Review: Canon new FD 35mm 1:2.8

 

Canon_nFD_35mmf2p8-6

The Canon nFD 2.8/35 offers really good image quality for very little money. I think it is a very good solution for most budget oriented Sony Alpha 7 users.

Sample Images

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Sony a7II | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/2.8 | full resolution
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Sony a7II | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/8 | full resolution

 

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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/8 | full resolution

 Specifications

    • Diameter: 63mm
    • Length:  40mm
    • Filter Diameter: 52mm
    • Weight: 165g
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 5 (slightly curved)
    • Elements/Groups: 6/5
    • Mount: Canon FD

The Canon new FD 35mm 1:2.8 usually sells for around $35-60 at ebay.com (affiliate link). 
In Germany you can buy it for 40-70€ at Amazon.de (affiliate link)

Versions

Canon made only two 2.8/35 lenses with FD mount.

The new FD 2.8/35 which this review is about and a much bigger and expensive Tilt/Shift lens.

There are at least three versions of their 2/35 and one 3.5/35 but those are totally different lenses.

Compatibility

You can use the lens on a wide range of old Canon FD-mount film-cameras like the Canon A1 or AE-1.

Because of the flange-focal-distance of Canon FD lenses all adapters for DSLR cameras either contain an optical element which will reduce image quality a lot or you lose infinity focus. I wouldn’t bother to use one of those adapters.

Mirrorless cameras have a much shorter flange focal distance and  you can buy adapters for Fuji-X, Sony-E, Micro Four Thirds and Samsung NX which won’t degrade image quality or lose infinity focus

I usually recommend Sony Alpha 7-series cameras for the use with older manual lenses because they are the only ones with a fullframe sensor and in my experience most lenses work best on the larger sensor. In my eyes there is little reason to use this lens on a APS-C camera, 18-55 Kit lenses will give better results.

Here are links to adapters to mount the Canon FD 2.8/24 to Sony E mount cameras: Amazon.com |Amazon.de (affiliate links).
I use an expensive Novoflex adapter (link to my review) but the cheaper ones usually work well enough.

Build Quality

Canon_nFD_35mmf2p8

Build quality is good by today’s standards but if you compare it to other manual lenses the lens feels a bit cheap.

The lens is mostly metal but some parts like the aperture ring at the front plate are made from plastics. All the markings are engraved.

Size, Weight and HandlingCanon_nFD_35mmf2p8-7

The Canon FD 2.8/35 is a small and very light lens and it is very well balanced on my Sony Alpha 7.

The focusing ring travels 80 degrees from 0.35m to 1m and a further 20 or so degrees to infinity. I think that’s a very reasonable focus throw. I would have wished for a little more resistance though, it is a bit too loose.

The aperture ring has half-stops from f/2.8 to f/22 but it requires too much force to move it and the clicks aren’t distinctive enough so it can be a bit hard to select the right aperture stop just by feel.

All in all operation works well enough but other lenses handle a bit more pleasant while the Canon new FD 2.8/35 feels a little bit cheap.Canon_nFD_35mmf2p8-8

Lens Hood

I don’t own the original lens hood, it’s name is “BW-52A”.

Close Focusing Distance

0.35cm is a usual close focusing distance for a 35mm lens and you can get some nice background blur. It is a bit softer up close and it makes sense to stop down to f/4.

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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/2.8 | full resolution

Image Quality

Vignetting

Notable but not excessive at f/2.8. Only slightly reduced by f/4 and only visible for very critical applications from f/5.6.

Canon_nFD_35mmf2p8_vignetting

Flare Resistance

Quite good for a lens of this age. There is a little contrast loss and only minor ghosting.

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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/8 | full resolution

Distortion

There is some barrel distortion. For critical applications you can correct it very well with a LR setting of +5.

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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/8 | full resolution

Chromatic Aberrations

There is very little lateral CA and you can get by without software correction most of the time.

Bokeh

Bokeh is good with smooth backgrounds and it does deteriorate only a little at longer distances.

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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/2.8 | full resolution | short distance
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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/2.8 | full resolution | medium distance
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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/2.8 | full resolution | longer distance

The Canon nFD 2.8/35 only has 5 aperture blades. So from f/4 out of focus highlights take on the shape of a pentagon.

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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/5.6 | full resolution 

The cat-eye effect can be a little annoying at f/2.8.

Sun Stars

The Canon creates 10-pointed-sun-stars which are not very well defined.

Contrast

Contrast is very good from f/2.8 and improves a little if you stop down to f/4.

Sharpness

Canon_nFD_35mmf2p8_infinity

The Canon nFD 2.8/35 is very sharp in the center from f/2.8, stopping down to f/4 makes the center excellent and it becomes softer again from f/11.

The midframe region is good from f/2.8 but benefits from stopping down to f/4 as well from were it is very good.

The corners show good resolution at f/2.8 but very low contrast, for very good results it makes sense to stop down to f/5.6 and they are best at f/8.

Compared to

Canon nfD 2/35 – I owned one some time ago and it is a decent performer very similar to the nFD 2.8/35. Advantages are mainly the faster speed and 8 aperture blades.

Sony FE 2.8/35 – I have never used this expensive lens but some tests suggest that it isn’t any sharper. It is quite a bit smaller.

Minolta MD Rokkor 2.8/35 – Both lenses are very simliar in size and performance. I prefer the Minolta’s build quality but the Canon has more effective coatings.

Sony FE 4/16-35 ZA OSSMuch bigger, much more expensive. At f/4 the nFD is sharper. Stopped down to f/8 the Sony FE comes close to the Canon.

Voigtländer 1.7/35 VM – It is a much more exciting lens because it has exceptionally good bokeh, it isn’t any bigger but built more solid. Downsides are vignetting, field curvature and price.

Conclusion

good

  • Very sharp from f/2.8
  • Size and weight
  • Price
  • Flare resistance
  • Bokeh
average not good

  • build quality
  • only 5 aperture blades

The Canon nFD 2.8/35 is a very good lens optically and leaves very little to be desired. From f/2.8 it is very sharp and most aberrations are well corrected. Bokeh is nice and the lens is quite flare resistant.

The only real weakness of this lens is it’s build quality. The lens feels somewhat cheap and other lenses are more pleasant to use.

So all in all the Canon nFD 2.8/35 is a very capable lens and I can recommend it without reservation. Only If your focus is less on the output and more on the experience of using your lens then there are better solutions.

The Canon new FD 35mm 1:2.8 usually sells for around $35-60 at ebay.com (affiliate link).
In Germany you can buy it for 40-70€ at Amazon.de (affiliate link).
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!

Full Resolution Sample Images:  Canon new FD 2.8/35 on Sony a7

All images are processed in Lightroom from Raw. Many more samples in my Canon nFD 2.8/35 flickr album.

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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/8 | full resolution


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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/2.8 | full resolution
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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/2.8 | full resolution
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Sony a7 | Canon nFD 2.8/35 | f/2.8 | full resolution

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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.

18 thoughts on “Review: Canon new FD 35mm 1:2.8”

  1. I’ve been using one of there lenses on my Canon 5d II..
    I converted it by replacing the lens mount.
    These new mounts are now available on eBay and Amazon.

  2. I have tried 2 copies of the FDn 35 2.8. Neither of them performs well. One is slightly decentered. The other one is unsharp.
    Neither of them is up to the sharpness of the Pentax K 28 3.5.
    Was I unlucky with the two copies or the FDn 35 2.8 is just not as sharp as the Pentax K 28 3.5?

      1. I got another copy. This seems to be a good copy. It is slightly sharper than the pentax K 28/3.5 in the center, and significantly sharper in the extreme corners. Very pleased. Exactly as you pointed out, the contrast is not as high as the pentax though.

  3. I’ve tested the following 35mm on A7:
    1. Summicron-M V1 8-elements Germany silver ($2000+)
    2. Summicron-M V3 6-elements Canada black ($1200+)
    3. Summicron -C 40mm Germany ($500+)
    4. Canon FD concave radioactive Thorium glass front lens ($120+)
    5. Sony/Zeiss Sonnar FE 35/2.8 ($500+)

    and the winner is #4, why?
    + sharpness as good as the best crons
    + best contrast
    + lowest price
    – big and heavy
    – hard to find

    the loser is #2, doesn’t perform well on A7, corners are soft until 5.6.

    #1 is as good as #4 in sharpness but not in contrast. If you prefer a small compact high performer – go for #3 or the equivalent Minolta Rokkor-M latest version that has multi coating and 30-40% cheaper than the cron.

    The Sony/Zeiss Sonnar FE 35/2.8 is one step slower and doesn’t perform as good as the others. Its strength is AF and small size, still it’s not bad. But not worth its high price.

  4. I wonder why nobody is calling for the Nikon 28mm f2.8 AIS. It has supposedly no distortion, great flare resistance, and CRC for great distortion-free quality at any focal length. It’s the most obvious choice in 28mm f2.8 if you ask me.

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