Using FD Lenses

I’m using FD lenses on my Canon T3i and loving it!

A little bit ago I discovered that there are finally several companies making adaptors for the old Canon FD lenses to fit them on to EOS bodies. Up until then I had only heard rumors that at one time Canon made a few but finding them was next to impossible and they were around $1000. Recently I did run across one on EBAY and it was $1000. However, I got mine for $34.50 on Ebay.

If you’re a Nikon user that first part doesn’t apply to you as Nikon never changed mounts on their Nikkor lenses and you’ve been able to use this great old glass all along.

My original goal for using FD lenses was to find a nice fast wide angle for shooting starscapes. I was thinking that when you use a $700 wide angle for this you start by turning off about $650 worth of electronics. #1 Tripod, so off goes the image stablizer (vibration reduction). #2 Next off goes the auto focus. So, why not just get a nice old FD lens without all that stuff on the cheap?

I did a lot of research on Ebay looking at FD lenses and learning a lot about quality, coatings, Spectra Coating (S.C) vs. Super Spectra Coating S.S.C., other manufactures and their levels of quality, like Vivitar, Vivtar Series I, Tamron Adaptall etc. I learned a lot. For instance a 50MM 1.8 is nice but a 1.4 is worth more. A 50MM 1.4 S.C. is not worth as much as a 50MM 1.4 S.S.C.

My first FD lens I found in a pawnshop. Usually pawnshops are not a super deal on camera gear (at least the ones on Bend) but way in the back on a shelf I saw a small FD lens. When the guy handed it off to me I took the cap off (and a cap is a plus) and saw 50MM 1.4 and those blessed red letters…S.S.C. This lens in nice shape, no fungus, which at this point is one of the only things I watch for unless there are obvious dings and gouges on the rim and/or badly scratched glass.

Carrying a little pocket LED light will help you with the Flashlight Test….easy to do. Ken Rockwell’s article on this is quite good.

Anyway, this lens was marked at $49 and I knew it was a nice lens worth at least $100 and since there was a sign that said they would take offers. I offered $40 and walked out with my first FD lens. I do a lot of studio work for stock images so a nice 50MM with s shallow DOF would be a lot of fun. It should also be a great lens for shooting bokehs. (Yes it is.) It was almost another week before my adaptor arrived.

One of my first images using FD lenses I took out birding. I remembered from my teenage days and fascination with sunlight on the ocean, that these lenses do wonderful things with sparkly light so I cranked the f-stop up to the max f22 and shot the water on Haystack Reservoir….and it did just what I remembered it would do. STARS!

Next, I also scooped up a Vivitar 28MM 2.5 FD. A tad faster than the 2.8, and this one looked pristine. (Which, as you can see, it turned out to be.) A lot of these lenses are new in box etc because until those adapters came out they were for the most part, paperweights.

I bought this pristine Vivitar 28MM 2.5 FD for star shooting. I paid $39.99 on Ebay. Since then, we’ve had storm after storm but one morning I work up at 5:30AM and saw a few stars peeking through a light layer of fog and did a small test run using FD lenses for the stars. I think it’s going to be amazing. I was pleased it caught that meteor.

I finally caught a night with some wind. It was stormy but there were stars! I'm happy with the possibilities of this lens, however at 25 seconds there was a fair amount of trailing....It made me go in and start shopping for a 20MM 2.8!

This is one of my more recent images I took with the Vivitar on the beach. I'm getting more familiar with it and am still pretty happy!

So far I am finding that Vivitar 28MM to somehow be my all around lens. It is not too wide, super fast and amazingly clear. Here are some shots I got in very low light, hand held on a rainy night at the shopping center.

...and more playing around with f22 and the lights in the trees at a 10 second exposure. This next one I was using FD lenses on a tripod and no wind. I went back the next night and the wind was enough to make a problem.

Since I do a fair amount of stock photography, and bokehs are big I took both fast lenses out on a bokeh hunt. Why both lenses? Isn’t using one FD lens about the same as another? Well, good questions…..The answer is no.

The 28MM is wider and so the bokehs are smaller. These are from the trees outside. The first is from the Vivitar FD 28MM 2.5.

This next is in the same spot with the Canon FD 50MM 1.4.

These are from a crystal chandelier in a store, again with the Vivitar FD 28MM 2.5.

These last are actually my first bokeh attempts using an FD lens from the streets of Portland from a high rise downtown with the Canon FD 50MM 1.4.

What do people do with bokeks?

Stuff like this. Here is a composite image. I shot both images with the Vivitar FD 28MM 2.5 lens. The bokeh at f2.8 in the shopping center and the candle at f22 in the studio and blended them in Photoshop.

What’s next? I just bought a Kenko Teleplus 3X Teleconverter Lens for Canon FD lenses.

I have my eye on a Sigma FD 400MM 5.6……That with the teleconverter would let me shoot the mites on the feathers on a birdy.

One of the things I like the most about using FD lenses? I love the aperture ring right out on the lens. As you slide it around you see the results right away. I now wish my EF lenses were like that....and sometimes get confused when they're not.

Since I really also want to learn how to clean and repair my own FD lenses I also bought a few parts lenses and a training video from the 70’s put out by Canon for training.

I’ll keep you posted!


Let me say a little about adaptors. There are adaptors out there with optics (glass) and some without. If you buy one without optics, your lens will not focus out to infinity.

There are some out there that are in the $100 range that have focus confirmation circuitry. I might upgrade at some point.

I was able to put the 50MM FD 1.4 S.S.C on the adaptor and then use extension rings for some fun macro shooting.

Of you do this with a long lens and a telextender you can get some serious distance!

(Really I just wanted to see if all my new toys would play together.)

Having way too much fun using FD lenses!

Flickr Group For People Using FD Lenses(FD to EOS)

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