Out there in the web, there is little information about the performance of the different Canon FD 35mm lenses and that is of varying quality. Since I was wondering, which of the nFD versions is optically the best I ran an extensive comparison and compared them in the most relevant categories.
Builts quality is very good, only the name plate and aperture ring are made from plastic, the rest is made from metal.
All in all it is a rather small lens and it balances very well on the Sony a7. The original lens shade is made from plastics, has a decent size and isn’t too bulky. Because the front element is rather exposed I would recommend using it.
The focusing ring travels around 100° from 45cm to 1m and a further 60° to infinity. The focusing has just the right amount of resistance but it is a bit small (8mm) for my taste.
The aperture ring has half stops from f/2.0 to f/16 and no stop between f/1.4 and f/2.0.
These results are based on the use with a Sony Alpha 7.
Minolta MC 1.2/58: Quite a bit smoother bokeh and 8, not just 6 aperture blades make it a superior lens when bokeh is important. Sharpness is similar, the 1.4/50 might be a tad better. It also costs about 6 times as much and is nearly 150g heavier.
Minolta MC 1.7/55: Not as sharp at wider apertures but it has nicer bokeh and is a bit smaller.
Minolta MD 2/50: Worse bokeh but it is sharp across most of the frame from f/2, very small and only weights half of the MC 1.4/50. This is reflected in the build quality though. It is also free of lateral CA and distortion which the 1.4/50 is not.
Zeiss C/Y Planar 1.4/50: The Planar has more effective coatings which results in a much better flare resistance and higher contrast at wider apertures. The Minolta is a lot cheaper though.
Canon nFD 1.4/50:The Canon is quite a bit sharper at f/1.4 and f/2 but and it doesn’t feel nearly as solid. Price is similar.
Zeiss Loxia 2/50: A modern lens which is sharp across the frame from f/2 with high contrast and exif transmission. Bokeh is the only real weakness I found. Oh an the price of course.
Sony FE 1.8/55 ZA: The Sony is super sharp from f/1.8 and it has much smoother bokeh. Manual focus is a pain in the a** though and it is expensive.
A typical 1.4/50 lens: Rather soft wide open, good for portraits by f/2, excellent by f/2.8 but it needs to be stopped down to f/8 for landscapes.
Images Samples in high resolution
f/2.8 or maybe f/2.4
f/4 – very good sharpness with a notable drop in the far corners
The Voigtländer 12mm 5.6 Ultra Wide Heliar is actually one of the lenses I bought a camera from the A7 series for in the first place. It is worth to mention though, I am reviewing the old M39 version here. The newer Leica M version is optically the same, although there are other differences – apart from the lens mount – which I will talk about at the end of this review.