Canon FD 50/55mm lens comparison

Intro

Don't forget part 2 of the 50/55 comparison after reading this part!

The lenses in this comparison are:

The above links will direct you to my Canon Classics website (previously known as fdreview.com). You can find other users reviews of the lenses.

This comparison was mainly to see the differences betweern the FD 55 Aspherical and the nFD 50L. I added the (much cheaper) 50/1.4 to see how well it holds up against the two f/1.2 lenses. 

From left to right:
Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical, Canon nFD 50 f/1.2L and Canon nFD 50 f/1.4

All images were shot on a Sony A7 (24MP) on aperture priority in RAW and converted to JPEG in Lightroom. Sharpness and Noise-reduction set to 0 in Lightroom and at the lowest setting on the A7. The white-balance was set to 5000K.

Sharpness

I did three tests for sharpness; center-, corner- and refocused corner-sharpness. With the refocussed corner sharpness I only focussed on the corner. Since this isn't really how you take pictures I didn't add a comparison sheet here, but you can find the full resolution images at my Flickr page

I refocussed after every aperture change.

 Focus-point for (slightly off-)center sharpness.

Focus-point for (slightly off-)center sharpness.

At f/1.2 the 50L seems to be the winner on center sharpness. At f/1.4 to f/2.8 the 55Asph. seems sharper. At f/4 the 50/1.4 seems the sharpest. After that they all look about as sharp.

*update*

Below are the center crops of the corner test.  

Corner Sharpness

 Focus-point (green) and corner crop (red)

Focus-point (green) and corner crop (red)

This was a bit of a surprise to me. The 50/1.4 is the clear winner here at almost every aperture setting. It really shines at f/5.6. The 55Asph. is second and the 50L is third in this test.

Bokeh (balls)

I added some Christmas lights in the back of set-up 1. Lets take a look at some of those Christmas Bokeh Balls.

 Bokeh crop point

Bokeh crop point

I scaled the images down to 25% to get more than one ball in the crop. The 50/1.4 has the cleanest, uh.. balls. And they also seem to be the roundest at f/1.4 and f/2.0. The 50L has a lot of rings inside them, but are still pretty round at the larger apertures. The 55Asph is also pretty clean, but some rings can be seen.

Lets take a closer look. (different crop at 100%)

They are pretty different in size at the same f-stop. 

Specifications

The data below was copied from the Canon Camera Museum website. I weighted the lenses myself and the 55Asph is actually closer to 550 grams.

FD 55 1.2nFD 50 1.2LnFD 50 1.4
MarketedMarch 1973October 1980June 1979
Original Price147,000 yen90,000 yen32,000 yen
New Price 2015 (inflation corrected)*$ 2,900.-$ 1,150.-$ 485.-
Lens Construction (group)666
Lens Construction (element)887
No. of Diaphragm Blades888
Minimum Aperture161622
Closest Focusing Distance (m)0.60.50.45
Maximum Magnification (x)0.110.130.15
Filter Diameter (mm)585252
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)75.8 x 5565.3 x 50.563 x 41
Weight (g)575380235

Prices

The table above shows the original price in Yen. I converted this to US Dollars at the conversion rate of the year the lens was marketed. I corrected that price for inflation and got the New Price for 2015. I thought it was fun to compare those price to current EF 50 lens prices.

I also did an eBay search for each lens for completed listings. Here are the approximate average selling prices on eBay:

Canon FD 55/1.2 Asph. - $700.-  (I could only find one sold copy)
Canon nFD 50/1.2L - $600.-
Canon nFD 50/1.4 - $60.-

I did see a 50L going for around $300.- . So either this lens was in bad shape or the buyer got lucky. I only found one sold copy of the 55Asph. Most asking prices are around $1,000.- 

Size and handling

The older FD mount lenses are generally bigger and heavier than their new FD versions. That's one reason why I pick the nFD's over the old FD lenses. Yes, they are more plasticy, but most of them are still pretty well build.

The 55Asph is the biggest and heaviest. Almost twice the weight of the 50/1.4. You could take an extra 24/28mm lens with you. The 50L is about the same size as the 50/1.4, just 10mm longer. The 50L feels heavy for it's size. They all get a bit longer when close focussing (see pictures below). 

The focussing is smooth on both the new FD 50's. The 50L is slightly smoother and has a nicer feel to the aperture ring. The focussing ring on the 55Asph is hard to turn. This could be just my copy as I have other old FD lenses with very smooth turning focussing rings. The focus-throw is around 225 degrees on all three lenses.

 Focussed at infinity

Focussed at infinity

 All three extend slightly when close focussing.

All three extend slightly when close focussing.

 With the lens hoods on.

With the lens hoods on.

Note: I put the wrong hood (BT-52) on the 50L and 50/1.4. These are for the 85mm/100mm lenses and are a little bit longer. However, I didn't notice any more vignetting when using this hood on the two 50's. I couldn't find the correct hood (BS-52) in my collection.

 The FD 55/1.2 is quite a bit bigger.

The FD 55/1.2 is quite a bit bigger.

Closing comment

When I needed a 50/55 lens I always took the 50L with me. This way I had the extra speed over the 50/1.4 and not the weight and size of the 55/1.2. And it's an L-lens, you gotta love the red ring :)

But now I've seen my own test I think I'll pick the 50/1.4 over the 50L unless I really really really need the f/1.2. The corners of the 50/1.4 are so much better and I really like the cleaner bokeh. The other two are sharper at the center, but the 50/1.4 is good enough for me. Stop it down to f/2.8 and it's about as sharp as the other two. And it's about 1/10 of the price!

Mini disclaimer

This is my very first lens comparison test. I did everything to get the best out of each lens, but I still could have mis-focussed. Or maybe I have a bad copy of the lens. Please let me know if you get better results from your lenses tested here.
 

That's all?

No. I'll be doing a small test with these lenses for distortion, vignetting and lens-flare. And I'll be taking them outside for some real-world samples. And also getting some better bokeh shots.

Again, for full resolution images of this test, please visit my Flickr page. If you have any suggestion or comments, please let me know.

Thanks for reading!
 

Continue to part 2

Canon FD 50/55mm lens comparion - part 2