Review : Canon FD 35mm/2.8 SSC Tilt & Shift

Here is the 20s version : If you need a modest wide angle lens with tilt and shift capability for perspective and depth of field control - here is your relatively cheaper option.

This is a series of articles about alternatives lenses I've used and I recommend. The third lens in the series is Canon FD 35mm/2.8 SSC Tilt & Shift.

Ever since I bought my first serious full frame digital SLR camera, a Canon EOS 5D back in 2005, I've been using alternative or non-original-manufacturer lenses. For Sony Mirror-less A7 series I've been using Canon FD lenses for a while now.


Why this lens -

 Sony A7ii + Canon FD 35mm/2.8 TS SSC. Click to view large.

Most of my work is landscape photography where having control over the depth of field via tilting the lens plane is of great benefit. Canon FD 35mm TS lens allows that at a fraction of a cost compared to the more expensive Canon FE TS ii series of lenses. Even though this is a lens designed and made in the 1970ies (1973) the sharpness you can and DOF control at optimum aperture is excellent. I've printed many images as large as 20x30 and find it a brilliant alternative. My favored aperture for this lens is f11 with both tilt and shift employed.

Operation

You will need an adapter to use this lens Sony or Fuji digital cameras. You can buy a cheap one off eBay however I recommend adapters by Metabones, Novoflex or Leitax. The Leitax is a fantastic option if you want to stick to a certain camera brand for a while. I use Metabones adapter for all my Canon FD lenses. It is a good idea to check if the exposure doubles or halves when you change the aperture, which is on the lens, manually. One can then move on to manual metering mode if it suits your style. I do.

I've been a long time medium and large format film user for landscape work. I particularly prefer 6x7 or 4x5 format for vertical compositions compared to the 3x2 which common digital SLRs allow us. This lens easily allows me to stitch 2-3 images to get a 4x5 ratio without any optical errors. Simply tilt for depth of field control using LCD screen as your ground-glass, then shift on each side depending on your composition and stitch later in the photoshop.

Click to view large. The holy trinity of Canon FD line for landscape photography.

A single frame of a test shot using Canon FD 35mm TS SSC lens. Front tilt was used to get everything sharp at f11. Please click to view large and also check the details crop from bottom left corner and top right corner.

What is Good -

  • Depth of Field possible at moderate aperture using tilt function
  • Mechanical and optical quality is very very good for the age
  • Tilt and shift to get your 4x5 like images
  • I personally prefer moderate wide angle or normal lenses for 80% of my work; this works really well for me

Issues

  • It takes a while to learn how to use this lens. If you are a first timer to the world of tilt and shit you need to give it a good run to excellent results.
  • Limited to about 5mm for shift in each direction; may not be enough for some. I have found it is best not to use tilt and shift settings beyond the white marks.
  • The aperture setting on FD lenses can be tricky at times. It also depends on the type of mount on the lens.
  • CA can be an issue however I could easily correct it in Lightroom.
  • Expensive compared to some other lenses from FD line or Olympus Zuiko for your Sony