Canon FL 50/1.4 versus Leica 50/1.2

Discussion in 'Canon FD' started by Bettendorf, Jul 19, 2020.

  1. I ran across this interesting statement on the following web site.

    "The Canon 50/1.4 FL mount is a 7 element in 5 group lens, circa 1968. Same formula as the 50/1.4 FD mount. Very low spherical aberration, it was 2nd only to the Aspherical 50/1.2 Noctilux in a 1976 test of thirty-two 50mm lenses. This is most likely due to it's long optical path, it is a big lens. About 1% of the cost of the Noctilux."

    I then searched around for anything about this 1976 test and came up empty. Probably an indication of the meaninglessness of my interests! Anyone know about this or the mentioned test?

    Leica - Canon 50/1.4 FL Mount on the M9 and M Monochrom
  2. Nope, never head of this test, and I doubt it too. I have a few FL and FD 50mm F1.4's and all are soft wide-open.

    Now it's a different story of you're talking about the FD 55/1.2 aspherical. That lens is the equal, probably even better, than the Noctilux. I have an FD55/1.2 aspherical and there's no softness wide-open.
    Bettendorf likes this.
  4. But then again, who knows what that guy read and where.
  5. The 60s/70s design Japanese f/1.4 lenses are all decently bad wide open in my experience. The only FL mount I ever held on to for any appreciable amount of time was my 55mm f/1.2 for obvious reasons, but it was a difficult and not particularly good lens.

    These days I shoot Nikon mostly and have quite a few 50mm-ish f/1.4 lenses ranging from the very early(1959 or so) 5.8cm, a bunch of non-AI chrome nose 50mms, a couple of AI 50mms, an AI-s, and a first gen autofocus. From what I can find, the AI is 7/6 rather than earlier 7/5, and is an overall better lens plus is multicoated. Everything up through the screwdriver AF used the same 7/6 formula. The oldest lenses are soft with tons of spherical abberation and low contrast wide open, although they clean up a fair bit at moderate apertures. The newer AI has somewhat less spherical abberation, and the fewer glass-to-air surfaces combined with multicoating improves contrast a decent amount.

    From my experience with them, I'd find it hard to think that any 60s or 70s Japanese spherical f/1.4 lens(including the one referenced) could outperform an aspherical f/1.2 especially as far as spherical abberation and wide-open or near wide-open sharpness is concerned.
    Bettendorf likes this.
  6. Try this for a read:

    Canon FD lenses | Rangefinder

    20 years ago or so, Erwin Puts had a better article than this on the internet but this one will suffice. It comes to the same basic conclusion that the Canon FD 55mm f1.2 SSC Aspherical was likely the best normal lens of its time. Searching the internet comparisons of a wide variety of current fast normal lenses, the FD may in fact still be the best.

    I am thankful to have finally found and purchased one in EF mount and my initial impressions on the 5DSR are that it is extremely sharp in the middle wide open, which I have not seen in the Nikon 50/1.4 AI-S, Contax Zeiss 85/1.4, Nikon 105/1.8 AI-S or Nikon 135/2 AI-S. I no longer have the Nikon 200/2 AI to compare it too, but I would say it is at least close, if not better. Overall bokeh is very nice, but some situations do make it look a bit busy.
    Bettendorf likes this.
  7. Probably referring to the May 1976 issue of Popular Photography in which Norman Goldberg tested 32 normal lenses from eight lens manufacturers: Canon, Konica, Leica, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Vivitar. With a few exceptions, the four lenses from each manufacturer included three standard lenses and one macro lens. The three standard lenses represented the three maximum apertures generally offered (f/1.2, f/1.4 and f/1.7-f/2,). The test measurements are presented in PopPhoto's standard charts and tables, leaving any interpretations or conclusions to the reader (or fanboi).

    One interesting result was that the Canon FD f/1.8 SC lens (incorrectly identified as "SSC") had one of the lowest flare measurements of all the lenses. It's often pointed out that none of the versions of this lens ever received the full SSC multi-coated treatment. The reason is that they never needed it. I recall reading that some of the lens surfaces of the New FD version were multi-coated, just not all of them. No reason to multi-coat a lens if there's no benefit to be gained.
  8. Thanks for the info Gordon.
  9. I simply note that no ultrafast lenses were intended for general photography. f/1.4 can work, but....

    Initially their attraction was for 'available darkness' pictures.

    As "bokeh" was brought into the awareness of photographers, that became another use for them.

    I love my Nikkor-S 55mm f/1.2 lens, but I feel no impulse to acquire another such lens. There are wonderful, and cheap, ca. 50mm f/2 lenses like the Zeiss Biotars that are much better for ordinary shooting. The current bargain on these lines is the Soviet Helios 58mm, f/2 and its kin.
  10. My Canon FD 50 f1.4 SSC, is a decent performer wide open. Has bad astigmatism, but it produces a nice shot wide open. Not a patch on a modern aspherical equivalent though. But of course to expect top flight performance at full aperture from any of these older lenses is, as JDM notes, just not really sensible. Given that, I always found the wide-open performance of the Canon FD 1.4 and its EF equivalent not bad at all.

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