Historical - transition phase from Canon FD to EOS

Discussion in 'Canon FD' started by RaymondC, Jan 7, 2020.

  1. With Nikon and Canon going to the latest mirrorless systems. It's got me speculating what could happen in the future and how far into the future who knows. I only got into photography 15yrs ago .... When Canon went from the FD system to the EOS system in 1987 how was the mood like and how quickly or slowly did customers went over to the EOS system? Were dealers discounting new stock, I imagine back then eBay may not had existed then. What did the Canon FD owners did? Did they hold onto them and was it over time they slowly sold/given away their items?

  2. I can tell you what my take is on it. I’m sure others may have a different view. I bought my first FD camera (an FTb) in 1971 when it was first introduced.

    The transition from FD to EF was not an easy one. Many Canon FD owners felt betrayed, dumped their FD systems, and bought something else. Prices for used FD gear plummeted with a glut of cameras and lenses on the market. Having little use for autofocus, I stayed with Canon FD and picked up many lenses at some great prices. This was before eBay, but a time when used camera shows were common.

    Canon was right of course, the electronic EF mount is capable of much more than the mechanical FD mount. But the changeover still pissed a lot of people off.
  3. SCL


    Ebay began in 1995, as a point of reference. Like Jim, above, I had FD gear which suddenly wasn't going to be functional on new Canon gear. After agonizing for a few months, I switched to Nikon for my SLR gear. Eventually I added back FD gear as priced plunged, but went for significant upgrades as some bargains were too juicy to pass up. Most of that gear was later sold at hefty profits when it resurged. I still have a few pieces of FD gear which, although rarely used these days, I can't seem to part with, and I still occasionally look for bargains in some premium FD items, although the introduction of M4/3 bodies jacked prices back up again.
    ruslan likes this.
  4. In the short term it was a disaster for Canon owners: FD values sank like a stone, and there was no easy-peasy nationwide selloff platform like ebay. You were stuck with dealers who offered you nothing, or face-to-face sales at camera fairs (where other photographers also offered you nothing). A lot of people jumped to Nikon out of pure rage, then regretted it when Canon rallied with superior sports tele options that redefined that market segment. Canon deliberately took a massive hit to their goodwill bank, gambling it would pay off down the road when they'd be far ahead of the mechanical screw-drive limitations of Nikon, Minolta and Pentax. The gamble paid off big time: to this day, Canon remains a step ahead in the market (even if their tech in some cases has fallen behind).

    We probably won't ever see a "mount crisis" like that ever again: all the other 35mm SLR mfrs thought Canon had lost its mind back then, it was inconceivable to simply throw away your entire pro system that had been built up over 20 years (Minolta got away with it because they had no pro presence, and they were first to the AF party). The impact today would be far less anyway: the existence of incredibly versatile mirrorless bodies (that can take any lens with an adapter) provides cushioning for such transitions that was impossible in 1987.
    ruslan likes this.
  5. I think somewhat overstated. Since the change involved autofocus, the new mount didn't make that much difference, since you had to buy new lenses and bodies regardless.

    In fact, there were lots of us old non-AI Nikon users who found the transition to the EOS system more attractive than the Nikon alternatives. I know I did.

    In fact, with an inexpensive (less than $30, usually) Nikon>EOS adapter, almost all of the old Nikkors would work in stop-down mode on the Canon EOS bodies. No physical modification of the lens was necessary.
  6. but it lost the aperture ring which I really want
  7. If you were a dispassionate, completely practical photographer, you might have thought so and had a reasonable reaction to Canon making a bold innovative choice.

    None of my Canon friends fit that description: they blew their stacks like Popeye when he ate a can of spinach. At camera clubs, fairs, and meetups it was the same. It wasn't simply that you had to buy new cameras and lenses for the AF feature, it was that you had to do it all at once (at considerable expense). Unlike Nikon or Pentax, there was no pathway to a slow or partial transition, or maintaining compatibility with your MF gear as backup: EF lenses were not adaptable to FD bodies, and more critically FD lenses were not practical on EOS bodies.

    This was brutal on advanced enthusiasts and hardscrabble working pros who couldn't afford to drop everything and turn on a dime, made worse by the unprecedented rapid tanking of FD resale and trade-in values. You also had a fairly significant contingent of traditionalists who were utterly non-plussed by the newfangled T90-inspired bodies being the only option for new lenses going forward (they loved their F-1N, etc).

    When recalling this period, it can be hard to sweep away more flexible modern purchase habits and the haze of 20/20 hindsight that Canon did indeed make the correct long-term decision for its customers. At the time, the majority of Canon enthusiasts was (at minimum) deeply disappointed. Of course, some of this was a form of mass hysteria fueled by the magazines, predatory dealers and human nature: perception is reality, and the perception was "Canon screwed me".

    Its always fascinated me that Minolta didn't get nearly the same blowback for doing much the same thing when they introduced the Maxxum AF system: their MF system didn't tank in value as severely or quickly, and the majority of Minolta enthusiasts reacted with pride and enthusiasm for the new system. Perhaps this was because Minolta got to AF first, didn't have a huge installed base of pros, or as many amateurs with large lens collections.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2020
  8. +1 with being pissed. Suddenly I had three paperweights. However, I stayed with what I had until Kodachrome 25 finally gave up the ghost, and then I moved on to Canon's digital stuff. The only consolation perhaps, will be if I buy one of their mirrorless cameras, I'll be able to resurrect my FD lenses, if only for nostalgia sake.
  9. Minolta users were certainly angered by the switch to the new AF mount. An adaptor was available but wasn't popular due to the optical element which degraded image quality. I think it's fair to say that the Canon FD mount was past its sell by date, having already had several modifications. It had the feel (to me at least) of having been designed by a committee and I guess adding AF and electronic contacts would have been impractical. Perhaps it would have been easier to add AF to the Minolta MD mount - remembering Pentax and Nikon retained their old mounts, if not full compatibility.
  10. Thinking back, none of my friends who had Canon FD gear changed systems or went to EOS back in the 80's and 90's. Most were amateurs and were totally happy with their all-manual FTb's. My one buddy who was a serious photographer, added to his camera arsenal by buying a medium-format Rollei and a Leica M-series. But he kept both of his F-1's.
  11. I own EOS digi-gear, but have never gone that far with film. I suppose today I could do so fairly inexpensively, but I mostly shoot medium format in film (and I'm a hobbyist). The Canon A-1 I bought in the early eighties got dropped on a sidewalk in the mid-90s and appeared to still work, but made some different noises. So I said "oh, time to modernize." I only owned about three lenses, one was the 35-105 f/3.5 macro, but when I tried to come up with an EOS package that approximated my FD stuff I was looking at over $1K (as I recall). I ended up picking up a used A-1 body in 9+ condition for less than $200 and continued on. I still have that, and it still works!

    In the years since, I inherited my dad's AE-1 and picked up an original F-1 body from a coworker. But I admit in the last decade I've not done a lot with them. They are all operational, I did put new light seals in a few years back.
  12. I think we have to differntiate between "FD owners" and "customers"? - Maybe I am seeing "FD" in the wrong light, but the majority of my encounters (mid 80s on) were "family SLR users". The AE1 was a best selling revolutionary camera opening that market further. But (ordinary) people didn't shoot excessively enough to make a huge fuzz about something even greater getting released 2 years later. You still had your camera and shot it, till it fell apart or got stolen since everything else was already expensive enough...
    Customers were folks with cash to spend on a new camera (system). I think EOS took off for real (=on the mass market) with the EOS 500? It seemed quite popular during the 90s. I pondered an EOS 50 but decided that I couldn't afford it. A buddy, whose pre-AE1 broke, bought an EOS 5. Things may have been different for somewhat serious sports shooters; I recall seeing a majority of white lenses on the football sidelines in 1989. But I also encountered a photography business sticking to AE1 as bread & butter 35mm that year...
    Upon speed of system changes: You couldn't really afford to have ocasionally but rarely ever excessively used lenses in an oddball mount with film, when you needed turn around times. Assuming you shoot between 3-6 20mm frames per day for the local newspaper, you want that focal length to fit a regular camera, to finish your roll with other shots.
    The only EOS Minolta difference I can see: Minolta continued offering their classic camera lookalike MD bodies X700 / X300 for quite a while, while Canon previously shocked folks with their T series just before they finally released EOS. Maybe THAT was too much fuzz?
  13. When I was still shooting pre-AI Nikkors and cameras, there was only one person in the area that I knew who was using Canon (FD) equipment. I don't recall his reaction to the new mount.

    Today, I am the only one shooting FD Canon equipment (as a collector), and Canon EOS users are legion. I still use lenses like my PC-Nikkor 35mm and Nikkor-S 55mm f/1.2 on my Canon EF mount cameras (and sometimes on the FD, too).

    Canon seems to have done something right for the long term back in the 1980s.
  14. The switch over from FD to EF din't really bother me at all since I couldn't afford to upgrade to the EOS AF system anymore than I could afford to upgrade to an A-1 or F-1. (I just kept shooting with my AE-1)
  15. Didn’t bother me! I bought my first Canon FD SLR in 1990, a T90, for the multi-spot meter and slick form. For my photographic needs (architectural) AF was, at the time, still not as reliable as my 20 year old eyes.

    As it goes my compact was a Minox, I only wet AF with my first digital, in 2005. I have needed it for the last couple of years though.
  16. I need to fix my T90. It's one of my all-time favorite cameras, but....

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