Replacing (GASP!) My FD System : LUSENET : Canon FD : One Thread

Like you, my Canon A1 and related FD lenses are about two decades old. I noticed, sadly, that I'm getting sharper and better saturated images from my little Leica point-and-shoot. Which made me wonder whether my old system is one with less than current class A optics. So:

Can anyone tell me:

1. How good or bad are FD lenses? 2. If you wanted to step up, but remain in the MANUAL world, what current system would you choose? Why? 3. Are there any on-the-web tests of FD lenses versus, say, newer Canon autofocus, or Nikon autofocus, or Leica manual focus, or other manual focus?

Help is certainly appreciated.

-- Howard Blumenthal (, January 28, 2001


1.) Can I say that Canon's best is still very good, but other's best can be better in one or more instances?

I have a number of Canon FD lenses (fixed & zoom) and feel they were among the best in the 70's & 80's for sharpness and smoothness of images. Technology marches on though and things do improve, especially in the area of zooms and wide angles.

IMHO Canon was never really noted for contrast and snappiness except for some of late FDs such as the 50/1.4 & 80-200/4L (among others). I feel this is a result of the coating and internal lens design. The SSC coating was not as good as Pentax's SMC or Nikon's NIC. When I try out a Nikon or Pentax camera or see images made with SMC.NIC, I think the images have more contrast than with a Canon. I also found that their lenses are more resistant to flare - I don't have to shield the front element as much.

Actually, most any point and shoot with a simple prime lens and a lens hood will produce images like the Leica. It may not have the resolution but the contrast is there. Back to Canon - the 50/3.5 macro is very simple, has excellent baffling and will knock your socks off when used with the right film. The resolution and contrast is astounding! From personal experience the other 2 lenses above are similar but not quite as good.

2.) A good question for which I have no answer. I like manual photography with precision tools. (I use a Rollei SL66 for B&W). Canon FD serves my needs now even though the optics are not state of the art. I am more concerned about service & my eyesight possibly degrading so in the future I may consider AF. Digital photography has certain appealing advantages and to me, a system should address them.

3.) There is not one single site that has the info you desire. I've collected various bits, played with various cameras and lenses here and there and formed a mental image of Canon FD vis-a-vis others and have some personal opinions that I think are backed up by experience. These are opinion though. (Also note - since I haven't shot Leica or Contax I haven't commented on their performance.)

-- Duane K (, January 29, 2001.

Have you thought of just upgrading your FD lenses with better FD lenses than the ones you have? They are plentiful and not terribly expensive on the used market (for a sampling of availability and prices, try KEH at If you already have a system you like with lots of capability, that might be a better move than switching to a new system, say, with only one or two lenses (unless, of course, cost is not a factor).

-- David Goldfarb (, January 29, 2001.

If your lenses are clean, no fog, they should performe fine to 16x20, on prime lenses, but certanly not the brlliance of leitz lenses. I love my 20/2.8 FD, not so much the 50/1.4 FD.

-- R. Watson (, February 09, 2001.

Consider having your FD lenses internally cleaned. I just recently sent in my FD 50mm F1.2 for a complete checkup, because, I too, was not getting good results. What was discovered, upon close inspection was that 25 years of debris/haze had accumulated on the internal glass causing a loss of contrast. I had inspected the lens closely before sending it in but I could not see the haze, just its' affects loss of contrast etc., on my pictures.

For my uses at least, FD lenses are excellent and inexpensive in comparison to lenses made today. I would not consider purchasing newer lenses, unless I could see a big difference.

Now that I have had this one lens cleaned and adjusted to specs for a minimal cost, all the rest of my lenses are getting a bath as well!

-- E Gendreau (, February 15, 2001.

If your FD lenses were not made by Canon, then this is your problem. Genuine used Canon FD lenses are low cost.

-- funrich (, March 01, 2001.

I have been asking myself some of these questions recently and will chip in my 2 cents.

I use the A1 with the 50mm F1.4 and with the right film get superb results.

So firstly check your film and more importantly your developer. I recently switched from Kodak to Fuji 200 Superior and NPS160 and the shop I was using. The difference was staggering. My shots went from being washed out to punchy, and I thought it was my lens. I may try some of the Kodak films again at a different lab.

Secondly, I was given an EOS to toy with at a wedding where I was using the A1. My old 50 gave superior shots, several reasons for this, but the old FD stuff still kicks.

Third, the question we all ask. Should I switch? The FD bodies are getting on. IF I was going to switch it would be to Nikon. You can buy their bodies new. I picked one up recently in a shop and loved the crisp shutter sound. Am i switching? Not yet. My A1 has plenty of life in it and switching is really expensive. But if I had to Nikon would have to be it. A shame Olympus stepped out of the picture. If they were still committed to SLRs I would seriously consider switching back to them. nothing like the OM4.

Hope this helps. just take your time. No sense in rushing out an making an impulsive (and expensive) mistake.

-- Grant Corban (, March 06, 2001.

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