Canon FL 1200mm f/11 SSC

Discussion in 'Canon FD' started by rick_janes, Jul 12, 2009.

  1. One of these fell into my hands a few months ago. It belonged to the seller's father, who enjoyed photographing Warsaw Pact activities from afar...I should say so! Information on how best to "deploy" this monster was hard to come by, though sandbags came up alot. What's being used today is Reis' heaviest wood tripod and a Wimberley Mk II head with P-50 plate. On the camera end is an F-1N with focusing screen SK, which gives a surprisingly bright viewfinder image. Focusing is an acquired technique, as is timing the shot with breathing and smoooooth shutter release...I cannot say it's mastered yet! The lens has a built-in drawer which accept s48mm threaded filters, so I replaced the uncoated Canon plain glass (UV?) filter with a multicoated Hoya skylight 1B. Last week it went out to Morro Bay and shot things around the harbor, including this dredging ship, on Fujichrome Provia 400F. Atmospherics were calm and clear, though not crystalline. In this picture fine detail like individual chainlinks can be seen, maybe next time I'll try ISO 100 and those sandbags!
    chris rasmussen likes this.
  2. In its 39.5" long aluminum case. The lens itself is 34.5" as shown stowed, add another six inches with the sliding lens hood extended! It weighs 14.5 pounds.
    chris rasmussen likes this.
  3. Hi Rick,
    I always wanted to try one of those. I get a kick out of a lens with a 130-foot minimum focusing distance.
    I downsized your photo to something like 11 x 14 on my monitor and was surprised at both your sandbagging technique and the lens's performance. I had expected a lot of chromatic aberration, but it doesn't seem bad. The image isn't as soft as expected for a monstrous FL lens, either. I can't tell whether the softness is support-related or just the lens.
    In the 1981 Lens Work book, Canon's sample shots with the 1200mm are cleverly chosen to not need sharpness. It always made me wonder if they were glossing over things a bit. It's good to see what you achieved.
    I have an FD 800mm L, and I can vouch for the difficulties in support and in focusing. It must be some challenge with this lens. Well done.
    So now do we start a thread of super-telephoto postings?
    chris rasmussen likes this.
  4. Thanks Alan, if it's not too much of a long shot...let's do a super-tele thread!
    "Canon Museum" lists the FL 1200mm as the penultimate product in their FL Series, with a June 1972 release date; only the FL-F 300 f/2.8 Fluorite came later (Feb 1974). My version has Super Spectra Coating, typically found on FD Series glass. They were built by special order only, so who knows what the actual production numbers were? It's rare enough that none of my Canon enthusiast friends (or our long-time sales rep) had ever seen one in person.
    chris rasmussen likes this.
  5. Never seen one, Rick, thanks for posting. Nice gimbel too which, I guess, is required to work with such a beast.
  6. Engineers at Wimberley were only able to tell me if their V2.0 gimbal head could support the weight- as to whether it would be stable enough, send it back if you're not satisfied they said. In the above shot I'm just east of Vandenberg AFB, aimed at Delta II launch site SLC-2W nearly six miles distant. A fog bank will soon obscure the pad, but the Wimberley allows smooth tracking...hard to believe it's possible! After losing the missile briefly I'm able to regain it in time for this shot:
    Bettendorf and chris rasmussen like this.
  7. Very cool. I'd love to see some ISO 100 shots, even Velvia 50!
    The only lens close to this in size that I have seen was a Zeiss. Can't remember which one. That was a used lens in the late 80's.
  8. Whats the value of this lens in US $? I recently acquired one and wanted to list it for sale but I cant seem to find any info on it. I would like to contribute to my sons college fund....
  9. Because of the rarity of this lens, there is no "blue book" value that I am aware of. I have three of them; one purchased from an auction house in Germany for $2000USD (plus another $500 to get it into the USA!), one cost me $1800, the cheapest purchased from a private individual who sold it to me for a song- $800!
    This lens is part of a series of four "convertible" lenses that Canon made in the FL-mount: a 400mm f/5.6, 600mm f/5.6, 800mm f/8, and 1200mm f/11. The lens(es) consist of a focus/control mechanism and a lens head-end that attaches to the control unit. The control section has a filter slot just forward of the camera mount, a selector for the head-end lens, and an aperature ring. Note that the 1200mm is a preset lens: the control unit aperature is deactivated wide open, and a manual aperature built into the lens head is used.
    There were available cases for each of the lenses with it's head end. I have the "official" Canon metal cases for one of 1200mm and for the 600mm. I am not aware of any Canon case for the entire set: a control/focusing unit and all four head-ends, so I suspect that the lenses were not sold as a set.
    The cost of the lenses (according to the Canon Museum website) in 1970 US$ were comparable to the FL-F 300mm ($277) and FL-F 500mm ($533). The 1200mm went for $528, but I don't know if that was only the head-end or if it included the focus/control unit.
    The 1200mm is a very cool lens, if for no other reason than seeing the expression on people around you! It is a difficult lens to use- the slightest movement at the tripod has you aimed at an entirely different scene "out there". I use mine on an old Davis & Sanford tripod with a Majestic head.
    chris rasmussen likes this.
  10. Hi Ken! ~ I seem to be a little late to this party, but wondered (if you're still here,) if you could tell me whether you've converted the mount for a DSLR and adjusted the infinity focus. I've got the exceptional EdMika FD-EF converter mount for my 400mm/2.8 and 800mm/5.6 lenses and had no trouble at all adjusting/extending infinity on those lenses.

    The focus unit for the FL 1200 is *similar,* but before I make the jump, I'd want to know about the adjustment process. Any insight you can provide will be most appreciated! Kudos, sir, on your exceptional collection of fine glass!

    Chris ~
  11. Wow! That is really a long lens.
  12. how do these old lenses compare to the telescope lenses sold by vivitar these days that use a T mount adapter on them?
  13. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    DOn't over look using something like a FD-15 extension tube with long lenses like this to increase the power of the lens. While you will loose the infinity focus for something like bird photography reducing the close focus distance while increasing the magnification of the lens. When I had my 500mm nFD I would use a 15mm extension tube for my backyard photography.
    cameragary likes this.

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