The 'best' FD lenses?

Discussion in 'Canon FD' started by paulcooklin|1, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. Im looking at getting a Canon A1 as I was given a 3.5 macro and am lead to believe this is one of the better FD lenses. Before I buy in to the FD lenses, could anyone list the 'best' FD lenses from wide to tele, zoom, macro etc. Ive been reading that naturally some were better than others and as I dont know my way round the FD range Id like to stay clear of the not-so-good and aim for the better ones in their class.
    For example, Ive read on here and other places that the 50/1.4 is sharper and has nicer bokeh than the 55/1.2
    What do you have and which 3-5 would you recommend as a set for the A1.
    Many thanks.
  2. Some are definitely better than others. No worries, the same is true for other lines like Nikon also. You have a great lens in the 50mm f3.5 Macro. I have found the sharpest lenses in the FD lineup to be:
    FD 85mm f1.2 L
    FD 100mm f2.8 in Breach-Lock
    FD 50mm f3.5 Macro in Breach-Lock
    FD 24mm f2
    I'm sure there are other excellent lenses in the FD lineup. I also like the Canon 35mm f2 Concave in Breach-Lock, but I haven't found it to be as razor-sharp as the ones I listed above. The macro and the 100mm f2.8 can be found at such reasonable prices I'd consider them "best buys". The 85mm f1.2L is so sharp it can beat a Leica 90mm APO Summicron. But you pay for it in weight and $. Other lenses are downright pedestrian. I've never been a fan of the FD 50mm f1.4 ... I've used it, but I far prefer the 55mm f1.2 Pre-Aspherical. And I prefer the f3.5 macro to either of those. Go figure. At some point you have to just try them out and judge for yourself.
  3. By the way, I bet others will weigh in with their favorite off-brand FD mount lenses. Vivitar Series 1 made some outstanding optics. I have a Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm f2.8-3.5 Varifocal that is terrific. Other lenses in that Series were designed to compete with FD lenses in both optical quality and build quality.
  5. OK, interesting. So, are you both saying that there are FD lenses which would equal or better a 24-105 IS USM L, for example. I realise 'better' is a relative term, but if you see what I mean.
    The reason for asking is that although I have an EOS 1V, which as you know takes EF lenses, the prices of equivelant EF lenses are so high that they're prohibitive. I just thought that I could get myself a Canon A1 and a few primes which would more than suffice for a fraction of the cost of perhaps the 1.2 IS USM L or similar.
  6. Paul,
    In zooms, go with the 35-105 F3.5 (note that there are two versions of the 35-105 one of which the aperture varies) or the FD 80-200 F4 L.
  7. IMHO, go for the fast primes at all focal lengths.
    First lens, a normal: 50/1.4 (or 50/1.2L if you shoot wide open and you have an extra $400)
    Second lens, a short tele: any of 85/1.8, 100/2.0 or 135/2.0 depending on how you see. Go for the 135/2.5 if you're on a budget-- this lens is a howling ridiculous bargain. Go for the 85/1.2 if you're willing to part with about $650.
    Third lens, a wide: any of 24/2.0, 28/2.0, or 35/2.0. If you shoot black and white, look for an early concave 35/2.0 (chrome nose or early SSC).
    If it was me, and I could have only three Canon FD lenses, I'd probably go for the 35/2.0, 50/1.4, and 100/2.0. All fast primes, no L glass. Your mileage will certainly vary.
  8. Apart from some things you can do with adapters, FD-land is pretty much film-land. But yeah, there is no question that if you are willing to shoot film, an A-1 and a selection of high quality FD lenses can beat a digital platform at lower cost. But you need to remember that image quality is a chain and that chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You need strong technique right up and down that chain.
  9. OK, so would my EF zoom be sharper/better at any length than the primes above in FD? (not considering max aperture differences).
    What I mean is the 24-105 EF is fine, but it doesn't blow me away. It's useful and has been my general lens. I dont know any different though as this was my first lens in 35mm until I bought a 50/1.8 which is quite good for what it is. I tend now to use the prime where I can, when I can. If there's no benefit from the best lenses in the FD lineup compared to my 24-105 L IS USM, then I might as well stick with EF and buy as and when. Im not sure if Im making myself understood. Im trying to decide if buying in to an older system which has come down in price so much it makes sense to make use of the old (but very good) lenses or if they wont beat what I currently have, all things considered. I dont need AF all the time which I would be paying for in the EF lenses, amongst other things of course.
  10. @frederick - I only shoot film...I hve no digital comparison and am not interested in digital.
    see :)
  11. Dude, you will love FD :)
  12. Your EF L Zoom is a high quality modern optic and in pure resolution they may be close. However, the FD primes will give you better distortion control, especially at the wide end. A fast prime, f/2.8 or faster, will allow greater control of background blur than an f/4 lens. A fast prime will let in more light meaning higher action stopping shutter speeds can be used.
  13. Paul,
    Aside from the pure sharpness of FD lenses v/s EF lenses, there's another aspect of this decision which may or may not be important to you. Buying into the FD system isn't just a question of getting some great lenses for not much money, there's also the joy of using some of the stellar FD bodies. For example, the T90 is a joy to use, and much more fun than my 5D. And according to many of the people on this forum, the T90 as a tactile experience pales in comparison to the original F1. Why don't you think about picking up a used T90 (~150 for a decent example) or if you don't want to spend that much, an FTb or EF, play around with the 50 3.5 and then see if you like the FDs.
  14. Sorry - just saw the part where you said you were thinking of an A1. I have that body as well, and it's also great. A little fiddly, but solid feeling. Get hold of a Motor Drive MA and it's beautifully balanced.
  15. @Louis - Yes, this was my thinking too, thanks for confirmation.
    My concern was about 'quality' as I have no reference, and wondered if I was going backwards with the FD system. But from what Ive learnt, some of the FD lenses are comparable to the EF, at least with the 24-105 which I already have i.e gain versus loss. Therefore, it does make sense to invest in the FD given the prices.
    The lenses I would like in EF are mainly primes: 24/28 - 200 range, but pricing is too prohibitive and I dont use the AF much to warrant the price. So FD should be fine. I'll start with the A1 body and maybe the 50/1.4 as I already have the 50/3.5 macro which is why I originally looked in to the FD to be begin with.
  16. @Kayman - Yes, I've looked in to the A1, it was the camera my Dad had back in the day...Ive also looked at the F1 but from what I can tell the A1 might be better for my purposes. Im used to the EOS 1V which as you probably know is the modern film slr version of perhaps the 5D (I sold my 5d).
    I'll look in to the T90 as I see this gets mentioned a lot.
  17. Is the T90 about the same size as the EOS 1V or more like the A1/F1 in size.
  18. Paul - more like an A1 with Motor Drive MA. Slightly lighter in fact since it's polycarbonate on a metal frame (I think). It is considerably smaller than the 5D with battery grip.
    In the spirit of full disclosure, the T90 isn't as well suited to full manual as the F1, since it's not fully coupled. It has a much more flexible metering system, however, and is the only FD body which supports TTL metering with the 300TL.
  19. Paul, not to dissuade you from trying out the FD system, but ou should rethink what you are looking for.
    Just getting the sharpest FD lenses will not help you expand your photographic experience.
    Instead, you should be thinking about what your current system is lacking. Your lens and camera are allready top-notch. And the zoom covers a wide range. But is it really the camera's fault that you are not impressed with your photos.
    That said, most of the FD primes are excellent. The zooms are not so great but there are a couple good ones as allready mentioned.
    The Macro lens you were gifted is excellent. That will let you get much closer than your current setup.
    All of the L lenses are top-notch, but they carry a high price.
    Also the 35mm f2 concave, 24mm f2, 100 and 135mm f2 command a high price.
    But there are many bargain priced FD lenses that are wonderful. The 50mm f1.4 is quite amazing. I have the f1.2 in 50mm, 55mm and 58mm and I prefer the f1.4.
    The 85mm f1.8 and the 100mm f2.8 are both excellent lenses. I've got more use out of my 100mm f2.8 though.
    I also have both the 24mm f2 and f2.8. I dont know why the f2 is so highly regarded as such a sharp optic. It doesnt seem any sharper than my f2.8.
    But you may be interested in something a bit wider like the 20mm f2.8 or 17mm f4.
    On the long end, I much prefer the lighter newer lenses. And nature photographers seem to grab up anything fast no matter what the system. But the 200mm f2.8 is easy to get at a good price and the 80-200mmL is a fantastic lens.
  20. I haven't seen the 400 f4.5 mentioned yet so will point that out as an outstanding lens that was not carried forward to the EF mount era, but very much should have been. Not L glass, so prone to some CA, but apart from that equally sharp as the L series and a unique combination of light weight with relatively fast max aperture that had no counterpart from any of the competing brands of the era. It's not particularly hard to find used for around $300-350.
  21. This has been very helpful and thank you to all who contributed.
    Im in no doubt that the FD will fill the gaps I have with my EF and Hasselblad setups.
  22. Darin, I don't think that the FD 24/2 is considered to be sharper than the 24/2.8; rather, it's sharper (and better corrected) than the 24/1.4 L.
    Paul, I'll second Dave's list of recommended primes and add to it the 80-200/4 L zoom, which is optically superior (at 200mm) to the 200/2.8 prime. Longer telephoto primes worth considering are the 300/4 L and the 400/4.5.
  23. These FD (and FL) primes have given me outstanding results: 7.5/5.6, 15/2.8, 20/2.8, 24/1.4, 28/2, 35/2 (thorium), FL & FD 50/1.4, 50/3.5 macro, 55/1.2 Aspherical, 85/1.2L, 100/4 macro, 135/2, 135/2.5, 200/2.8 IF, 200/4 macro, 300/2.8 SSC Fluorite, FL-F 300/5.6, FL-F 500/5.6, 500/8 reflex, 800/5.6L, FL 1200/11. I also like the following zooms: 24-35 Aspherical, 28-50/3.5, 35-70/2.8-3.5, 85-300/4.5. I do not mark a zoom down if it doesn't rival the best primes- if it gives very good performance with operational flexibility I'm delighted. At this point an 80-200/4L isn't in my inventory.
    I also like the 400/4.5 but its closest EF equivalent, the 400/5.6L, is much better.
  24. Other FDs I do not own but see praised often: 17/4, 24/2, 35/2.8 tilt-shift, 50/1.2L, 100/2, 200/1.8, 400/2.8, and of course the 120-600 zoom!
  25. I have 5 FD lenses for my canon kit, the 20/2.8, the 24/2.8, the 35/2 concave (my favorite), the 55/1.2, and the old 35-105 macro zoom. All of these lenses combined cost me about $500 (the most expensive being the 55/1.2 and the 20/2.8), a bargain for what they are.
  26. Paul, I'd like to underscore the fact that many FD users consider the 85/1.2 (SSC Aspherical or L) to be their all-time favourite prime. Of course, the EF 85/1.2 L is the favourite prime of many EOS users as well.
  27. I would agree with Mark. Top FD lenses (I own) are:
    1 85 F1.2L (I own two and it is a great lens)
    2 135 F2 again amazing
    3 300 F2.8L (big but sharp
    4 80-200 f4L zoom
    5 50 F3.5 Macro
    6 100 f4 Macro
    7 35 F2.8 L Tilt shift
    8 24 F2
    9 15 F2.8 fisheye
    10 17 F4
    11 35-105 f3.5 zoom
    12 50 f1.4
    The 85 F1.2 is sharper than my EF 24-70 f2.8l zoom. I use it on film and on Micro 4/3 digital.
    Actual pixel crop - unsharpened of the 85 F1.2 at F1.2 on a Panasonic G1 body.
  28. I have used the FD line for over 25 years now. I am not very impressed by FD wide angle lenses, when compared to Nikkor lenses.

    My favorite lenses:
    50mm/1.2L: nearly superb
    85mm/1.2L: superb
    50mm/3.5macro: very sharp
    500mm/4.5L: superb
    24mm/2.8: an excellent general purpose wide angle lens
  29. Hum... I think the 'best' lens is the one that happens to be on your camera - the one you're USING.
    Seriously, if you're all going to sit around arguing about which lens is 'best' or 'sharpest,' maybe you ought to 'go digital,' since pixel peeping is all they do.

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