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.

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