In previous weeks we’ve talked about some noteworthy lenses, including a Minolta fish-eye and a Nikkor ultra-wide. Today, we’ll talk near a more than standard focal length, a focal length that many consider to be
standard, in fact. It’south the 50mm ƒ/1.8 FD (and FDn) lens from Canon.
Some lenses are noteworthy for their performance, build quality, visionary blueprint, or wacky perspectives. This precursor to the “keen-fifty” is notable for none of these reasons. While it’s solidly built and performs well, information technology’southward not going to amaze with its technical chops. Instead, with the 50mm ƒ/1.8 FD Canon created a lens that, today, offers nearly unbeatable value for vintage shooters and users looking for a solid slice of glass to adapt to their mirror-less and DSLR cameras.
This jack-of-all-trades lens volition do nearly everything asked of it at a price that’s then cheap it’due south almost unfair to sellers. Of form at that place are some downsides, but are they bad enough to exist a bargain-breaker?
First produced in 1971, the original FD mount lenses will be instantly recognizable for having chrome filter threads and a silvery breech-lock ring at the base of the lens mountain. In 1973 the FD series was revamped to lower production price, replacing the chrome filter threads in favor of black plastic. This redesigned series retained the silver breech-lock band.
In 1978, Canon introduced the “New FD” range, colloquially known as
FDn. This update brought the lens’ minimum discontinuity from ƒ/16 to ƒ/22, lowered the number of discontinuity blades from half-dozen to 5, and decreased weight from 255g to a featherweight 170g. This weight was saved through the inclusion of more than plastic components, most notably replacing the breech-lock mount mechanism with an internal locking device. This fabricated mounting the lens an easier process, especially when using only one manus. In spite of the shift to plastic, the lens became only slightly less resilient.
All versions of the FD range use two proprietary coatings, known equally S.C. (Spectra Coating) and S.South.C. (Super Spectra Coating). Both coating systems favor multi-coating, with South.Southward.C. being the superior range. This shouldn’t be thought of as adjustment with Canon’southward mod “L” lenses, since neither S.C. nor S.South.C. feature aspherical elements or actress-low dispersion drinking glass. Instead, call back of the entire FD range as having acceptable optical coatings, with additional quality for all FDn lenses and earlier S.S.C. models.
Also notable is that the advent of the FDn range brought with it an across-the-board adjustment to optical coatings. All FDn lenses would receive the superior S.Due south.C. treatment, with only one exception: the 50mm ƒ/1.8. Unfortunately, this well-nigh common lens would only offering the less costly Southward.C., creating a lens that’s prone to flaring when shot into straight sunlight. Information technology should also be mentioned that all versions of the FD lens are interchangeable and will mountain natively to all FD mount cameras and whatever modern FD adapters.
With all these variants, which FD lens is the right one to buy? All versions share the same number of elements and groups (4 and 6), and an identical minimum focus distance of 0.6 yard (ii ft). It’due south generally believed that the earlier models are of a higher build quality, due to their slightly more than robust construction, greater number of discontinuity blades, and Due south.South.C. handling (on models marked as such). With an FDn lens the shooter gets greater portability, a smaller minimum aperture, and decent-enough optical coating. For most, all of these differences will be negligible. The final decision will likely lie in price, and in what’s nigh important to each individual photographer.
Performance is excellent, with some caveats. Sharpness is fantastic in the middle of the frame. Get to the edges, however, and things get a bit fuzzy. While this isn’t a detriment in many shooting situations (a little edge softening can render things artistically at times) it will bother people who are obsessed with sharpness. Stop the lens down to about ƒ/four and things go noticeably improve, but diffraction comes in as we arroyo ƒ/xi.
General contrast is pretty fantabulous. This lens is perfectly capable of making images that pop. Flaring is a problem in not-South.S.C. examples, but chromatic aberration is well-handled, with only extremely contrasty shots showing the slightest criminal offence. Bokeh is reasonably attractive, but certainly not as good as the FD 50mm ƒ/i.4. While it’southward possible to get nice looking mistiness, it tin be a scrap edgy and distracting, sometimes lacking the flossy softness one is looking for. It makes skillful bokeh to the average observer, just bokeh-masters might regard it with a shrug and a “meh.”
All told, it would be forgivable to think this is nothing more than than a shrug-worthy lens. In some respects this is true; information technology’southward already been stated that this slice of drinking glass isn’t going to amaze with its specs. Simply where the lens starts to show its true worth, its worth
relative to other lenses, can be found in its price. This thing is cheap, and I mean, really inexpensive. Compared with other 50mm lenses its value is unbeatable. Certain, some lenses brand better bokeh, take amend sharpness, and ameliorate low-calorie-free performance, but no other lens even comes close at this lens’ price point. Considering the kinds of images this lens tin make, it’due south downright astonishing that one tin commonly find perfect examples for under $thirty, and patient shoppers can sometimes fetch one for under $xx. Incredible.
Today, the FD lens has found a welcome and loving habitation with photographers using mirror-less and micro four/3rds cameras. Due to those machines’ typically short flange distances, the FD range slots in nicely, retaining all of its latent characteristics also as the ability to infinity focus. Its capabilities merely grow when mounted to 1 of these modern machines using Canon’s extremely rare FD to EF adapter (or suitable 3rd party adapters), or when mounted to Catechism’s own EOS M system. Crop-sensor cameras encounter the focal length increase, giving the shooter a pretty excellent portrait lens with a decently fast discontinuity for relatively good subject isolation. Once more, information technology’s not the all-time bachelor, simply it’s certainly the best bachelor in this price point.
Information technology’south also worth noting that the 50mm ƒ/i.8 has go a cult favorite among videographers. Enjoyed for its lightness, shine focus throw, and decent-enough specs, it’s become one of the lenses with which many video shooters first experiment and hone their skills. Often it’due south a lens that stays for the long-booty. If it’due south not broken, why fix it?
[Video used with permission from Christian Nelson]
The FD legacy is one of those well-known standbys in the photography earth. Similar in proliferation to Nikon’southward F mount and Leica’due south 1000 mountain lens ranges, Catechism’s range may not share the same stratospheric reputation as those of its lofty contemporaries. Even so, at that place’southward zero wrong with the FDs. Generally speaking, they’re perfectly capable at a far lower price than shooters are used to. If a photographer tin can get over a few niggling caveats, that photographer is in for some astonishing photos at a low, low price.
Coupled with any Canon FD mount camera, the FD 50mm ƒ/one.8 creates a package capable of making an unbelievable diversity of images in a about limitless diversity of shooting environments. Fast plenty for decent low-light shots, precipitous enough for the OCD-free, and light enough for whatsoever traveler, this lens is the exemplification of the original great-fifty. While there may exist enough of other lenses to want, the FD 50mm ƒ/1.eight may but exist the just lens a photophile really needs.
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