Lens Review: Canon FD 100-200mm f/5.6

Summary

The Canon FD 100-200mm f/5.6 is extremely cheap, rather slow and unwieldy, but is capable of yielding good results when the situation is right.

  • Value: This lens is cheap cheap cheap. Currently on eBay this lens is selling for less than the 50mm f/1.8, which was used as a kit lens for many years, and is incredibly plentiful (and a solid lens in its own right). You can find a good quality example for under $30 with no issues. Based on cost alone, this lens would easily score 5/5 stars, but because so many other FD lenses are available with better overall characteristics, I docked it two stars. For a little more money you can easily find a much better performing lens.

  • Practicality: Varying in length between 173 and 255 millimeters (6.8 to 10.0 inches) and weighing 765 grams (1 pound, 11 ounces), this is not a small and lightweight lens as so many other FD lenses are. Due to its focal length and large minimum aperture of f/5.6, it can be very tricky to get sharp images while hand holding this lens. This lens is better suited to use on a tripod or monopod, and in brightly-lit locations.

  • Build Quality: This lens is built like a tank. While it’s size and heft detract from its practicality, they lend to this lens a feeling of quality manufacturing and that it can take a pounding and keep on going. The barrel of the lens is primarily metal, while the aperture ring is made of plastic. The rubbery knurled texture in the middle of the barrel is easily gripped. Since the lens zooms by extending the barrel rather than twisting, there is a slightly increased risk of dust entering, but I don’t think this should be must of an issue. My lens was manufactured in December 1979 and the lens is still in fantastic condition. Although that may be because nobody used it…

  • Performance: The performance of this lens is simply not good, and not up to what users of Canon’s lenses are used to. It is extremely difficult to use handheld, it is slow, large, and lacks sharpness.

OVERALL 10/20
Value
Practicality
Build Quality
Performance

My recommendation: If you’re in the market for a Canon FD lens in the 100mm to 200mm range, you’d be better off spending more money and getting a higher quality prime lens, such as the 100mm f/2 or 200mm f/2.8. I simply haven’t had the best results with this lens.

specifications

Length 173-255 mm
Diameter 63 mm
Weight 765 grams (27 ounces)
Filter Size 55 mm
Maximum Aperture f/5.6
Minimum Aperture f/32
Min. Focus Distance 2.5 m (8.2 ft)
Lens Hood Built-in

compatibility

Canon FD lenses are naturally compatible with Canon's FD lineup of cameras, such as the FTb 35mm in the image above. 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 a 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.

photo quality

Although this lens can vary from f/5.6 all the way down to f/32, it is really only usable up to f/11. The comparison images below are 100% center crops taken at each full stop on the lens. Expand the image below and you’ll see that from f/16 onward sharpness noticeably worsens at each stop.

Click to view full size

Click to view full size

I think the most telling this about this lens is this: I disliked using it so much that I gave up while writing this review. In my opinion, it’s just not fun to use. I would definitely pass on this lens.