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3 Canon FD Lenses Mirrorless Shooters Should Consider

By Anthony Thurston on February 26th 2015

I have made it pretty well known that I love shooting with vintage glass on my mirrorless cameras. Canon’s FD glass is some of the best and easiest to get your hands on, so today I wanted to share three Canon FD lenses that I think are great lenses to look into if you want to give vintage lenses a try for your mirrorless camera.

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Obviously, if you are dependent on auto-focus, these are not lenses that you will be interested in. But if you are like me, and enjoy the manual focus process, and the feel of a true manual focus lens, then these are a few beauties for you to look into.

1. Canon FD 50mm F/1.2L – Ranges from $600-$700 On eBay

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This lens is my new baby. It has been said that this lens is one of the best 50mm lenses ever produced by Canon. The fact that even if I bought the last one to come off the assembly line, it would still be 1-2 years older than me and that’s pretty awesome in my book.

As far as image quality, it is excellent. Sharp from corner to corner, with no noticeable issues. The F/1.2 aperture gives you brilliant and creamy bokeh, while the ‘L’ designation lives up to its name and produces wonderful colors. The build, if you ask me, is way better than any other 50mm lens that you will be able to find in that price range.

There is a non-L 50mm F/1.2 that is available as well in the $300 range, but it doesn’t have an aspherical element like this 50mm F/1.2L does.

2. Canon FD 50mm F/1.4 S.S.C – $50-$100 On eBay Or KEH

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This is what I was using primarily before I upgraded to the FD 50mm f/1.2L. It is known for its wonderful color reproduction and in my experience, is a very sharp lens. For the price, I would take this over a Canon 50mm F/1.8 any day of the week. Not only is it built better, but it produces a much better image, in my opinion.

3. Canon FD 24mm F/2.8 S.S.C – $100-$150 On eBay or KEH

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If you are looking for something a little wider for your shooting, then a great option is the Canon FD 24mm F/2.8 S.S.C. Just like the 50mm F/1.4 above, the image quality and colors are great, and for the price, you will not find a better 24mm lens on the market.

On a crop body, it will give you roughly a 35mm field of view, which makes for a great street photography or portrait lens depending on your situation. On a full frame body, like the Sony A7 Mark II, this would be a great landscape lens.

Bonus Tip

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The important part to using old vintage lenses like these Canon FD lenses is having a quality lens adapter. I have had great luck with the cheap $12 Fotasy adapters to my Fuji X camera, but there are other cheap brands that do not have as good of a reputation. If an adapter is not quite right, it may not hold your lens firmly to the camera, or it may not control light bounce very well within the adapter, causing weird aberrations in your images.

It is important to just try any adapter you purchase out when you get it. If it doesn’t hold the lens tight or if you notice odd optical issues, it is possible you have a bad adapter and you should get it exchanged or refunded ASAP.

[REWIND: Initial Thoughts On Metabones FD to X Speedbooster Ultra]

Metabones and Fotodiox make pretty good adapters in my experience as well, but they are on the much more expensive side of things. You won’t have any issues with them though, so if you don’t want to deal with possible issues with cheaper adapters, you can splurge on the higher end ones.

So, Mirrorless shooters, what other vintage lenses have you used? What vintage lenses do you recommend others look into for use on their mirrorless cameras? Leave a comment below!

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jesse Scanlon

    Great write-up! However, I think the 135mm f/2 should have been noted, (My copy off of ebay from Japan was under $250), and Ed Mika’s ingenious conversion kits aren’t mentioned. $75 for a seamless conversion to EF mount. edmika.com As far as mirrorless goes, using the 135 f/2 on a7sii and a6000 (regardless of the $10 ef to e adapter or metabones) has been a dream.

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  2. Justin Giovanniello

    Nice quick little article. I’d argue the Canon FD 20 2.8 is up there in quality. 

    I had the pleasure of using the FD 24mm 1.4L – which is AMAZING . Only reason I don’t have it anymore is because I got it for dirt cheap and sold it on eBay for $700 in profit. Also got to use the 85mm 1.2L as well. It’s also an amazing lens but crazy heavy so I had returned it. I’m a little surprised you overlooked the 24L truth be told.

    At the moment I have the 20 2.8 (that’s the one FD I’ve never sold because I’ve enjoyed it so much), and the 100 2.8.

    I ended up selling the two 50 1.4 lenses I’ve had (both versions) in favor of the Yashica ML 50 1.4 and at the time a Zeiss 50 1.4 for Contacts and Yashica.

    Thanks for the article once again and I hope you don’t mind my tangential words.

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    • James Blankenfeld

      Hey Justin.  I’m looking to use FD lenses on my Gh5 for wedding videography and with the crop of the Gh5 and speed booster, I’m looking at the 24mm but not sure which aperture to purchase.  Do you have any experience with the f/2 or f/2.8 lenses?  I don’t want to spend hundreds on the 1.4L.  I know with Contax Zeiss for example, certain focal lengths are substantially better at f/2 than f/2.8 let’s say — wasn’t sure if the same can be said for the FD lenses.  Thanks man.

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  3. Branko Sreckovic

    Huh…I have gained experience through several systems (Canon, Nikon, Mamiya, Fuji, Russian-East German stuff…). Both film and digital.
    For my taste FD lenses are premium class lenses, perhaps in the term of color rendition the best or sharing firts place with Fuji glasses. My breech locks lenses are better than FDn lenses. Only i would not bother to use them through cheap adaptors on 1.5k$ or higher priced body. I vote for usinge them on film bodies.

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  4. Graham Perkins

    I have been using Canon FD lenses for a while now, firstly on a Sony A7 and latterly on a Sony A7MkII.

    I have the following – 135 f3.5, 35 f2.8, 50 f1.4, 70-210 f4. Actively looking for more.

    I find them to be excellent in every respect especially the the “old” feel of manual focus which when using the sony is relatively painless, but not fast. All in all they are a great investment which i have been very pleased with.

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    • Sunny Jeet

      Bro i didnt get your last parts meaning ? I am trying to get these lenses ? Are they worth getting ? I know thats autofocus doesnt work ! But what about aperture ? And is the manual focus smooth ? With this lenses

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  5. Chris Jones

    As a poor hobbyist I shoot often with those cheap russian lenses, I did street photography for awhile with the industar 69, and I’m looking at the jupiter 9 which is a 85mm f2 and because they’re all range finder lenses they’re pretty small. Besides that I shoot on an old Nikon 50mm f1.4 ai lenses and I recently purchased the leica 90mm f4 elmar which I love but on my xe-1 it’s hard to focus through the viewfinder.

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  6. Derek Schwartz

    I had a non-aspherical FD-mount 55 1.2 that i converted for manual use on my Canon 7D – and I hated it. Ridiculous levels of chromatic aberration when fully open, although that was balanced out by bokeh taken straight from the cow it was so creamy. Juts a word to the wise that Anthony’s point about spending the extra for the aspherical version is very worthwhile.
    There is also a 24mm f/2 FD-mount lens that had a thoriated front element, so if you’re into a little bit radiation on a photo shoot, this lens is great. I kid, I kid. Great reviews of this lens over at canonclassics.com, although I’ve been happy enough with my 24mm 2.8 I’ve not felt a need to step up to it.

    In general, to Ralph’s point above, a fun thing about vintage lenses like these is that you get the added benefit of being able to go get a $20-$100 film camera and shoot some film through it too. Want great Autumn landscape photos? Grab some Velvia! Want a really creamy protraiture shoot? Grab some Kodak Portra.

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  7. Jean-Francois Perreault

    As a very freshly new X-T1 owner, this article is very welcome! Thanks!!!

    Hannu: You speak of the “newer” FD. Sorry for my lack of knowledge but do you know how I could tell the difference between the “new” and the “old” s.s.c. if I search on eBay? Is there a special name that differentiates the old and the new? I’m trying to look it up but I can’t find it. Thanks for the info!!

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    • Hannu Siika-aho

      JEAN-FRANCOIS,

      The old mount is called FD Breech lock mount (very first generation before older FD was called FL mount, which in practice is the same for using on digital with adapters). The new one works as any modern lens mount system with an exception of having the release button on the lens instead of the camera (or adapter). Lenses with a breech lock mount can be told apart from the newer FD lenses by their chrome mounting ring. The newer FD lenses (sometimes called FDn) are black through out.

      Mounting the lens is also different: In both cases, you align first the dots on the lens and the adapter. In case of older breech lock, the chrome ring starts too turn and you finish the mounting by turning the ring fully to the the end. To unmount, turn the chrome ring to opposite direction all to way and the lens pops out.

      With FDn you turn the lens until it locks in—it works like any modern lens mount. To unmount it, press the little chrome button on the lens and turn in opposite position.

      Here you can see them side by side:

      https://www.cameraquest.com/adp_micro_43_fd.htm

      Hopefully this help!

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    • Jean-Francois Perreault

      Thanks Hannu!

      I’ve seen both the chrome and black versions and thought the chrome was the newer.
      Thanks for clearing that out!
      I’ll start my search again, hopefully I’ll find one in good condition!

      Thanks again, very appreciated!!

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  8. Kim Farrelly

    I use a Carl Zeiss Jena 35mm f2.4 MC, a Pentagon 135mm f/2.8 & a Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm f/2.8, all left over from my film cameras. The 135 is super lovely, not overly sharp by todays standards but really good although a little long on the Fuji X-E1 I just picked up for a very good second hand price. The 35mm is probably my favourite, quite a bit soft into the corners but good enough from f4 up. Adaptors seem good, made by some unidentified Chinese company but metal so they fit really well. I’m waiting for my dos to x one to arrive so I can put my Art and L lenses on it.

    I really am enjoying the fully manual SLR feel I get when shooting, if you know what I mean.

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  9. Hannu Siika-aho

    I have both FD 50mm f/1.4 S.S.C. and the newer FD 50mm f/1.4. The newer one uses FD bayonet mount instead of the older breech lock found in the older S.S.C. model. I have always found S.S.C. lenses a bit loose on the adapters.

    I have six FD lenses and three adapters from different manufactures that I use on my Fuij X. My experience is that the newer FD 50/1.4 is optically better than the S.S.C. version with less CA and better sharpness. It is also quite much lighter and smaller in size.

    I found this reference on the newer 50/1.4:

    “…The 50mm f/1.4 lens was used for optical measurements at various public institutions and is also the standard which determines color balance for the rest of the nearly 60 lenses in the FD series.”
    (http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/companies/canon/fdresources/fdlenses/50mm.htm#f1.4)

    I recommend warmly this one.

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  10. David Toldo

    Thanks for your post Anthony! Do you have your own sample images you shot with your mirrorless?

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  11. Brian Hill

    I am using a cheap $12 adapter on my sony a6000 but lose ability to control aperture. Is their a cheap adapter that allows you control of aperture?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      If you are using vintage lenses you change the aperture with the aperture ring on the lens. If you are adapting a newer Canon/Nikon lens that you need to get a more expensive adapter that passes the information from the lens to the camera.

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    • Brian Hill

      Thanks for replying. I am using a Fotasy FD-Nex adapter for a Canon 85 1.8 Lens. The aperture ring does not work. I have even done the toothpick trick to manually adjust the aperture without the adapter but as soon as the Fotasy locks in place on the lens, it opens the aperture all the way everytime. Its been frustrating because it is a great lens but is soft at 1.8 and I would love to use it at 2.8

      Just another reason I am dumping the mirrorless in favor of a Nikon D750

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Does your Fotasy adapter have the ‘Lock —- Open’ ring on it? On my FD-X adapter it has the Lock-Open ring so I can use the aperture ring on the lens as intended.

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  12. Ralph Hightower

    I have three Canon FD lenses: 28mm f2.8 and two 50mm f1.8; but I don’t use them on mirrorless cameras. I use them on Canon film cameras: A-1, F-1N.

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  13. James Rogen

    these hipsters are taking their mirrorless lens game so far. I swear to God i saw a photographer the other day with a toilet paper roll and 2 concave lenses stuff in there and he was lens whacking with that on his fuji

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