Lens Review: Canon nFD 50mm f/1.8

SummarY

The Canon nFD 50mm f/1.8 is a small, sturdy, well-performing lens for an excellent price. Whether you're shooting an original Canon FD-mount camera (such as my Canon FTb) or a modern mirrorless (I use a Sony A7r), the cost-to-performance ratio is outstanding.

My recommendation: must-have, unless you can afford the 50mm f/1.2 L.

 

specifications

Length 41 mm
Diameter 63 mm
Weight 235g (8.25 ounces)
Filter Size 52 mm
Minimum Aperture f/22
Min. Focus Distance 45 cm (1.5 ft)
Lens Hood BS-52
 

compatibility

Canon FD lenses are naturally compatible with Canon's FD lineup of cameras. The FD system was first introduced in 1971 and was in production through 1990. Older FD lenses are identifiable by their silver breech lock design, while newer (nFD) lenses lack the silver mounting ring.

FD lenses have recently seen a resurgence in popularity because they can easily be mounted on modern digital mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A7r, with a simple adapter.

adapters

In order to use a Canon FD-mount lens on a Sony e-mount camera body (such as my A7r), you will have to purchase an adapter. As with anything, there are different price points, and you get what you pay for. 

If you do a search for Canon FD to Sony e-mount adapters, you will find hits for Fotodiox, Novoflex, Metabones, and a number of other brands and knock-offs. 

I have only personally used the Fotodiox FD-NEX adapter, and with great results. The adapter fits snugly and mounting the lens to the adapter is simple. There is a ring on the outer edge of the adapter that you twist to the right to unlock the lens and back to the left to lock it in place. I have had no issues with light leaks, and after using it very heavily for almost a year now I have never worried about my lens coming loose. I purchased mine in August 2017 for under $30.

usage

Handling the lens on my Sony A7r or Canon FTb is a breeze. The length, diameter, and weight of the lens seems to be a natural fit for compact camera systems. The focus ring turns smoothly with a proper amount of resistance. The aperture ring clicks in increments of one-half stops from f/1.4 to f/22.

I almost exclusively use a tripod when shooting, but when I do handhold my camera there is no concern for getting fatigued, which can happen when using larger DSLR lenses and camera bodies.

flare resistance and coating

My experience has been that flare resistance and the associated loss of contrast aren't the best. As much as I like using vintage manual lenses, lens coating is definitely an area where modern lenses have a leg up, in my opinion. This lens has a matching lens hood - the Canon BS-52. I can't find specifications for the size of the hood, but relative to the lens it looks quite large. I try to avoid shooting directly into the sun, but I have had success holding my hand to the side of the lens to reduce flaring.

In this example you can see how harsh sunlight causes a significant reduction in contrast throughout the image, even when stopped down. Flare is also quite strong, but the 8 aperture blades can potentially create pleasing star effects.

 

verdict

The Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 is an excellent lens, and is an even better choice when you consider how cheap these lenses can be had for. As of this writing most items on eBay are around $80-$100. I paid just under $90 for my lens in August, 2017, complete with its original leather carrying case, both original lens caps, and a Canon-brand UV filter.

The lens isn't the best at dealing with flare, and its bokeh isn't spectacular. However, as a person who primarily shoots between f/11 and f/14, those are features that aren't as important to me as resolution and contrast, both of which this lens is exemplary.

If I were to recommend an outstanding starter lens for somebody interested in manual lens photography, this would be near the top of my list. It performs wonderfully and it built to last. My lens was manufactured in 1980 and it still looks like a brand new lens. The body is primarily metal, and the focus and aperture rings are grooved and textured so well that you should never lose your grip.

You can shop for the Canon 50mm f/1.4 here.


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sample images

This photo was shot at f/1.4 from close to the minimum focus distance. You can see the very shallow depth of field and below average bokeh. Contrast and resolution are both very strong.

Mount Rainier.jpg