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Canon A1 - Best Lenses?

Mike Hardiman , Sep 18, 2005; 10:26 p.m.


I'm looking to make some upgrades to the lenses for my current Canon A1 rig (digital still is a ways off for me, waiting for full-frame cameras to become affordable).

Right now, I have a 24mm/2.8 Canon lens which is excellent, a very sharp, and very bright Canon 50mm/1.8 lens, which doesn't get much use, as I find it is just either too zoomed in for landscapes, or not zoomed enough for other shots.

I also have a Vivitar (FD) 70-210mm Zoom, which used to be fairly sharp, but I now have noticed a lack of sharp focus towards the corners of the frame with this lens. It also has a bit of a coolish cast to it as well.

So, if there are any Canon FD users left out there, what lenses do you have that simply can't live without?

I'm tempted to go the zoom route, get a 35-70mm Zoom, and either a 70-210 or 100-300mm zoom (which I already read mixed reviews of on this board).

However, I've noticed my static lenses have been far superior in sharpness to any zoom I've had. Thus, I might look for a 35mm static for all those landscapes that the 24mm is just too wide for, then a 70-210mm telephoto zoom.

Any suggestions or cautionary tales on lenses to avoid?

I'll probably stick to true Canon, and bypass the third-party lenses.

Thanks! -Mike


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Ray Generoso , Sep 18, 2005; 11:00 p.m.

Mike, the 35/2 + 80-200/4 L would be what I would recommend.

Rick Hensil , Sep 18, 2005; 11:08 p.m.

I like the 85 1.8 and 1.2L. I'd recommend the 1.8 unless you really need the 1.2 as it is several hundred dollars more.

Mad wand , Sep 19, 2005; 12:02 a.m.

I second the FD 80-200 f/4 L -- it's very sharp.

kerkko kehravuo , Sep 19, 2005; 12:49 a.m.

As already others did comment, with a L-lens you can not go wrong. They are good.

Kerkko K.

Mark Wahlster , Sep 19, 2005; 01:21 a.m.

LOL I find it hard to figure out how to get along without the 45 Canon FD mount lenses I currently have in my FD Kit.

17mm f4.0 nFd to 600mm f4.5 nFD in primes

24mm to 200mm in zooms

tilt and shift and soft focus

I even have some lenses just because they look a certin way when using B&W film. or because they are the sharpest 90mm macro made in FD mount (a Tokina 90mm f2.5 AT-X). I have one 80-200mm f2.8 Tokina AT-X zooms just for stuff done in places like a school gym where you need at least a 200mm and a lot of light.

If you want sharp

from what you have said I suggest

35mm f2.0 nFD or S.S.C.

85mm f1.8 nFD great protrait lens wide open and very shapr by f5.6

200mm f2.8 IF nFD last version with diamond pattern rubber on focusing ring.

skip the zoom unless you can afford the 80-200mm f4.0L nFD a bit slower but every bit as sharp as the primes.

William Harrison , Sep 19, 2005; 02:15 a.m.


First of all, the site below is an excellent source of information; so check it out and bookmark it for future reference.


As to date, my Canon range of FD lenses are:

35mm F/2.0

50mm F/1.4

70 - 150mm F/4.5

85mm F/1.8

100mm F/4.0 (Macro)

135mm F/3.5

200mm F/4.0

One of these days, I will be adding the following:

28mm F/2.0

300mm F/4.0 (L)

and possibly the 400mm

Quite frankly, you already know the "problem(s)" with independent manufactured zoom lenses and the same is somewhat true of those FD lenses made by Canon. They do make better zooms, but "prime" (single focal length) lens are far superior - simply because they are designed for a particular focal length and/or a particular use - such as real macro lenses, i.e. the Canon FD 100mm F/4.0.

In years past, zoom lenses were also somewhat notorious for having either "barrel" or "pincushion" distortion, i.e. lines, especially at the edges, either barrelled out or pincushioned inwards.

You also have to remember that lenses are simply "tools" to achieve certain artistic or aesthetic or intended results in your photographic efforts. And if you don't happen to have the right or preferred "tool" for the intended job at hand, you can either walk closer or further away - if possible.

Besides being a Canon A-1 user for some time, I am also a long time Leica rangefinder user and have attended two Leica Photographic Seminars - decades ago. The leader/lecturer of these seminars consistently made the point to fully explore the possibilities of the lenses you have on hand, before you opt to purchase additional lenses. And that suggestion for exploration was to not only walk closer or further away, but to also bend your knees, get down to the level of your subject - children, for example, etc. Good advice in my mind.

For many reasons, I would personally stay away from indenpendent manufactured lenses, even though they might be cheaper in the short haul. In having worked in a camera shop - decades ago - for nearly nine years, there was a noticeable difference in the sharpness, clarity, image brightness, etc. between a Canon FD 135mm F/3.5 and an independently made 135mm F/2.8 - even though the later lens was supposed to theoretically transmit more light to the viewfinder.

So save your money, learn from your experiences, fully explore your lenses on hand, do your "homework", and then choose wisely.

Hope this is useful.


Jack Scown , Sep 19, 2005; 03:10 a.m.

Hi Mike,

I think the answers that you are looking for really depend on what you shoot, but having said that...

I have a nFD 35mm f2.0 that I really like. It's a great focal length, fast, relatively compact, and very sharp. It's on my cameras a great deal of the time.

Since I shoot portraits and do studio work, I use my 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.2L a great deal. Both are excellent in the studio and for low light portraits, and limited DOF work. One caution is that the 85mm is heavy. You don't want to pack it around if your not going to use it...

Another lens that I wouldn't be without is my nFD 300mm f4.0L with the 1.4 and 2.0X converters. It's big and heavy, but not as painful as the f2.8L version to carry. It has sufficient speed for me, comes with a tripod mount, and a lens shade. The downside is that it uses 34mm drop in filters that are getting scarce and expensive. This lens is tack sharp, gives great color and contrast renditions, and is fairly flexible with the converters.

There are some other lenses that I use from time to time, but these are the ones that I seem to keep going back to for photographing the things I like to shoot. The FD system is still a great system, and when you consider the value against today's autofocus prices, how could anyone not love them???

Good luck in your quest...

Cheers, Jack

dirk Dom , Sep 19, 2005; 03:45 a.m.

How about a macro lens?

I own both the Canon FD 100 mm F4 and the Canon FD 200 mm F4. They're great lenses.

For the rest I like wide - angles. The Canon FD 20 - 35 mm F 3.5 L is extremely sharp.

I take a Sigma 14 mm F 3.5 on every nature walk.

And you can have lots of fun with the 15 mm Fish - eye, which focuses almost to the front glass, which gives truly amazing close - ups!


doug nelson , Sep 19, 2005; 08:48 a.m.

Seems there's true concensus here on the 35 f2. If you want only one, get the newer bayonet lock version. If you're a true black and white afficionado, look for a breech lock with the CONCAVE front element and minimum aperture of f16, not f22.

I like the breech lock 28 f2.8 SC for its sharpness at large apertures and its near lack of barrel distortion. Another sleeper is the 100mm f2, sharpness of "L" caliber for hundreds less.

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