The Guide to Canon FD lenses on the Sony a7 series

Canon FD lenses on digital cameras

Introduction

This guide was written to give you a good idea what to expect from Canon’s older FD lenses, many of which still perform very well on modern digital cameras.

All tests are performed with the 24MP full frame Sony a7/a7ii. Our ratings are always based on using the lenses with these cameras, the evaluation will be a different one on a smaller sensor. To learn more about using manual lenses on the Sony a7 check our beginners guide.

Most of these summaries are based on our own experience but we also decided to also include lenses we haven’t used ourselves to pool useful information we found on the net which we have summarized based on our experience with reviewing lenses. We would also be very happy if you shared your own experience with Canon FD lenses we don’t have any reliable information on yet. We are quite picky with the information we use though. That’s because 95% of the information we come across is unreliable: Everyone has different standards, Person A might rate the very same lens as a great performer while person B thinks it’s total junk. So we are mostly interested in full resolution images taken with a fullframe camera including information on the aperture used.

Of course the list isn’t complete, it is work in progress and we are working at extending it but this will take it’s time.

Wideangle lenses

 Canon (n)FD 4/17

Status: Used by Jannik for a short time in the past17mm_a

  • At f/4 the center is quite good but…
  • … I’d recommend to stop down to f/11 for usable sharpness across the frame although it never gets tack sharp, partially because of the very strong lateral CA.
  • Very low distortion (the biggest quality of this lens, especially in the film era), bad flare resistance and 6-bladed aperture.
  • Medium size, and average price/performance ratio.
  • The age of this legacy lenses shows clearly when it iscompared to modern options. Nevertheless, it is pretty usable if you give the files some love in the post processing (remove CA’s and sharpening).

360g + adapter | $200 | technical datasample images |  user reviews

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2016-08-23_08-10-56

Canon (n)FD 2.8/20

Status: Used a lot by Phillip then sold to fund the FE 4/16-35. Owned by Jannik for a short time, but replaced by the Loxia 2.8/21.
Canon_FD_20mmmf2p8

  • At f/2.8 the center of the image is sharp but quite strong vignetting, busy bokeh, strong coma and soft corners limit the usefulness of this aperture.
  • From f/5.6 it is good across the frame, very good at f/8 and for the very good corner performance you should stop down to f/11.
  • Some mustache distortion and average flare resistance, the filter thread rotates which is annoying for polarizer use.
  • Medium size and weight. Good price/performance ratio.

I can recommend this lens to anyone who needs an affordable solution for landscape photography but make sure to stop it down.

305g | $160 | full review | aperture series | sample images

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DSC01137

Canon nFD 2/24

Status: Phillip owned it for a short time back in the Nex-days, some reliable information available.

  • Quite soft wide open
  • Performance seems to be a tiny little bit better than that of the nFD 2.8/24 at the same aperture
  • Quite expensive, especially because this lens suffers from dissolving bearings which cause significant play in the focusing ring so be very careful if you want to buy one.
  • Remarkably light if you consider that the one stop slower nFd 2.8/24 is just 45g less.

It is a good lens but the only significant difference to the f/2.8 version is that it is a stop faster and it isn’t very good at f/2 so the much cheaper 2.8/24 is the smarter buy if you ask me.

285g | $200 | technical data | Review  | short review | test images Nex-5n

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Canon nFD 2.8/24

Status: Reviewed by Phillip who still uses it occasionally.

  • Canon_nFD_24mmf2p8-6Noticeable vignetting, busy bokeh, some coma and soft corners at f/2.8. The center is sharp.
  • Very good performance across the frame at f/8 and f/11.
  • Moustache distortion and mediocre flare resistance.
  • Quite small and light, excellent price/performance ration.

A very good solution for budget oriented landscape shooters, it is small, cheap and sharp.

240g | $65 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

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Canon FD 2.8/24

Canon nFD 2.8/28

DSC09332Status: Owned by Phillip for a few weeks.

  • If you accept some funky bokeh f/2.8 is usable with good central sharpness and acceptable vignetting.
  • At f/8 it is  very sharp across the frame but the extreme corners are soft. 
  • Decent flare resistance, sadly only 5 aperture blades.
  • Very low size and weight. Great price/performance ratio.

If you consider the price this a very attractive lens, not only for landscape photography but also other genres because it is quite usable wide open.

170g | $35 | technical dataaperture series sample images 

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DSC04736

Canon nFD 2.0/35

Status:

  • At f/2 the center is sharp, and there is some vignetting. Corners are soft.
  • From f/8 it is very good across the frame.
  • Some barrel distortion and decent flare resistance.
  • Rather low size and weight. Good price/performance ratio.
  • Best bokeh of all FD 35mm lenses, 8 aperture blades.
  • Excellent close-up-performance and good minimum focusing distance
  • Can have issues with the bearings.

All in all the most balanced FD 35mm lens. Recommended.

245g | 120€ | comparison

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 Canon FD 2/35 (convex)

Status: Borrowed by Phillip for a few weeks, some reliable information available.

  • At f/2 it is sharp in the center with little CA, bokeh is decent and vignetting quite noticeable.
  • From f/5.6 good across the frame sharpness.
  • I can’t judge the flare resistance.
  • Solid build quality but also rather large and heavy for a 35mm lens. Good price/performance ratio.
  • There is also an older, optically different version of this lens with the smallest aperture of f/16 (not f/22) and a concave front element which is radioactive.

All in all an attractive lens with a wide range of applications an good performance in most aspects, a little on the heavy side.

370g | $130 | noland.photos short review  | aperture seriessample images

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Canon nFD 2.8/35

Status: Owned by Phillip for a few months.

Canon_nFD_35mmf2p8-6

  • At f/2.8 most of the image is sharp,  vignetting is visible, bokeh is decent and  coma is not much of an problem so this aperture is fully usable.
  • From f/5.6 it is very good across the frame, and improves a little at f/8. It has only 5 aperture blades which affects the bokeh.
  • Less sharp at closer distances.
  • Some barrel distortion and decent flare resistance.
  • Very low size and weight. Great price/performance ratio.

Not only is it small and affordable, it is also quite sharp from f/2.8 with rather smooth bokeh so it is a lens with a wide range of applications.

165g | $50 | full review | aperture series | sample images

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Canon FD 2.8/35

Normal lenses

 Canon nFD 1.2/50 L

Status: Never owned ourselves, some reliable information available.

  • At f/1.2 very similar performance to the much bigger FD 1.2/55 Aspherical that is moderate resolution in the center but quite good contrast.
  • At f/5.6 it is of course excellent in the center but unlike it’s slower (an much cheaper) cousin the 1.4/50 it can’t hold this sharpness to the corners.
  • It shows very obvious onion rings.
  • Weight and size is a little above average for a 50mm lens but not by much. It is very expensive.

The red L-ring is of course alluring and it’s contrast at f/1.2 was unrivaled back in the day but I wouldn’t be willing to pay $600 for this lens when a lens like the not much more expensive Sigma 1.4/50 plays in a totally different league.

 380g | $600 | MTF Diagram (scroll down) | comparison with 1.2/55 Asph. and 1.4/50 | comparison with FE 1.8/55

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Canon nFD 1.4/50

Status: Phillip has reviewed it and uses it occasionally.

DSC04008

  • The nFD version is slightly better optically and noticably smaller and lighter than it’s FD precedessor which is more solid.
  • At f/1.4 it is sharper than most other 50mm lenses but even in the center contrast is a bit muted, the resolution is fine though and the corers are lousy. Vignetting is very obvious, bokeh is on the busy side and coma very high. So you can use f/1.4 but most often it makes sense to stop down to f/2 where contrast, sharpness and bokeh are much better.
  • From f/5.6 it is spectacular, only the corners improve a little at f/8.
  • Low barrel distortion, strong vignetting at f/1.4 and average  flare resistance.
  • Low size and weight. Great price/performance ratio.

A versatile lens which changes it’s character completely as you stop down. It is somewhat soft wide open but excellent stopped down. It is small, fast and affordable so I can only recommend it.

235g | $50 | full review | aperture series | sample images | MTF Diagram (FD Version)

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Canon FD 1.4/50

Canon nFD 1.8/50DSC09331

Status: Owned by Phillip for a few months, doesn’t see much use.

  • At f/1.8 it has good resolution but quite low contrast, high vignetting and busy bokeh, from f/2.8 it is excellent in the center but the corners stay soft.
  • From f/5.6 it is truly excellent across the frame.
  • It has simpler coatings and is quite susceptible to flare. It als has only 5 aperture blades and the close focusing distance is 0.6m.
  • Very low size and weight. Excellent
    price/performance ratio.

It isn’t a bad lens but the nFD 1.4/50 is a significantly better lens for only a few bucks more so I can’t really recommend this one

170g | $20 | aperture series | sample images

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DSC04791

Canon (n)FD 3.5/50 Macro

Status: Never used ourselves, some reliable information available.

  • Excellent performance in the center from f/3.5, corners are good enough.
  • At f/8 it is very sharp across the frame but it doesn’t quite reach the excellent performance of the infinity optimized faster 50’s.
  • Rather strong vignetting wide open
  • Small and affordable.
  • It only reaches a 1:2 magnification and usually comes with a  25 mm spacer to reach 1:1.

If you need a 50mm macro lens I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this sharp and affordable lens.

230g | $60 |aperture series | sample imagestechnical dataMTF Diagram | User report (in German)

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Canon FD 1.2/55

Status: Borrowed from a friend for two weeks, ran one extensive comparison with it.

  • Released as FL, later updated to FD, coatings were probably updated.
  • At f/1.2 contrast is low and bokeh rather busy but sharpness is surprisingly high. At f/2 contrast is a lot higher and the bokeh smoother.
  • At f/8 it is excellent across the frame.
  • Big and heavy for a 50mm lens, handling is pleasant and build quality very high. Short focusing distance is high at 0.6m.

I think this is an underrated lens, sure it isn’t small and the bokeh isn’t the smoothest but I was surprised by the sharpness and it is rather affordable compared to other f/1.2’s.

565 g | $150 | Phillip’s images | aperture series
full resolution collection | comparison with Minolta 1.2/58 |sebboh’s images | comparison with other normal lenses at f/8 | flickr pool

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DSC06772

Canon FD 1.2/55 Aspherical

Status: Never used ourselves, reliable information available.

  • At f/1.2 contrast is a higher than that of the nFD 1.4/50 at f/1.2 which is a remarkable performance for such a fast lens sharpness is a bit lower though. Bokeh is quite pleasant without obvious onion rings.
  • It features floating elements which – compared to other normal lenses – improves performance at shorter distances quite a lot.
  • At f/5.6 there is quite a bit of astigmatism at the edges whereas the nFD 1.4/50 is free from it and therefore superior for landscape images.
  • A hlarge, heavy and expensive lens.

All in all it is a good performer for portraits and other stuff where contrast and good central sharpness as well as bokeh matter but not the best choice when off-center sharpness matters and modern lenses like the Mitakon 0.95/50 are probably a better choice.

575g | $650 | full resolution samples imagesuser report (German) | MTF Diagram (scroll down) | comparison with 1.2/50 L and 1.4/50

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Canon FD 1.2/85 AsphericalCanon_FD_85mmf1p2-1-3

Status: Owned by Jannik for a few months then sold to Phillip who has owned it for a few months.

  • At f/1.2, the center has usable sharpness, the midfield and the edges are not sharp. Because of spherical aberrations contrast is quite low but still better than most 1.4/50 lenses wide open. We’d only recommend to use this setting for atmospheric portraits or low-light photography.
  • The whole image sharpens up a lot at f/1.6, the center is very good as is the contrast from this aperture.
  • The center sharpness peaks at f/2.8, the midfield shows good sharpness but the corners are softer.
  • At f/4, the image is excellent, only the extreme corners are just good.
  • To get the best corner performance, stop down to f/8.
  • The bokeh is smooth at typical portrait distances but gets a bit nervous at longer distances
  • Low barrel distortion and bad flare resistance. Make sure to get a hood, it doesn’t need to be the expensive original one.
  • Large size and weight, very good built quality
  • There is a “L” and a “S.S.C. Aspherical” Version – optically, there is no difference except of an additional aperture blade for the Asperical version, which causes better bokeh stopped down and different sun stars. The current EF version isn’t any sharper.

If you consider that this lens was released 45 years ago it’s performance is absolutely astonishing and it still shines today.

756g | $650 | reviewaperture series | MTF Diagram | sample images

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DSC05429

Canon (n)FD 1.8/85

Status: Jannik owned the lens (S.S.C. version) but sold it some time ago.

  • DSC01301Wide open it is already pretty sharp in the center.
  • From f/2.8 it is excellent in the center.
  • Shows some field curvature, especially at short distances. Therefore, corners can appear unsharp.
  • Bokeh is pretty decent.
  • Axial CA’s are pretty low but not absent
  • Light weight and rather small portrait lens. (applies only to the nFD version. The S.S.C. version is much heavier and larger)
  • Recommended for portrait work. When it comes to landscape photography, the 2/100mm and the 1.2/85 perform better.
  • Average price/performance ratio.

345g | $170 | galleryuser reviews | comparison with 1.2/85 L | flickr group | technical data

post-66313-0-92352000-1422608446

Canon nFD 2.0/100

Status: Jannik owned the lens for some time but sold it.

  • At f/2.0, the center is very sharp, the midfield and the edges reach good sharpness. For portraits and shallow depth-of-field work, this is excellent.
  • All regions of the frame improve by stopping down to f/2.8. The center is excellent there and doesn’t improve any further. The corners are very good at f/4 and peak at f/5.6.
  • Pleasant bokeh, vignetting is present but not really a problem.
  • The only issue is a medium amount of CA. How much it affects your image depends a lot on your subject.
  • Very low pincushion distortion and average  flare resistance.
  • Small but pretty heavy, much glass in a small case. Therefore, the writings are on the edge of the barrel.
  • Decent price/performance ratio.
  • All in all a excellent lens for portraits and for landscape photography. Highly Recommended

445g | ~300€ | aperture series | sample images | user review (German) user review

Canon nFD 2.0/135

Status: Jannik owned the lens shortly but sold it some time ago.

  • DSC02853At f/2.0, the center is very sharp, the midfield and the edges reach good sharpness. For portraits and shallow depth-of-field work, this is excellent.
  • All regions of the frame improve by stoping down to f/2.8. The center is excellent there and doesn’t improve any further. The corners are very good at f/4 and excellent at f/5.6.
  • It is sharp across the frame with pleasant bokeh, vignetting is present but not really a problem. The only issue is a medium amount of CA. How much it affects your image depends a lot on your subject: It can be a problematic e.g. when photographing metallic objects or unproblematic e.g. for portraits.
  • For best results when shooting landscapes, stop down to f/5.6, the improvement isn’t large but noticeable and vignetting will be all but invisible at this aperture. For portraits, don’t hesitate to shoot it wide open or at f/2.8.
  • Very low pincushion distortion and average  flare resistance.
  • Large size and weight, good built quality.
  • Decent price/performance ratio.

All in all a excellent lens for portraits and also good for landscape photography. Highly Recommended

660g | ~300€ | aperture series | sample images | theweekendlens.com review

Canon nFD 2.8/135

Status: Phillip has reviewed it but not used much since then.

Canon_nFD_135mmf2p8-10

  • At f/2.8 it is sharp across the frame with pleasant bokeh, vignetting is present but not really a problem. The only issue is CA which is quite strong. How much it affects your image depends a lot on your subject: It can be a problematic e.g. when photographing metallic objects for portraits it is less of an issue.
  • For best results stop down to f/5.6, the improvement isn’t large but noticeable and vignetting will be all but invisible at this aperture.
  • Very low pincushion distortion and average  flare resistance.
  • Medium size and weight, average built quality.
  • Great price/performance ratio.

All in all a very good lens for portraits and landscape photography for a great price. 

398g | $60 | full review | aperture series | sample images

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Canon FD 2.8/135

Canon nFD 2.8/200 IF

Status: Never used ourselves, some reliable information available.

  • There are two different versions of the nFD 2.8/200 lens, the older one focuses conventionally and has identical optics as the S.S.C. version. The newer one which is a bit smaller  focuses internally and has different optics.
  • Sharp across the frame from f/2.8 but with a tremendous amount of CA.
  • This lens is usually very affordable which could make the strong CA bearable.

technical datasample images

Canon nFD 4/200 IFartikelbild

Status: Never used ourselves, some reliable information available.

  • Very sharp across the frame from f/4 with moderate vignetting wide open.
  • Since it is quite good from f/4 it gains only a little bit at smaller apertures.
  • There is some axial Ca, the only real weakness of this lens
  • Rather small and lightweight, easy to focus thank to IF.

Sharp, light, affordable: There is a lot to like about this lens,  CA is the only shortcoming I see.

440g | $40 | aperture series | sample images

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Canon nFD 4/300 L

Status: Part of Phillips setup for more than two years.

  • At f/4 it is fully usable with very good sharpness across the frame, moderate vignetting and only a little CA. Bokeh is very good.
  • From f/5.6 it is spectacular with excellent sharpness, very low CA and little vignetting
  • Flare can be a problem
  • At about 1kg it is neither small nor light but it is still small enough to put it into an average camera bag and handling on the a7 works well enough.
  • Decent price/performance ratio.
  • All in all a great lens but the price reflects that. Highly recommended. 

1060g | $350 | full review | aperture series | sample images

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Canon FD 4/300 L

 Thanks

A big thank you to:

  • Micharl for providing test images for the 3.5/50 macro and 4/200 IF.
  • Giovanni for providing images for the FD 4/17.
  • Dan Noland for the nFD 2/24 samples and feedback on the list.

Still to come

The summaries for these lenses are in production

  • nFD 2/28
  • TS 2.8/35
  • nFD 4/80-200 L
  • nFD 5.6/100-300 L

Honorable mentions

We have no personal experience with these lenses but we have read positive reports about them from reliable sources. If you have full resolution images from them we are very interested :).

  • nFD 2.8/20-35 L – As good or better as the 2.8/20 but bigger, more expensive and a longer short focusing distance.
  • nFD 3.5/35-105 – not small but very good performance.
  • nFD 2.8/100 – Small, affordable and quite a good performer by all reports
  • nFD 1.8/200 L – super rare and expensive but it is by some margin the best lens in the system
  • nFD 2.8/300 L – Excellent performance
  • nFD 4.5/500 L (can have bearing issues) –  Excellent performance
  • nFD 4.5/50-300 L

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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.

30 thoughts on “The Guide to Canon FD lenses on the Sony a7 series”

  1. I can add:

    The FD85L continues to amaze me. The L version can usually be had for $100 to $200 less than the older Apherical SSC version. I’ve had two and paid $500 for one of them and $550 for the other. The lens is equal in the center to the EF version and better than the EF version across the frame at basically all apertures. Considering there are only three existing designs for an 85mm f/1.2 and the other two (EF & Contax) sell for an upwards of $1200 (EF) to $2400 (Contax), $500 to $650 is a steal.

    My experience is it’s optimized for head & shoulder portrait distances in terms of resolution. It’s an excellent landscape lens stopped down to f/8, too

    The other FD lenses I have are the 135mm f/2 and the 20-35mm f/3.5L. You’re description of the 135mm is dead on. The 20-35mm is sharpest at 20mm and competitive in that regard with the 20mm f/2.8, but the mustache distortion make its almost impossible to use on anything with straight lines–the EF 17-40mm’s lens profile is the built in LR profile that works the best, but it isn’t perfect.

    Hope that’s useful!

  2. Thanks for this fantastic article, guys! I’ve got quite a few FD lenses in my collection thanks to all of you! One of which is the honorably mentioned 35-105/3.5. It’s my go to lens for video! I really like the focal length range and the macro function at the wide end. I’d be happy to take some photos for you!

    Thanks again!

  3. There might be a few typos for aperture settings for the 80-200

    I own the 50L and it is actually one of the smallest and lightest normal 1.2 lens for SLR. I am a lot more willing to carry that lens compared to Minolta 58 1.2.

    1. FDn 50L is sharper wide open than the minolta 58 1.2 but 🙂 closed down for landscape this minolta is very sharp corner to corner even on 42mp. Most of the 1.2 lenses are soft and has a lot of CA in corners even closed down. The FDn 50L is on of the sharpest , but the minolta is CA-less at F8.0-11 and very very sharp. Wide open… a matter of taste. I like the Rokkor when it is cloudy and at night at some distances, the canon is different and also nice one, and sharper with better control over CA on wider apertures.

  4. Hey, great to read an article about me beloved FD lenses. I did a writeup about the system, too.
    http://vintage-lenses.blogspot.de/2016/02/best-canon-fd-lenses-to-consider.html

    I can also provide some sample images if you want. I only keep the rarer ones, so some of them might be interesting. Right now I have:

    24/1.4 L
    35/2.8 TS
    50/1.2 L
    50/3.5 Macro
    85/1.2 L
    100/2
    135/2
    200/4 Macro
    400/4.5
    80-200/4 L
    + Bokina FD Mount
    + Voigtländer SL 75 2.5 FD Mount

    I also shoot the on my T90 and F1 new

  5. Hi Philip,
    I am wondering if you didn’t have the FD 100 2.8 at your camera.
    I own this lens and use it very often for portraits. From my opinion it’s already sharp at 2.8 and has a nice bokeh.
    Hope you will get the chance to test it in the near future.

    1. Hi Sabastian,

      Do yourself a very big favour and buy a FD 100 f2. I used this lens in the 70s/80s on my trusty F1n (great camera) manly for sport, equestrian and motor cross where you needed to use slow ASA film to get pleasing images.
      This lens even at f2 is stunning, amazingly sharp.
      I sill use this lens on my x-pro 1, it is quite heavy compared to the 2.8, but worth its weight in gold.

  6. You should try and land a copy of the 35-70mm f4. It’s quite cheap, and in my comparisons with the MD 35-70mm f3.5 it was the sharper optic and the minimum focusing distance (in non-macro modes) was twice as close throughout the range. Definitely a good lens

  7. Hola Phillip Reeve, me parece muy interesante estos artículos.
    Quiero comentar que tengo guardados algunos buenos canon fd, incluso el 14mm 2,8 L, lo ha probado o tiene referencias? también preguntarle si comprar la sony a7 o la a7 II, básicamente para usar estos canon fd y de otras marcas.
    Gracias y un cordial saludo desde la Mancha, España.

    Hi Phillip Reeve, I find these articles very interesting.
    I want to comment that I have saved some good canon fd, even the 14mm 2.8 L, have you tried or have references? Also ask you if you buy the sony a7 or the a7 II, basically to use these canon fd and other brands.
    Thank you and a cordial greeting from La Mancha, Spain.

  8. Phillip,

    I tried both the canon FD 24 f/2 and f/2.8.
    The FD 24 f/2 is quite a bit sharper in the center. However, it is softer than the f/2.8 in the corners.
    Is this what you see too?

    The olympus 24 f/2.8 has the best corner sharpness, but it cannot match FD 24 f/2’s center sharpness.

    Thanks.

  9. I’m interested in picking up an nFD 4/80-200 L for my a7ii. I see that this lens has been in your “still to come” list for a while now. Will you guys still be reviewing this lens? I know they are quite a bit different but, if you had to choose one, would you take an nFD 4/80-200 L or the nFD 4/300 L? I have found both for very good prices.

    Thanks.

    1. I liked the 4/80-200 L a lot because of it’s great CA correction but my copy wasn’t centered well so I found the corners a bit lacking and this seems to be a common theme with 80-200 lenses. So in the end I sold it and kept the 4/300 L which is faster to focus with better corners but less flexible and heavier.

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