The Canon New FD 50mm f1.4 is a compact, fast ‘standard’ prime lens that offers exceptional image quality and colour balance. The Canon New FD 50mm f1.4 is actually the reference lens that set the colour balance for the rest of the Canon FD range of almost 60 lenses.
|List Price when new||¥32,000|
|Angle of view||46°|
|Optical Construction (Groups / Elements)||6 / 7|
|Maximum Macro Magnification ratio||0.15|
The Canon New FD 50mm f1.4 is not referred to by Canon as a ‘Standard’ lens (as is the term for 50mm lenses, which most closely match the view of the world that we naturally have – hence ‘standard’), it is actually referred to, quite literally, as a ‘reference’ lens. Canon point out that the front and rear lens groups of this lens are symmetrical, an element of lens construction that not found in wide-angle or telephoto lenses. It is this element of construction that easily allows for large maximum apertures and excellent color reproduction. As Canon point out, ‘because of these qualities, standard lenses are regarded as a starting point from which to build a lens system including wide-angle and telephoto lenses’.
Whilst many photographers may lust after the legendary Canon New FD 50mm f1.2L (or the lesser New FD 50mm f1.2), the New FD 50mm f1.4 is described by Canon as their ‘most famous standard lens’. They describe its ‘excellent reputation for high performance’, adding that ‘this lens is now being used for optical measurements at various public institutions’. Perhaps most impressively of all, the New FD 50mm f1.4 ‘is also the standard which determines colour balance for the rest of the almost 60 lenses in the FD lens series’.
The high resolution and contrast are achieved using high refraction index glass ‘and a method for distributing lens power that suppresses spherical aberration and off-axis halos’.
Background and availability
The Canon New FD 50mm f1.4 is known to be very sharp across the frame, useable wide open and very good just one stop down. It is widely used on digital cameras because it is easily available and very good value for money – expect to pay between £50-100 for one, depending on condition and whether the slighly more difficult to find lens hood is included.
Performance and handling
The Canon New FD 50mm f1.4 on a Sony A6000 becomes a 75mm f1.4 lens ideally suited to portrait photography, in particular indoor work when you don’t want to use the flash. I use this lens a lot during the long dark winters and have taken the majority of my favourite photos of my young daughter with it. It is probably a little long to be used as a standard walkaround lens with a crop sensor, but it can function as one in low light well enough – and there are not many affordable alternatives around the 30-35mm mark that offer this speed and image quality.
The lens is light and feels well balanced on the A6000, and it might sound like a small thing, but the reversible lens hood makes the lens a lot more compact in the camera bag (a lot of manual lenses don’t have this). Focusing is snappy and quick and I generally have a high rate of keepers with this lens, even shooting wide open – which I have been happy to do. I’ve used this lens a lot for taking photos of other lenses, tripod mounted and stopped down to f11 it works very well and can focus just close enough for the job.
I’ve now used this lens extensively on the full frame Sony A7ii as well. Here it is a classic fast standard lens and reveals more vignetting and softer corners at wider apertures. Stopped down it is a good landscape lens, wide open it is great for indoor shooting and portraits as it maintains decent central performance. Balances really well on the A7ii and is very versatile as it does most things well.
For the price this lens offers exceptional performance and should be high on the list of any mirrorless camera user looking to dabble with manual focus lenses. The only danger is that it may start a rather addictive hobby.