Canon new FD 50 mm 1:1.4 Review

DSC04008

There is a vast amount of affordable  and very good 1.4/50 lenses out there and I think the Canon new FD 50 1.4 is one of the sharpest and most affordable.

Sample Images

last light
f/1.4
bon appetit
f/2
before sunrise
f/8

 Specifications

 
Length 44mm
Diameter 61mm
Weight 235g
Filter Thread 52mm
Aperture Blades 8
Short focusing distance 45cm

The Canon new FD 1.4/50 at ebay.de | ebay.com (affiliate links)

Versions

As far as I know Canon made two mechanically and optically different 1.4/50 FD lenses. There was also an even older FL 1.4/50.

  • The older FD version has the classic silver breech lock mounting system and weights 370g and it is larger. Size and weight are the result of a very solid construction.
  • The newer  new FD version (nFD in short) is much lighter at 235g  and  has the new FD mounting system. Built quality is okay but more plasticky. I own this version and this review is about it.

I never used the older FD version so I can’t tell you how they compare optically. Comments on the comparison are welcome!

Size, Weight and HandlingDSC04001

The lens is very well balanced on the a7, because it is relatively   small and light.

nahfern
at infinity and at the short focusing distance

The focusing ring turns about 110° from the short focusing distance of 45cm to 1m and a further 40° to infinity. Focusing is smooth with  little resistance.

The aperture  ring of the Canon  has a higher resistance than I would prefer and the lens stops down in half steps to f/22.

The barrel of the lens is made from metal and some parts like the aperture ring and the plate around the front of the lens are made from plastics. By todays standards this is a rock solid lens but some older lenses feel a bit more solid.

The front ring does not rotate the lens is focused which makes the usage of  polarizers easier.

DSC04019

Lens Hood

I don’t own the original lens hood BS-52  but from the pictures I have seen from it it is quite large.

Optical Performance

Flare Resistance

Neither very good nor very bad. Moderate contrast loss and some ghosting.

near the horizon

 

At f/1.4 you sometimes see a little rainbow like in this image, you can get rid of by using a hood or shielding your lens with your hand

Canon nFD 1.4/50 | f/1.4

Distortion

A small amount of barrel distortion, only relevant for the most critical applicationsCanon nFD 1.4/50 |f/8 | distortion test

Vignetting

At f/1.4 vignetting is very noticable, at f/2 it is less noticeable but still distracting for a few applications and from f/2.8 there is no vignetting for all practical applications.

Bokeh

Decent but not great. Specular Hamburg - Miniaturwunderland harbingers of spring Canon nFD 1.4/50 @ f/2

Sharpness

Canon_FD_50mmf14_a7_800_infinity
click for full resolution

f/1.4: Resolution is quite high  in the center and midframe region and very low in the corners. Contrast is lower and micro contrast  is very low due to some spherical aberration.
I think the lens performs quite a bit better at shorter distances with more contrast.

f/2: Much more contrast in the center, sharpness is quite high across most of the frame with bad corners.

f/2.8: A little sharper in the center.

f/4:  Excellent sharpness across most of the frame, corners start to improve.

f/5.6: Only the last few pixels in the corners are a little blurry, excellennt across the rest of the frame.

f/8: Excellent across the frame.

f/11: A little softer due to diffraction.

I think f/1.4 is very usable for portraits, f/2.8 will give very very good results for almost any application but for critical landscape work with detail in the corners you should stop down to f/8.

  Alternatives

Back in the 80s any major manufacturer had a 1.4/50 lens in it’s lineup. These normal lenses share more similarities than differences but every lens has characteristics which sets it apart from it’s peers.

  • Minolta MD Rokkor 1.4/50:  Not as sharp at f/1.4 and still a little behind at f/2 but it has nicer bokeh in my eyes, the 6 aperture blades are a disadvantage though.
  • Minolta MD 2/50Better for landscapes and architecture, not as good for portraits and available light photography.
  • Pentax SMC 1.4/50: Never tried one myself but it has a very good reputation and I guess it could be as good at f/1.4 while having nicer bokeh.
  • Zeiss FE 1.8/55: The Zeiss is a lot sharper in the corners and a little sharper in the center at f/1.8, it has nicer bokeh, is more flare resistant and you can buy about 15 Canon nFD 1.4/50 for it’s price.

Conclusion

good

  • better than it’s peers at f/1.4
  • size and weight
  • price and availability
  • 8 aperture blades
  • super sharp stopped down
average

  • built quality
  • distortion
  • flare resistance
not good

  • bokeh in some settings

I think the biggest strenth of the Canon nFD 1.4/50 is it’s sharpness at f/1.4. It clearly outperforms all the other fast normal lenses I know in this regard. At f/2 it is still better than the competition and the 8 aperture blades are also and advantage.

Stopped down to f/8 it is very very sharp from corner to corner but this can be said about many normal lenses. The lens is also rather small and light for a 50mm lens while it is very affordable and easiliy available.

There are only a few shortcomings. One of them is quite nervous bokeh in the transition zone. This is not an issue for portraits but it can be distracting for pictures of flowers and other stuff at closer distances, other lenses perform better in scuh settings.  You also need to stop down quite a bit for good corner performance but this is expected from a fast 50mm lens and the results are very good at f/5.6.

All in all I think the Canon new FD 50mm 1:1.4 is a good and versatile lens which will give very good results in a very wide range of applications. I also think it is the 1.4/50 lens with the best value.

You can buy the Canon new FD 1.4/50 at ebay.de | ebay.com (affiliate links).
If this review was helpful to you, please consider using one of my affiliate links. I will earn a small commission on your purchase and it won’t cost you anything. Thanks!

For the right adapter check out our Adapter Guide.

Sample Images Canon FD 50mm 1:1.4

Canon nFD 1.4/50 | f/1.4
f/1.4
Canon nFD 1.4/50 | f/1.4
f/1.4

DSC05258
f/2

Canon nFD 1.4/50 | f/8
f/8

 

You can find more full resolution images in this flickr set: Canon new FD 50mm 1:1.4 full resolution sample images

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

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56 thoughts on “Canon new FD 50 mm 1:1.4 Review”

    1. If you use it on APS-C camera you can buy any tele hood with a 52mm thread. On full frame just find a shorter one.

      I have my second nFD 50/1.4 and it is just best there after Zeiss. My breech lock version—FD 50/1.4 S.S.C was slightly softer than the new one. My Pentax-M 50/1.4 came very close to it but all others just don’t have the contrast (and sharpness at larger apertures) as this one.

      Highly recommended!

  1. I wrote a piece on this lens too, comparing it to the Sony Zeiss 55 f1.8 Sonnar and I think we reached the same conclusion: its a stunning optic, especially considering the price. For landscape photographers who won’t miss the lack of AF, its even more compelling.

    While the 55mm f1.8 Sonnar has few peers at wider apertures, its amazing how these 30 year old lenses bought for such small sums on ebay can give it a run for its money at the sort of apertures most people use for scenic photography.

    FWIW the 35mm f2 and f2.8 lenses are equally astonishing. I tested the 35mm f2.8 and found it exceeded the performance of my 35mm Zeiss Sonnar at f8, at the edges.

    1. MD 50/1.7 is a decent one. I have it.

      A bit better would be Auto Chinon MC 50/1.7 or Yashica ML 50/1.9 (or 2.0). Also Rokinon XR 50/2 S is sharper than Minolta even though its contrast is quite low. Needs post processing.

      nFD 50/1.4 is just better than these ones except perhaps for Bokeh. If you get your hands on Pentax-M 50/1.4 you’ll have a beautiful bokeh and great sharpness. Its contrast is also almost as good as that of nFD.

      Cheers!

  2. Schöne Besprechung und Du hast sicher Recht, wenn Du manchmal schreibst, dass das Adaptieren von Altglas an Vollformat mehr Spaß macht als an Cropformaten.

    Frage: Du empfiehlst das Pentax SMC 50/1.4, weil es ein besonders schönes Bokeh haben soll. Meinst Du damit das K-Objektiv von 1975?

  3. Hallo Phillip, zum Testbild rechts neben “Sharpness” (der link zu flickr funktioniert anscheinend nicht, man kann es jedoch dort direkt aufrufen und betrachten):

    die crop-Bereiche für das Zentrum bzw. dito etwas außerhalb befinden sich im Motiv in signifikant unterschiedlicher Raumtiefe zum Bereich der Ecke (bzw. unterschiedlicher Entfernung zum Bildfeld). In Deinem Bemühen, in sämtlichen Bereichen anscheinend gleichzeitig die maximale Auflösung darzustellen, liegt die Vermutung nahe, dass Du Bereiche mit unterschiedlichen Objektdistanzen individuell fokussierst und die Crops daher keine Beurteilung der Bildfeldwölbung der Optik ermöglichen. Ein Fehler wäre (Konjunktiv) das nicht, lediglich eine spezielle Möglichkeit der Methodik, die jedoch leider unerwähnt bleibt. Oder kann man irgend wo etwas zu Deiner jeweiligen (oder immer gleichen…) Vorgehensweise lesen?
    Güße

    1. Die alte Testreihe die bei flickr liegt war in der Hinsicht tatsächlich problematisch, dort habe ich nicht nachfokussiert und das Motiv hatte eine zu große Tiefe. Die Testreihe auf der meine Analyse beruht und deren Verlinkung schief gegangen ist, ist aber eine andere. Motiv ist dort eine zur Kamera orthogonale Bergkette in mehreren Kilometern Entfernung.

      Ich habe die richtige Reihe jetzt bei flickr hochgeladen. Leider kann ichs wegen technischen Problemen aber gerade nicht im blog richtig verlinken. Auf jeden Fall danke für den Hinweis, wird gefixt sobald möglich.

  4. Hello,

    Nice review. I have this lens (ssc version) and have testet it out with good results.
    I also have a Minolta MD 50mm f1.2. Du you know what adapter I can use with this lens on the Sony A7rII camera? The Fotodiox did not work, dont fit on the camera..

    Thanks!

      1. i bought it today with sony a6000,and your photos are so sharp,mine are not sharp
        when i zoom at 100% it’s totally garbage,my sigma 30mm f2.8 is so sharper than this lens
        this is normal?

          1. in f 1.4 it’s so soft,but in f 2.8 is so sharp,in all of these lenses that you tested before wich one was sharper in wide open? thank you

          2. none. The Canon is one of the sharpest classic 50mm lenses. I think the FD 1.2/55 Aspherical and FD 1.2/50 are sharper at f/1.4 but I never tested them. Today the Sigma Art 1.4/50 is your best bet if you want very good performance at f/1.4

  5. I recently sold off a few FD wide angle primes and replaced them with the EF 17-40… but even with the 50 1.8 STM in my arsenal I couldn’t bring myself to put the 50 1.4 FD on the auction block. 1 because I wouldn’t get anything for it, and 2 because it’s so much fun to shoot with. Snick, snick goes the aperture ring. I can feel the perfectly weighted and scaled focus ring. Output is not bad either aside from the nervous bokeh though I found it to be too soft wide open. I don’t open up more than F/2.

  6. Hello! You mentioned ‘new FD mount’. Do I need any special adapter for NEX or regular Nex to Canon FD adapter will work just fine?

    Thanks!

  7. Hello. Compare Canon nFD 50 1.4 to Sony FE 50 1.8, which one has better image quality in your opinion? (Both uesd on A7) Many thanks!

  8. Today I tested some of my FD and FL (the older FD with a ring to attach and indeed somewhat heavier) lenses with adapter on a Fuji X-E1 and I was stunned by the sharpeness of the FD 50mm F1.4. So I googled on it and found your review. I tested the FL 85mm F1.8, sharp but not that stunning effect the 50mm had on me. It is not a Sigma 50 mm F1.4 Art (on a FF canon 6D), but for such an old lens and on a older Fuji X-E1, really amazing. Thanks for your review, very nice to share those experiences.

  9. Hallo Philipp, wirklich eine tolle Sammlung von Reviews! Ein Vergleich von 50mm Objektiven hab ich aber noch nicht gefunden, ist eins geplant? Ich hab eine Sony A6000 und will mir eine Festbrennweite zulegen. Meine Frage ist: Habt ihr Erfahrungen wie dieses Retro Objektive im Vergleich zu den modernen wie dem Sony 50mm 1.8 OSS, der Sigma Art 2.8 und dem Sigma 50mm 1.4 abschneiden? (jetzt mal unabhängig von AF und OSS)

  10. Do you know how this lens performs when it comes to coma? If so, does it fare better or worse than the Minolta 1.4? I’m asking in regards of night and astro shots.

  11. Very impressive blog. Really a lot of data.

    I can buy only one adapter for my sony a7sII. Should I go for minolta or canon fd lens?

    Thanks

  12. HI Phillip, Your website is amazing. Thank you for the world of info you provide. I have a Zenitar 50mm 1.7 that I use on my A7II, the lens is sharp but has quite a low contrast, I wonder if you had a chance to compare the Canon FD with the Zenitar?

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