135/2.5.
  3. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    From 1971 to 1986 and beyond the Canon FD system was one of the two top professional 35mm systems in the world. The lenses are good enough for every magazine every ad agency every professional photographer working during the time period.

    If you can shoot better then the ability of the FD lens system and end up finding it the limiting factor in your results. You will have to be one heck of a photographer.

    If you factor in the cost of the FD lens system in todays market there is nothing that can touch them.

    Of the lenses you list the 28mm f2.0 will be very hard to find and for some reason many of the examples I have seen over the years tend to be rather beat up.

    The 24mm f2.0 is an excellent lens

    the 20mm f2.8 is an excellent lens for one so wide.

    The 50mm f3.5 is for a Macro a very sharp lens that many people use as a regular lens.

    Both the 85mm f1.8 and 100mm f2.0 are both excellent short telephoto's the 85mm f1.8 being designed with a little spherical aberration when wide open do give a softer look for portraits. The 100mm is a sharp fast small telephoto.

    I own all these lenses along with 33 others (except for the 28mm f2.0) I have never thought the lens results were to blame for a crappy photo.
  4. Hi,

    "I wonder why you are looking only at the new mount lenses and not the breech locks?"

    ...because of the larger size and heavier weight...which is the same reason I will not be buying any L lenses. I value my shoulders as I get older..:)

    "There will be no comparison with this system and the new Zeiss manual focus lenses. No comprison in price and none in performance, either..."

    ..Eric, this seems to me to be a frighteningly sweeping statement. Are you seriously saying that it is EASILY possible to SEE large differences in IQ between 'good' 70/80's lenses and modern ones?

    By the way, I was refering to the CONTAX Zeiss lenses...the 70-90's the first post says.

    cheers Steve.M.
  5. SCL


    Not scientific, but interesting comparisons between a selection of FD lenses and lots of others incl. Zeiss, Leica, etc.
  6. I must be one lucky bastard. I have a mint 28mm f/2 with mint hood that I got off of eBay for 60 dollars with shipping! gotta love this glass. As for your selection of FD lenses. As previously mentioned, 17mm f/4, 20mm f/2.8, 24mm f/2, 28mm f/2, 50mm f/1.2L, 50mm f/3.5 Macro, 85mm f1.2L, 100mm f/2, 100mm f/4 Macro, 135mm f/2, 200mm f/2.8, 200mm f/4 Macro, 80-200mm f/4L, 35-105mm f/3.5... these are all excellent lenses that you will never be disappointed in!
  7. Hello Steven:
    Canon FD lenses are TOP-NOTCH professional gear! The nFD lenses are beautiful matched in color and contrast. The build quality provides the tactile feedback that tells you you have a fine optic in your hands. And resolution.....let's just say your technique will be the limiting a word.....brillant. The FD28mm f2 will thrill you but the 50mm 3.5 macro and 100mm f2.0 will leave the word WOW on your lips. They are compact to boot. You may want to check out this site in your research:
    The best of luck putting together your new system. Come back and tell us how you fare..........Lou
  8. Eric G. There will be no comparison with this system and the new Zeiss manual focus lenses.

    Well, I have tried a ZF 50/1.4 briefly and was not impressed. Having used a line up of manual focus AIS Nikkors (some of them still in production today!) I can clearly say my 30 year old Canon FD lenses are better performers (any FD 24 vs Nikkor 24/2, the FD 35/2 vs the Nikkor 35/1.4, the FD 85/1.2 L vs the AIS 105/1.8, etc). Dont know about modern zooms, but I dont care much about slow lenses (f2+) either.
  9. At some point we all tend to question the integrity of our lenses. I have the FD System, a Nikon system, a Contax G2 system, and a RB67 medium format system .. I was convinced I would see "substantial" differences in lens quality. I do not.

    All the lenses you mentioned above are good performers. You can check for lens ratings and sometimes MTF charts if you desire to compare lines-per-millimeter .. I shot slides with my FD system compared to my G2 system and on a light table w/loupe the differences were insignificant .. by that I mean if I mixed them up you and I would spend way too much time trying to guess which lens/camera took a particular picture.

    FD lenses/cameras are not just good, they are very good; hence, the special recognition they get here on Sure you can find a less than stellar performer .. the system is now older and you have to shop carefully. There was a time on when the discussion of the Canon FD system was always current. Of course, digital has displaced that. I particularly like the FD 85mm lens, the 50mm 1.4, and the 35-105 in standard form; the older breech mount have a more secure camera to lens mount if that concerns you; oh, and the 50mm macro lens is spectacular for photographing art works. Nothing against the gotta-have-it now digital stuff, but the FD system performs very well.
  10. When you consider the difference between breech lock ad New FD lenses, in most cases condition will be more important than mount type. I have a 28/2 FD SSC which is excellent. Frankly, the inexpensive 28/2.8 FD breech lock mount lens is excellent too. It's also much lighter. The 100/2 was only made in New FD mount and I do not have one. I do have an 85/1.8 and I find that it is quite good. I am not very excited by portraits done with very fast lenses used wide open so only the tips of the eyeballs are sharp. Use the 85/1.8 at f/4 and it will be as sharp as you need it to be. I have the 100/2.8 FD SSC and the 100/2.8 New FD. Both are excellent. The New FD model is somewhat smaller and lighter. I think that the 100/2.8 Canon lenses are sharper wide open than the 105/2.5 AI Nikkor. At f/4 and smaller they are about the same. The out of focus rendition of the 105/2.5 Nikkor (old or new) at f/2.5 is slightly nicer than that of the 100/2.8 Canon lenses at f/2.8. Both the 50/3.5 FD SSC and the 50/3.5 New FD are excellent. The 135/2.8 is also a New FD-only lens. It is nice and compact and has good sharpness. I prefer the older 135/2.5 FD breech lock lens. It has beautiful out of focus rendition. The older 135/2.5 Canon FL lens is also very nice but must be used in stop down mode with an F-1. I do not have a 100/4 Canon FD SSC or New FD lens. I do have a 90/2.5 Vivitar Series 1 macro, two Vivitar 100/2.8 (Ser. 22XXX...) macro lenses and three versions of Cosina's 100/3.5 macro lens. If I need another macro lens in that range I can use my 90/2.5 Tamron SP (2nd version). I have never seen any test results showing that the 100/4 Canon macro lens is better than the 90/2.5 Vivitar Series 1 or the 100/2.8 Vivitar.

    What about the Contax Zeiss lenses? I have seen various MTF reports showing that these are good lenses but I have not seen any photos or slides showing that they are better than the Canon lenses. The problem with Contax cameras is that they are no longer made. Many of them no longer function properly and it is not easy to find the parts to repair them. Like the older Zeiss Contarex series, there are a lot more functionig lenses than cameras. The widest Canon lens I have is a 24/2.8 FD SSC with a chrome front. It dates back to about 1972 but sill works well (after an overhaul). The 20/2.8 Canon lens should be at least as good as the 18mm Nikkor. No lens as wide as a 20 has corner sharpness even nearly as sharp as center sharpness. In this respect you need to know how to use them for the best results. There is supposed to be a good Canon FD forum on Yahoo.
  11. I own 30 FD lenses, I think they are extremely good quality, both optically and technically.

    I think it's very important to ask the question "how expensive?"

    At the moment, nothing beats the FD system in price/quality. I'd say the price is about 1/3 of the Canon EF lens price, and often even less than that. Like, recently, I bought an FD 24mm F2.8 for 25 Euro's!!

    The lenses you propose are all good.

    I'd suggest the FD 20 - 35mm F3.5L, too, as it's the sharpest, most contrasty lens I have. The quality is unbelievable. The 100mm F2 is also extremely sharp, I found out it's way too sharp for portrait shooting. In shatpness, it easily outdoes the 100mm macro.

    I'd get an 100mm macro instead of the 50mm, if you plan to shoot in nature and not doing reproductions.

    The lenses I value most are the 24mm F1.4 L, the 85mm F1.2L, the 200mm F4 macro, and the 20 - 35mm F3.5L.


    stephen_morris|3 likes this.
  12. My FD favorite lenses are:



    28-50mm/3.5 SSC


    50mm/3.5 Macro

    35mm TS
  13. Amateur photographers agonize over lens quality and sharpness a lot more than they should. Canon FD lenses are generally excellent and more than satisfactory for critical work. They have been used by many professional photographers through the years. The few dogs of the Canon FD line might be some of the cheaper, consumer-grade zoom lenses, but I don't have any experience with them as I use only prime lenses.
  14. I am also a long time FD system user , I like to use 85mm F1.2L and 80-200mm F4L, they
    produce good color saturation and sharpness, sometimes I think these FD lens even
    better than today's EF lens ,besides, if consider the second hand market price, I think
    now , to buy a FD gear is really a bargain.
  15. Jeff, If you have an FD 24mm F2.8 SSC, it is NOT a chrome front. The chrome front lenses did not have the SC or SSC lettering (and none of the chrome front FD lenses had SSC coatings except the FD 55mm F1.2 and FD 55mm F1.2AL - and these lenses did not have the lettering either). Other than that I agree with you and Mark, The Fd line's price/performance can't be beat and most Fd lenses can't be beat even purely on a performance basis.
  16. Mike,

    You are not correct about my 24mm Canon FD lens. It does have both the SSC marking and the chrome front. You can ask Mark Wahlster about this. What I think happened is that Canon had extra front assemblies with the chrome front left over. Rather than discard them Canon added the SSC marking and used the newer coating. There was a 24/2.8 Canon FD without the SSC marking and with the chrome front and there was also a black front 24/2.8 FD SSC which carried on until the introduction of the 24/2.8 about six years later. All of the 24/2.8 FD lenses before the New Fd model had the same optical design. Only the coating was changed. Believe it or not, there was at least one FL lens which also had SSC coating. The 300/2.8 FL-F lens has the FL cosmetics but also the SSC marking. It almost seems like Canon should have waited until it was ready with SSC coating for all or most of its FD lenses before introducing them with the F-1 in 1971. The Canonflex line had been out of production for some time and the FL system with its stop-down metering was getting dated so I guess Canon didn't want to wait any longer.
    stephen_morris|3 likes this.
  17. I'm wondering how a bare aluminium lens barrel ended up on my Canon FDn 50mm/1.4. I've done my own wide-open sharpness tests, comparing it to Asahi Super-Takumar 50mm/1.4 8-element, Minolta MD Rokkor 50mm/1.4 and Yashica ML 50mm/1.4--the 50mm/1.4 lenses I currently have. As can perhaps be expected, it's very hard to see differences. The FDn and ML were almost the same and performed slightly better than the other two. In a comparison of over 20 normal-focal-length lenses at f:2, the Summicron-R 50mm/2 was slightly sharper than the others but Canon FDn 50mm/1.8 and 1.4 are nearly indistinguishable from the Summicron in other testing. I keep trying different vintage lenses but my decision to make FD my main lens system continues to look like a sound one. I documented a Motown tribute concert Saturday night with a Soligor (oops!) 28mm/2 FD-mount, FD 85mm/1.8 SSC and FD 200mm/2.8 SSC, a Microsoft Lumia 950 XL & Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone, an H2 Zoom digital audio recorder and a Sony A7 digital camera.

    DSC06988 (2).JPG
  18. I started out in photography with a Canon FD system. Meaning, I began using FD when I didn't know squat about photography. It was a lucky call on my part. I stuck with Canon FD for the next several years, where I learned a great deal more about photography, and my FD lenses almost never disappointed. The one exception was with my nFD 200mm f/2.8 IF and 300mm f/4. These lenses produced lots of CAs when shooting hard lines against high contrast backgrounds. But when not used in these sorts of situations, they were top-notch optics. Currently, primes I own are a rather typical variety of FD optics: FD 24/2.8 SSC, nFD 28/2.8, nFD 35/2.8, FD 50/1.4 SSC, nFD 50/1.8, FD 55/1.2 SSC, FD 85/1.2 SSC Asph, nFD 85/1.8, nFD 200/2.8 IF. I own only two FD zooms, the amateur oriented 70-210/4 and the more pro-oriented 80-200/4. This is the two-ring zoom,not the push-pull 80/200/4 L. The 70-210 is actually a nice lens, but the two-ring 80-200 is better.

    Since my early days with Canon FD, I have had the opportunity to use a wide variety of optics from various manufacturers. And I keep coming back to Canon FD for its performance vs value function, which is still good, but prices are firming up as more and more people realize just how good these lenses are. I also have a few FL favorites. The 55mm f/1.2, 35mm f/2.5, 19mm f/3.5, and 85-300mm f/5 are some of the FL lenses I like the best.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
  19. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Holy zombie thread recovery.
  20. Yep, but still informative, no?

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