The Canon New FD 80-200mm f4L is a compact short telephoto zoom lens, featuring both fluorite and UD elements and offering a close focusing ability of 0.95m throughout the focal range.
|List Price when new||¥88,000|
|Angle of view||°|
|Optical Construction (Groups / Elements)||12 / 14|
|Maximum Macro Magnification ratio||0.22|
Background and availability
The Canon FD 80-200mm f4L was one of the last L series lenses to be developed for Canon FD cameras as shortly after launch Canon moved towards the new EF / EOS mount cameras. It therefore is regarded to be one of the best FD lenses because of its optical maturity, whilst still retaining the solid metal build of older FD lenses.
Generally the Canon FD 80-200mm f4L seems to be highly respected as one of the finest lenses in its class and is known for being very sharp wide open. Indeed, forum chatter suggests that it is sharper than many Canon primes at the same aperture (even 200mm f2.8 primes stopped down to f4).
I’ve seen these lenses sell for around £180-190 plus postage on Ebay. Ffordes had a lovely condition one priced at £149 and it went within days (it was tremendous value at that price). I was lucky enough to find one in a job lot of Canon gear, the price of which did not reflect the value of this lens. If you can find one, you will not be disappointed with the image quality and given the rarity of seeing one for sale you should probably act quickly unless it is priced obscenely (remember, a used EF 70-200 f4L can be had for around £350-450 in good condition and features USM autofocus).
The Canon FD 80-200mm f4L takes a Canon BT-58 lens hood which is widely available as it was used on the FD 70-210 and FD 100-300mm lenses (amongst others).
Performance and handling
I have used 3 copies of the Canon FD 80-200mm f4L. The first copy had a stiff focus ring – focusing down to around 1.5m was easy and smooth, but anything closer became laborious. My second copy was very good and my third had a very small chip on the front element. Notwithstanding the issues with copies 1 and 3, the results I had with this lens are stunning, both on APS-C and full frame. Wide open the lens delivers lovely bokeh and sharp images that look to be delivered by a prime – even when the lens lives at 200mm.
Whilst not fast, the quality of the lens wide open is fast considering the quality – others lenses may have a faster f2.8 aperture but only perform as well as this lens at f4 for example, somewhat negating the maximum aperture advantage. Certainly, combined with the decent high-ISO perfomance of the Sony NEX 5N / A6000 / A7ii it makes it useful for reasonably low light work. The constant aperture isn’t really much of a feature given that many lenses of the same focal length in that period routinely had constant apertures as fast or faster.
The Canon FD 80-200mm f4L – like the bigger Canon FD 100-300mm f5.6L – controls purple fringing and other Chromatic Abberations very well thanks to two UD/ED elements, and it is these elements that set the Canon L series lenses apart from their non-L counterparts and lenses from most other manufacturers. Tamron’s SP range of lenses only feature low dispersion glass in their very best lenses (SP 80-200mm f2.8, SP 300mm f2.8, SP 400mm f4, SP 180mm f2.5) meaning the legendary SP 70-210mmm f3.5 whilst faster than this Canon will have more issues with CA (although how they stack up in terms of resolution and sharpness would be interesting to find out). Tokina used Super Low Dispersion glass in a lot of lenses (any Tokina ‘SD’ badged lens) but it does not appear to be anywhere near as effective as the twin elements employed in the Canon L lenses (for example, the Tokina SD 400mm f5.6 suffers badly from CA in high contrast and out-of-focus areas).
Whilst purple-fringing isn’t a massive issue with digital software that can easily remove it, it does add extra work and not every photo will be salvageable in worst case scenarios. Irrespective of this, the colours and sharpness of the Canon make it a pleasure to work with and it is nice to use a lens that doesn’t need to be stopped down to get good performance.
The Canon FD 80-200mm f4L has a useful macro feature throughout the zoom range (unlike the FD 100-300mm f5.6L which only allows macro focusing between 100-200mm). For most casual close-up shots this lens is enough to justify leaving a specialist macro lens at home.
Overall, this lens performs excellently with the Sony APS-C or full frame cameras and offers true L series performance in a reasonably compact format. I would not hesitate to recommend this lens to anyone – but good luck finding a copy as I doubt it is a lens anyone would want to part with.