Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Hour with the Canon FD 85mm f1.8 SSC

Yesterday I took the Canon FD 85mm f1.8 out shooting during lunch.  I have had this lens a while already but haven't really gotten around using it.  This is an amazingly compact lens for the focal length.  In fact, it's near identical in size to the FD 35mm f2 SSC, and about the same as the 50mm f1.4 SSC, but the 85mm f1.8 is slightly heavier.

Bike Bell -- NEX-5N & FD 85mm f1.8. Click for larger.

For some reason, 85mm lenses tend to be very expensive.  I think partly because most of them are quite fast with maximum aperture of f1.2 to f2, with a few at f2.8, or even f3.5.  On full frame, 85mm is a portrait focal length, hence most of the 85mm lenses have large maximum apertures to soften the background to make the subject stand out.

Autumn Leaf -- NEX-5N & FD 85mm f1.8. Click for larger.

From experience, most of the 85mm lenses are very good, especially the Takumar SMC 85mm f1.8, and the Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron.  The Canon FD 85mm f1.8 is also an optically good lens.  It's already quite sharp wide open.  By f2.8, the lens is extremely sharp. The Super Spectra Coating (SSC) does a great job of reducing flare as well as improving contrast.  The bokeh is quite nice with 8 aperture blades.  I would rate this lens in par with the Minolta MC 85mm f1.7.

Fall Colors -- NEX-5N & FD 85mm f1.8.

One of the best things about the FD 85mm f1.8 is that it's cheaper than most other mounts.  The Minolta MC 85mm f1.7 costs more, and the Takumar SMC 85mm f1.8 is now priced up the wazoo.  It's still good value for the money.  The only disadvantage is that it, and the Minolta MC version, can not be used on Canon bodies without adapters with correction glass, which also mean they can not be used on full frame.  But, they work wonderfully on M4/3 and NEX cameras.


  1. Thanks for the writeup on this lens. I am converting from a Canon XSI to a NEX 5N and happily will be using an assortment of older Nikkors and Russian M42 lenses.

    I am now dipping my toe into FD lenses and an 85 is a focal length I am after. It appears the FD is less expensive than alternatives in Nikkor or
    Takumar - so I am anxious to give it a go. My favorite inexpensive 85 is a Nikkor 105 2.5 AI (I have had a few and always under $100 US).

  2. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)