Freitag, 2. Dezember 2016

Canon Lens FD 50mm 1:1.2L - Tiny Superspeed

Canon Lens FD 50 mm 1:1.2 L Vintage Manual Focus Lens
Canon Lens FD 50 mm 1:1.2 L Vintage Manual Focus Lens
The Canon Lens FD 50mm 1:1.2L is Canons top performing 50 mm FD mount lens meant for professional use. The red ring lenses from Canons L series were an attempt to gain market share under working professionals.

I lusted for the Canon Lens FD 50mm 1:1.2L, for so long. After I acquired my first Canon FD lenses (Canon FD 35/2 SSC) I searched the web for the complete FD system and I stumbled upon Canon FD L lenses. I didn’t even knew there where these famous red ring L lenses prior to EOS mount. I’ve been a Canon shooter before I switched to Sony’s A7R (actually had a short romance with Fuji first), so I knew that those had to be the most promising performers of the entire FD system.

Three Canon FD L Primes 24 / 50 / 85 mm and a Canon F-1 New with a 135 mm 1:2.0 Lens.
I already had a nFD 50mm 1.2 without L, which is absolutely underrated in my opinion. Many claim the nFD 50 1.4 the better lens, but I have to disagree. I had about five copies of the 1.4 and while these are the best bang for the buck in Canons fast 50 FDs, I liked my copy of the 50 1.2 non L much more. It was more or less the same optical quality, maybe a tad better, but it was faster and had a more charming bokeh, which is maybe the main reason to shoot a fast 50. It’s bokeh is even better than that of the 1.2 L due to it’s non aspherical design (no onion rings).

This Image shows my nFD 50mm 1.2 lens, which I've already sold.
The raving reviews and comments about the Canon Lens FD 50mm 1:1.2L was the main reason for ditching the non L for it. While there are more unique lenses in Canons FD lineup, like the 85mm 1.2 L, the 50 L has a major advantage. Size! For a 50mm lens itself this lens is far from being huge. Consider the extreme f 1.2 aperture and it becomes tiny. I can’t think of a high performance 50 1.2 lens similar in size. It has a 52mm filter thread!!!
I searched for about a year, to find one for a reasonable price and gladly I did. As always, patience pays off and I got a very nice deal for an almost mint copy including original caps and even the hood in mint working condition (often those FD hoods don’t stay in place nowadays).

Before I get started with my findings about this lens, let’s talk about the history behind it. Because from a lens construction standpoint the Canon is fairly unique. Ken Rockwell said this in his introduction about that lens: „This Canon 50mm f/1.2 L Aspherical Floating-Element lens is the most optically advanced 50mm manual-focus lens ever sold anywhere. It's got more technology in it than anything from Nikon or LEICA, who have never put aspherics and floating elements in any of their 50mm f/1.2 lenses.“ Thanks Ken for that nice intro.

This was not Canons first highly regarded 50ish 1.2 lens. It’s predecessor the Canon Lens FD 55mm 1:1.2 ASPHERICAL is a legend itself. Maybe because the famous and well regarded Leica specialist Erwin Puts has claimed that the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L Aspherical is optically superior to Leicas first 1.2 Noctilux, especially in the corners.
There are several versions of that 55 1.2 Asperical and the even (much) rarer Canon 55mm 1.2 AL which also came in different version. If you’re able to understand german language you can also read in Olypedia a detailed article about Canons 55 Aspherical and AL lenses. They claim that the 55 1.2 AL was planned to be an FL (the predecessor mount of FD) lens and maybe there are some prototypes in the possession of some lucky guys out there. The FL mount also hab a 55mm 1.2 and a 58mm 1.2 lens. Which can be had quite cheap, if you can find one.

The Canon Lens FD 50mm 1:1.2L was released in october 1980 and was the most expensive 50mm lens in the FD lineup. I found an old price list from 1986 and for reference the 50/1.2 L was 857,00 USD, the non L version was 320,00 USD and the popular 50/1.4 was only 170,00 USD. In this list the 50 L is even more expensive than the 85 L and 35 tilt shift.

Sample Images

Bokeh mid distance Canon 50mm 1.2 L
In this image you can see that the Bokeh can get harsh and jittery when you focus at mid distances. This shot was taken wide open on a Sony A7r Body. Although there is PP applied, you can have a guess the contrast and colour behavoir of this lens. Images are never really punchy and full of micro contrast. Even in post, it can be hard to replicate the look of modern Zeiss lenses, like the Loxia line. But that's fully ok, it just depends on what look you are after. I think the FD's in general are well suited for lifestyle and moody images. They have great personality, something I don't like in landscape lenses, unless ist is really special like the Bokina for example.

Bokeh wide open - minimum focus distance
This shot was quite near at minimum focus distance. The depth of field becomes extremely shallow, with a bit of training it is possible to get acurate focus on slow moving subjetcs with the A7r. Bokeh balls turn to cateyes especially near the border. Even with plenty out of focus areas, I would not consider this a nice Bokeh. I can deal with it, but other lenses produce a more creamy Bokeh.

Shooting when there is close to no light at all. Canon FD 50 1.2 L wide open on Sony A7r at ISO3200
With it's 1.2 Aperture the light gathering capabilities of this lens are excellent. Paired with a good full frame sensor, this opens up entire new possibilities to shoot. When ever I take my camera with me and it's already dark outside, I choose the 50 L. You don't have to use high shutter speeds like on the 85L to achieve sharp images. This makes it more suiteable for nightlife photography. Together with the 24 1.4 L and the 85 1.2 L, this can be a serious low light event kit.

Another one at ISO3200 and pushed 1.85 Stops, hence the noise. Face is lit by a small candle.
If the field of view of that 50mm would not be that narrow, it would be the perfect pub lens. Although you can get excellent shots with it. I just bought the FD 24 mm 1.4 L, to see how that works under these difficult conditions. I already recognized that vignetting is really strong on that 24 mm.

A fast 50 is also well suited for portraiture work and I also like to use it that way.  It is really sharp if you nail the focus, which can be challenging especially wide open. Background seperation is excellent as you would expect. Vignetting is quite strong wide open, stopped down it is no problem.

You shouldn't point this lens in direct sunlight, it can produce heavy lens flares. This shot shows the worst case scenario. If you use this effect to your advantage it can yield to interesting results.

The Canon FD 50 1.2L is a really versatile lens. It can serve you as a sharp and compact 50 mm lens. It works great for street photography and documentary stuff. The image quality stopped down is perfectly usable on my Sony A7r. How does it compare to the Zeiss Loxia 50 mm? It is far worse in almost every measurable category compared to the Zeiss. In personality and creative freedom on the other hand, the Canon wins.
A super wide aperture and crazy flares can be a great combo for shooting just for fun. There is just so much you can do with this lens.  You can also take great shots like this one at f8 on a Canon T90 film camera.

The point of this lens is, that you don't have to trade the 1.2 aperture for compactness. It is among the best performing 50 mm vintage primes and adds that nice and useable 1.2 aperture as a bonus.  For a 50 mm vintage prime there is only one real downside, which is price.


Average price:    500 – 700 €
Focal length (35 mm):    50 mm
Brennweite (1,5 Crop):    75 mm
Aperture Max:    1,2
Aperture Min:    16
Filter size:    52
Aperture blades:    8
Groups:    6
Elements:    8
Minimum focus distance:    0,5 meter
Magnification :    0,13 x
Length x Diameter:    50,5 x 65,3 mm
Weight:    380 g
Lens Hood:    BS-52
Frontdeckel:    C-52
Release date:    October 1980,2/55_mm_S.S.C._Aspherical

Montag, 14. März 2016

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 on Sony A7r

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 - Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8

There are two LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 in Leicas discontinued R lens lineup. They are quite different from each other. The first Version was introduced in 1975 and was designed by Walter Mandler. The second version is a complete redesign that was released in 1991. The new version is smaller and is known to be among the finest Leica R lenses. They can be easily identified as the newer version offers integrated filters.
This article is about the more desirable, second version of this lens.

Blue hour architecture Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 (slightly cropped)

The LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 is a great lens for landscape, architecture and shooting indoors. For a full frame camera like Sonys A7 series this is one of the best ultra wides you can get. It is an retrofocus SLR lens and therefore it shows no corner problems on Sony’s A7 series. It is not an easy lens to shoot with, if you are new to ultra wides you will have to learn how to fill the frame. I'm still struggeling, but the challenge highly welcome.
Adapting to smaller sensors like APS-C or Micro Four Thrids makes little sense. Due to the crop factor the lens will have a equivalent field of view of a 28 mm or 38 mm and for that purpose you can do better and far cheaper on these sensors.

Buid Quality
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 Typography
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8
The Leica Elmarit 19mm 2.8 II is very well build, it seems to be an all metal lens. All markings are graved and illed with paint. The focus ring is much smoother than I expected and has less resistance than my 60 Macro or the 135mm 2.8 I used to have.
Everything feels very well made and is build to with precision. It is made in Germany and it feels so nice to own a high quality german product. Even most Zeiss lenses are now made in Japan (by Cosina).
I also love the design of the lens exterior. The complete typography on this lens (and all newer Leica lenses) looks adorable great. I know that this is not important for most people, but for me this adds value to this item.

With 560 g and a maximum diameter of 60 mm size and weight feels right for this kind of lens.
One thing I don’t like about this and many Leica R lenses is the black paint job. I have the feeling it is prone to scratch, but not awfully bad.

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 lens hood
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 with attached lens hood.
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8

Lens hood and filters
This lens has a dedicated rectangular lens hood. It is made of plastic but feels quite sturdy. You can cilp it on the lens but the process can be a bit fiddly. Engraved on the hood it says: "R 2.8 19  A 68 12546" if you came here by google searching for a lens  hood, good luck. The lens is rare and so is the hood. Don't buy a lens without it the hood itself will set you back up to 200€ if you can find one. More on flare resistance later, but you will definatley want that hood! The are no filter threads on this lens, so 3 party lens hood won't work either.
Because of the the missing filter threads there is an integrated filter which allows you to dial in a yellow-green, orange and blue filter. That is quite common on very wide vintage lenses.

Note vignetting in the extreme corners even at f8, I have the feeling that this is caused by the lens hood. I will have to find a better procedure to test vignetting, this is ahot at the sky that's why the left side is a bit brighter.

The Leica R 19mm 2.8 clearly shows some vignetting. On most images that didn’t bother me that much. When stopping down things get better and while I don’t shoot that lens wide open that much, vignetting won’t stop me to do so. The great thing about an ultra wide is the tremendous depth of field and in most cases you want to maximize this effect and therefore stop the lens down to f8. Wide open is only recommended if you need that additional light. The lens is actually quite good wide open but you won’t get another artistic expression, like you do when shooting a fast tele lens wide open.

Bokeh sample #1
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 wide open

You won’t get that much of Bokeh just by shooting at f2.8, you will also have to focus right at the minimum focus distance. Even then, the blurred background isn’t really enough to isolate a subject. This behavior is common for ultra wide angle lenses and based on physics. Nevertheless it can create a special look, If you want to achieve that.  Take a look at the next two examples.

Bokeh sample #2
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 wide open

Bokeh sample #3
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 wide open

Lens flares
Now we can get back to the lens hood. Flaring might be the biggest issue of this lens. That is to be expected with such an old lens, but keeping the sun out of the frame can be a bit of a challenge considering how much you get into the frame with a 19mm lens. Let me repeat don’t buy this gem without the original lens hood. Even if I have the feeling it causes vignetting, the hood is glued to my lens. Cool thing about the hood is it’s appearance. The setup looks like you have a professional video camera. The next examples give you a feeling of what to expect. The first extreme one was made just to show how intense it can be and in this case it doesn’t hurt so much. It is a bad image anyway and the flares even add something to the image. By the way this one was shot at f8! The second landscape example is more subtle, but for images like that, I can’t tolerate any kind of flares. You can see it if you look at the left side of the tree, it looks like a reddish circle.

Lens flare sample #1
BOOOOM! Look at that!
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Lens flare sample #2
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Distortion is well controlled, there is some but that shouldn't bother you. Unfortunately I can't show you any brick walls, sorry. There is also a Lightroom profile for this lens.

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 rear lens element and ROM contacts
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8

Chromatic Aberrations
Well yes there is also some chromatic aberrations in the cornes at high contrast scenes. But again nothing you should woory about. Apply the Lightroom profile and check "remove chromatic aberrations" and your done. No fancy post processing needed here.

Perspective distortion corrected and therefore cropped
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Now for all you sharpness freaks this is the lens to get. The Sony A7r can show quite clearly if a lens is sharp or not. And boy this lens is razor sharp, especially at f8 the sharpness spreads evenly across the frame. Wide open it is very usable but you see improvements by stopping down. When I come home from shooting with the Leica 19 R and import the shots in to Lightroom, it's often like WTF! The results you get from this lens are so impressive. It has lots of sharpness and contrast. Take a look at the review from DearSusan they used the lens also on the A7r and there it outresolves the 36 megapixel sensor in the corner!!! When you have been out shooting with three lenses and the first image of the Leica appears in full resolution on your screen, you know that this lens is worth every penny. We will get to that "penny" part later...

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 Alternatives
Until recently Sony’s full frame e-Mount System had little choices in this focal range. The Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS lens was the only one for quite a while. Now there is a 21mm Loxia and a Batis 18mm will probably soon join the party.
Adapting lenses is popular among Sony A7 users and you have lots of lens choices, but when it comes to ultra wide angles things can get a bit tricky. Leica M wide angle lenses doesn’t work well due to their construction type, especially considering the prices you have to pay. Old SLR Systems like Canon FD, Minolta MD are always worth a look for adaptable lenses, but ultra wides were comparatively poor to more modern designs. A Canon FD 20 2.8 is not a bad choice considering it’s price but it will not make you say wow. In fact even Canons EF System has not a high reputation for their ultra wide lenses. The new 11 - 24 L is might change that, will see. But I don’t like Canon EF lenses on Sony A7 either…
The Zeiss 21 2.8 Distagon is known to be a stellar lens and is also maybe the biggest competitor for the LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8. There is one thing about the Zeiss Distagon 21 which I really don’t like, the 82 mm filter thread. The lens itself is just huge and get’s even bigger with an adapter. The Leica is not small either, but is sizewise more like an old fast 50mm, if you detach the lens hood.

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 size comparision
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 next to a Carl Zeiss Planar 50/1.4. The Leica is quite a bit bigger but not arkwardly huge like some other ultra wide angle lenses.
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8

Pricing and availability
If you’ve read this far and you think that you want one for yourself, here is some bad news. As every Leica R lens you can only find it on the used market. I’ve read somewhere that only about 5900 pieces where ever made. So this is a rare lens and pretty hard to find. If you happen to find one, boom there is the next slap in your face. Prices for this lens seem to skyrocket, although it is hard to make a definite statement, because they show up only occasionally. Right now there are quite a few on eBay worldwide and all are between 2000€ and 3500€, ouch! The ROM versions are usually at the op end! Once again, don't be confused with the old version which can be had for below 1000€.
This lens is also highly sought after by filmmakers and due to the fact that Leica R is adaptable to Canon EOS, there is a huge target audience of lens connaisseurs.
The ROM versions might even get more expensive if Leica releases an rumored electonic adapter for their new SL full frame mirrorless and legacy R lenses.

On the other hand, the median 2800€ is a good investment. You will have one of the finest ultra wide angles ever produced. You will most probably get your money back if prices keep increasing.
For me the most important point is, this lens is future proof. If Canon or Nikon or anybody else will come out with a new full frame mirrorless camera, this Leica R lens will be adaptable, while something like the 21 Loxia most probably not.

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 II
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8

The Leica Elmarit 19mm 2.8 II is the best lens I’ve ever used. It shoots images that make you say wow, when your’e back home. Sure it has some flaws, but at f8 this is really close to the perfect ultra wide angle lens. I love the rendition and colors this lens produces and using it is a pure joy.

I hope you enjoyed my review and let me know what you think in the comments section.
You can see some of my work on my flickr profile:

Here are some additional sample images:

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Sonntag, 21. Februar 2016

Best Canon FD lenses that you should consider

Rare Canon FD lenses

The Canon FD Lenses
Since the advance of mirrorless cameras and especially since the launch of Sony's A7 line of full frame mirrorless cameras, Canon's good old FD lenses are getting more interesting.
Prior to the launch of micro four thirds, these have been really cheap, but still today they are bargains, considering the performance of these vintage lenses.

In this post I want you guide you through the Canon FD System, especially the newer nFD versions. I've had a lot of them and still have. All of my recommendations are based on full frame, they might not count that much for APS-C or even micro four thirds system cameras.

The super budget Prime set
Get a used Sony A7 for about 700€ on the used market and three lenses for about 100 - 200€. A full frame set with 3 lenses below 1000€, not to bad, eh?

Canon FD 28mm 1:2.8 (20 - 60€)
Canon FD 50mm 1:1.8 (30 - 50€)
Canon FD 135mm 1:2.8 (60 - 100€)

Canon Lens FD 28 mm 1:2.8 - this one, together with the FD 50mm 1.8 are the cheapest and most common FD primes. Nevertheless they work great!
I had all of these primes and they are excellent performers considering it's price. You start with a medium wide-angle, to a standard up to a tele, all sufficient fast. They all share the 52 mm filter threads, are light and the 135mm has even an build in hood.
This is a great set to start and you can do a whole lot with it, landscape, street, portrait, low-light. In fact your Dad or grand father might have used mor or less the same focal lenghts for about 30 years.

The cheap and compact Prime set
This set is huge, what means you can pick the focal lenghts that suit your style the most. You definately don't need all of them.

Canon FD 24mm 1:2.8 (60 - 150€)
Canon FD 28mm 1:2.8 (20 - 60€)
Canon FD 35mm 1:2.8 (40 - 70€)
Canon FD 50mm 1:1.4 (35 - 90€)
Canon FD 50mm 1:3.5 Macro (60 - 120€)
Canon FD 100mm 1:2.8 (60 - 120€)
Canon FD 135mm 1:2.8 (60 - 100€)

Pick 3 to 5 of these and you are set for the next years to come. Most of them appear quite regularly on the used market. All of them are good, with the 50 macro and 100 2.8 are even oustanding. They all share the 52 mm filter threads which is also nice.

The fast, compact, 52 mm filter thread set
Now it get's fast, expensive and desireable. This is a perfect set for photography and video. Especially videographers will appreciate the shared filter thread and appereance of all those lenses. So here you go:

Canon FD 24mm 1:2.0 (150 - 350€) hard to find
Canon FD 28mm 1:2.0 (100 - 200€)
Canon FD 35mm 1:2.0 (100 - 200€)
Canon FD 50mm 1:1.2 (200 - 300€)
Canon FD 50mm 1:3.5 Macro (60 - 120€)
Canon FD 85mm 1:1.8 (100 - 200€)
Canon FD 100mm 1:2.0 (200 - 350€) hard to find
Canon FD 135mm 1:2.8 (60 - 100€)

I have to admit, I haven't tested the 24 2.0. All have them are worth the asking price, but to get them all, you have to invest a serious amount of money. You also starting to hit collectors territory which explains why some of them are so expensive.

Canon FD 50mm 1:3.5 Macro & Canon FD 50mm 1:1.2L
Canon FD 50mm 1:3.5 Macro & Canon FD 50mm 1:1.2L, the best 50mm lenses of the system. Shot on Sony A7r with Tokina AT-X 90mm 2.5 Macro - Bokina

My suggestion of a perfect Canon FD Set wich is still affordable:

Canon FD 20mm 1:2.8 (150 - 280€) - better than the 17mm and still affordable
Canon FD 35mm 1:2.0 (100 - 200€) - my favourite walk around prime
Canon FD 50mm 1:1.4 (35 - 90€) - Fast, cheap and not much worse than the 1.2 without L!
Canon FD 50mm 1:3.5 Macro (60 - 120€) - Opically the best and cheapest of the set
Canon FD 100mm 1:2.8 (60 - 120€) wide open sharper than the 85 1.8 at 2.8
Canon FD 135mm 1:2.0 (250 - 350€) Fast, huge and a Bokeh machine

Canon Lens FD 20mm 2.8 - the only FD superwide I would suggest.

For about 800€ this set provides everthing you might need. Pair that with a used A7 and you've spend maybe 1500€ for a really nice set. All of these items offer the best price performance ratio, while serving differnt photographic needs.

Canon FD 135mm 1:2.0  & Canon FD 85mm 1:1.2L
Canon FD 135mm 1:2.0  & Canon FD 85mm 1:1.2L, the best bokeh lenses of the system. Shot on Sony A7r with Tokina AT-X 90mm 2.5 Macro - Bokina

The Canon FD Super Deluxe Set

Canon FD 14mm 1:2.8 L - super hard to find, expect to pay more than 1000€
Canon FD 24mm 1:1.4 L - hard to find, about 700€
Canon FD 35mm 1:2.0 (100 - 200€) - my favourite walk around prime
Canon FD 35mm 1:2.8 TS (400 - 600€) - Tilt Shift (the first ever for 35mm film)
Canon FD 50mm 1:1.2 L (500 - 700€) - What a lens, compact, fast and sharp
Canon FD 50mm 1:3.5 Macro (60 - 120€) - Still in his set
Canon FD 85mm 1:1.2 L (600 - 1000€) - My fovourite FD lens ever
Canon FD 100mm 1:2.0 (200 - 350€) hard to find
Canon FD 135mm 1:2.0 (250 - 350€) Fast, huge and a Bokeh machine
Canon FD 200mm 1:4.0 Macro - Great and rare 1:1 macro lens
Canon FD 200mm 1:1.8 L - good luck finding this legend
Canon FD 300mm 1:2.8 L - from 1000€, quite affordable for a superspeed-telephoto
Canon FD 400mm 1:2.8 L - from 1400€, massive lens

A bunch of rare Canon FD lenses. 24/1.4L, 35/2.8TS, 50/3.5Macro, 50/1.2L, 85/1.2L, 100/2.0, 135/2.0, 200/4.0Macro, 400/4.5, 80-200/4.5L

So here you have it, that's the ultimate set and all together still very expensive. I hope you enjoyed my lists, let me hear what your favourite FD lens is.

Dienstag, 16. Februar 2016

Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5 - The Underdog

Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5 with Canon Extension Tube FD 25
Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5 with Canon Extension Tube FD 25. A really compact 50mm 3.5 macro lens.
Shot on Sony A7r with Canon Macro Lens FD 200mm 1:4

In my opinion the Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5 is one of the most underrated lenses on the planet. Maybe you already heard that there are no bad macro lenses out there. I haven't used all macro lenses, but I can tell you this one is definetly a sleeper.

Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5 with Canon Extension Tube FD 25
Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5 with attached Canon Extension Tube FD 25.
Shot on Sony A7r with Canon Macro Lens FD 200mm 1:4

Due to it's 50mm focal length it serves as both, a standard walk around lens and a lens for nice close ups. I don't use it that much as a real macro lens and because of it's magnification ratio of "only" 1:2 it is not the best lens for this job. With an extension tube (Extension Tube 25 mm) it is able to reach 1:1 though. People often claim that the 50mm and 100mm FD lenses are 1:1 macro lenses, but they aren't. Maybe they get confused because these lenses have two magnifictaion scales. One for the lens itself and one for the use with extension tube. So yes, somewhere on the lens it says 1:1, but that scale starts at 1:2. The only native Canon FD macro lens which does 1:1 is the Canon Macro Lens FD 200mm 1:4. The reason why I love the 50 is it's flexibilty. The minimum focus distance let's you get close enough to get your desired frame. Actually it is one of the first lenses I recommend to my friends.

Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5
Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5 / Sony A7r, this is my favourite shot with this lens and for such kind of close up work the lens is very well suited.
Lens Construction (group) 4
Lens Construction (element) 6
No. of Diaphragm Blades 6
Minimum Aperture 32 (22 S.S.C. version)
Closest Focusing Distance 0.232 m
Maximum Magnification 0.5 x
Filter Diameter 52 mm (55 mm S.S.C. version)
Maximum Diameter x Length 63 x 57 mm (65.8 x 59.5 S.S.C. version)
Weight (g) 235 (310 S.S.C. version)

FD vs nFD
Most of Canons FD lenses came in two versions, the older one (often called chromering) and the newer breechlock versions (also called nFD). I own the nFD version. There is no better or worse in general.
The older versions feel more solid and use metal for the body, but are also bigger and heavier. Mounting one of these older lenses is a bit more complicated, when you do it for the first time. The nFD version are mostly build with plastic, but a very good one, not that cheap stuff they use today. Most of the older chromering primes used 55 mm filter threads while the newer ones use 52 mm, like it's the case with the 50 macro. Another difference between the new and old version is the aperture range. The old one introduced in march 1973 goes to f22, while the nFD which hit the marked in June 1979 goes up to f32.
By the way, the older FD version says S.S.C. on the lens barrel which stands for Canons Super Spectra Coating. The mentioned it on the older Versions, because there have also been S.C. lenses. which don't have such a good coating. Since the introduction of the nFD lenses they left the addition S.S.C. out, all of the nFD's have S.S.C. so there is no need to write it on the lens anymore. Some say the nFD 50mm 1:1.8 lacks the Super Spectra Coating and is only S.C. coated. That may be true, but I haven't found any reliable information about that.

I like the newer nFD lenses better, beacuse they are lighter and some of Canons FD lenses (especially very nice ones) joined the line up later, and are only available in nFD version. That gives my FD lens collection the same look and feel.
In general most of the Canon FD primes have great build quality, regardless of the version. I can't tell much about the zoom lenses, as I only own the 80 - 200 L.

Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5
Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5, Shot on Fuji X-A1, don't remember the f stop. To get a shot like this (I don't consider this a great shot) you have to get ridiculously close, even when shooting crop sensors.

Handling the FD 50mm Macro is a pure joy, it feels pretty light and focusing is buttery smooth. While focusing the lens extends significantly which might be a problem for serious macro work. A good thing though is the non rotating filter thread. From infinity to minimum focus distance the lens rotates about 310°. Manual focus on macro lenses is not downside, it's a big plus. I can only recommend to not buy an autofocus macro lens. In most cases you will have to focus manually anyway. The shallow depth of field in close up work (even with a 50mm 3.5 lens) is critical. You might say, well I can also focus my AF lens manually, that's true, but it's nowhere near as precise. If you will only own one manual focus lens, let it be a macro.

Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5
Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5 fully extended. You can see the magnification scale for the use of the Extension Tube. Shot on Sony A7r with Canon Macro Lens FD 200mm 1:4

Most macro lenses are sharp and the Canon FD 50mm Macro is no exception. It is absolutly capable of resolving the 36 megapixel Sony A7r. The lens delivers sharp and crisp images full of detail. While it is sharp at f 3.5, the sharpness increases up to f 8. Past f 11 diffraction kicks in and you should only use these settings when you need that extra depth of field, without focus stacking. Corner sharpness at wide open aperture is not the strongest point, but is far from being bad.

Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5
Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5, Shot on Fuji X-A1 at f 3.5, this image shows that this lens can flare, but I pointed the lens directly into morning sunlight.

The Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5 hardly produces flares, due to it's construction. The front element is only about 2 cm wide and is aproximately 4 cm deep recessed. You really have to try hard to produce any flares. In addition you can also use a lens hood to reduce possible flares even more. Usually the 50mm Canon FD lenses use the BS-52 hood, which also fits to the 50 macro. Strangely the mighty mir site claims the BW-52A is the intended hood for this lens. Which is usually used on the Canon 35 mm 2.0 and 2.8 lenses. I don't know if that is due to macro use. As I own both, lens and BS-52 I will investigate vignetting with this combination. I must admit, Ive never tried as flaring has never been an issue with this lens.

Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5
 Canon Macro Lens FD 50mm 1:3.5, see how deeply recessed the front element is. Shot on Sony A7r with Canon Macro Lens FD 200mm 1:4
Forget about distortion there is a hint of pincushion distortion, but nothing you should worry about.

Other aberrations
To be honest, I can not find any flaw worth to mention.

Pricing and availability
Like any Canon FD lens, this one is also only available on the used market. While it is not that hard to find it is still a specialist lens. They appear quite regulary and most of the time in good condition. In Germany you have to expect 50€ to 120€, which is a steal considering it's optical performance.

I can highly recommend it if you:
  • are looking for your first macro lens
  • are shooting a mirrorless camera
  • need a sharp standard focal length
  • don't mind the f3.5
  • just want to experiment

Use on Canon EOS
This is maybe one of the only FD lenses which I can also recommend for EOS bodies, as long as you pick up a glassless adapter. You won't be able to focus to infinity, but you will get a dedicated macro lens for cheap. Forget aboout adapters with glass elements, as most of them will degrade image quality significantly.