Classic Lenses: Canon FDn on the Sony A7

Canon FDn Trinity

I’ve put together a nice trinity of Canon FDn lenses for my Sony a7.Some of these lenses I had shot on my Canon 5D Classic using EdMika FD-EF conversion kits. But using the lenses on the Sony a7 is significantly more enjoyable. No more hitting the mirror with the 85mm f/1.2L. And the addition of focus peaking and zebra stripes for manual focusing and exposure truly cannot be beat by even the best focusing screen. All in all, I’m very happy. Over the next couple weeks, I want to give all three of these lenses more detailed comment and evaluation. In the meantime, click through the photos themselves for more–each lenses is in a album dedicated to the lens.

Canon FDn 20-35mm f/3.5L

Considering that it comes from an era when zoom lenses generally weren’t trusted to provide sufficient quality, this wide zoom is really good. Much better than I was expecting. There’s mustache distortion at 20mm (need to make a Lightroom lens profile to deal with that), but CA is fairly minimal and where it exists, it’s easily correctable. Resolution is good in the center wide open at all focal lengths and stopped down to f/8, where the lens is optimal and the entire frame looks pretty superb.

Autumn Creek Bed 2

Autumn Creek Bed 4

Canon FDn 85mm f/1.2L

There are only three 85mm f/1.2 lens designs that ever made it to production: the Zeiss 85mm f/1.2 for Contax, this Canon FDn 85mm f/1.2L (the 85mm f/1.2 Aspherical S.C.C. is identical), and the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L (versions I & II are identical). They’re all pretty spectacular lenses. Despite the differences in design and age, their performance is generally comparable. The FDn that I’m enjoying has plenty of CA wide open, but it disappears when stopping down. Distortion isn’t an issue. There’s lower contrast wide open, but the detail is there nonetheless. You can’t help but not have fun with this lens.

B&W Silhouette


He's from Langley.

Canon FDn 135mm f/2

It’s often said that this lens should have received the ‘L’ designation because it’s just that good. And that’s probably true. I think the lack of the designation is the result of the fact that the 135mm f/2 doesn’t have any of the more unique glass technology: aspherical or flourite elements. Even still, the lens is competitive in its quality to the 85mm f/1.2 and can create comparable out of focus backgrounds. Considering that you can get it for $250 or $350 on Ebay, it’s sort of like the poor man’s portrait lens among the Canon FD lens system. I paid $150 for my copy, but I had to partially disassemble it to clean fungus off a couple elements and remove some sand from the innards of the mount.


Holding on

Generally, this is an extremely satisfying set of three lenses to shoot with. I’m not sure I’d want to go backpacking with the 85mm and the 135mm, however. They’re fairly heavy and you don’t generally need that kind of subject isolation in the wilderness. Still, for event photography, they can’t be beat and I’ll be using the 85mm shooting local concerts in the coming weeks. The 20-35mm, on the other hand, while about the same size as the 135mm f/2, is significantly lighter. I took it on a training hike back in August and was just fine for 50km of walking I did that day.


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