Focal length (35mm format equivalent)
Angle of view
Canon 55 (FD)
The beauty about vintage lenses is they are built like a tank. The FD series continues this tradition. It's amazing to me, because as stated in the headline, this isn't an L lens... Yet Canon made it durable than ever. If I had bought this when it released I'm sure I would have been more than happy with its build quality, but the reality of things are that vintage lenses don't always come in great condition. They aren't brand new in box, there beat up and old as shit... This lens fits that build.
It's not perfect... The aperture ring sticks, sometimes I don't even see the blades move. That's a problem if you're shooting street photography as it's very fast past, portrait sessions are a bit different as you can set aside some time to correct things, but even then the model or subject may get annoyed.
The focus ring on my unit was pretty smooth, I used the TAAB Focus Tab so there is a chance that this was the reason my experience was so seamless.
Using the FD mount was tricky, I use Fotodiox adapters, for the most part, I've had success with them when it came to m42 mounts in the past, so I thought it made sense to remain loyal and stick with the company that has yet to let me down... The adapter didn't suck, but it was hard as fuck to mount. When my lens did connect I was unsure if it was properly attached to the adapter... It may have been so simple that it just didn't seem reliable. Either way, this isn't the lens fault, it could have been the result of a cheap adapter, stupidity or just a bad design, I'm not sure.
The lens itself operates fine. Again the beauty of vintage lenses is how they are made. Most of them are manual everything, so accomplishing a task such as changing the aperture just takes a few turns to the left.
When I took the shot out on my first session I was a bit skeptical how the images would turn out. I've shot with lenses with a similar focal length (50mm) at f/1.4 in the past and it was dumb hard to get a sharp image wide open. The lenses would always have this hazy look to them and the temperatures were quite warm compared to other RAW images.
I expected the same, my first few shots were super tight portraits, I positioned my subject in a tree to test out the bokeh and I was extremely impressed by the results. I shot this on a crop sensor, so the fall off on these images weren't as dramatic, but still pretty good. I was able to get a good portion of her face in focus, and the foreground and background was completely blown out...
The bokeh itself is somewhat pleasing, it's not creamy like my XF 56 was, but it's... I don't know the term. It just looks a bit busy at times to me. At times I was able to make out what was in the background, but it had like this lifted 3D effect to it, it's hard to explain. It definitely wasn't a deal breaker or anything, but just something I noticed.
My favorite thing about it was the full bokeh circles it provided. A little Trioplan soap bubble effect.
On the streets, it was rather impressive as well. I often shot around f/5.6 and I had no issues with focusing or getting my shot. I almost enjoyed shooting manual focus better considering a slight turn to the left or right was all I needed to gain proper focus. Would I recommend it for street photography? Probably not, considering it's size and weight, but can it get the job done... Oh yeah!
On the secondary market, this lens can be picked up from anywhere between the $175 and $300 range... Is it worth the money? Yes. For a lens that can stop down to f/1.2, I almost think it's a steal... I didn't get a lot of time to shoot with it at this aperture but I honestly think it performed just as well as the modern lenses that I've previously own... Except you save $400. Does it have some flaws? Sure. You may get a bad copy, your aperture ring might get jammed, but if you're on a budget then this is the lens for you. I'd personally only recommend picking it up if you're interested in several different types of photography. At the end of the day f/1.2 can only be used in so many settings, so make sure when stopping down that low you have a reason for it.
If you're a street photography and a street photographer solely, then I'd give this one a pass. It does a great job at capturing moments, but for our needs, we can always go cheaper and lighter.
In my header, I hinted that this lens performs like an L... I'm not 100% sure if that's true or not. I just know at f/1.2-2 I was pretty impressed with the quality, I couldn't imagine an L lens or XF 56 producing a better output that garnered its price. Anyway, I give this lens a big thumbs up! Thanks again to Bryan Minear for letting me borrow it for what seemed like forever.
The Canon FD 55 f/1.2 is available for purchase on eBay.
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