Review : Canon FD 85mm/1.2 L

Here is the 20s version : If you happen really really want a f1.2 lens for Sony mirror-less system, go for this lens. Beware of the weight of this lens.

This is a series of articles about alternatives lenses I've used and I recommend. The second lens in the series is Canon FD 85mm/1.2L.

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. I love to do portraits for personal albums and occasional wedding-photography sessions. Sony still had not come up with the Loxia and Batis line of portrait lenses yet. And I needed a portrait lens for my A7ii. And who does not like lovely chunk of glass with f1.2?


Why this lens -

When you hold this lens you realize this is a serious piece of glass.  Sample I purchased was in superb condition as can be seen from the following images. It is a canon L lens and it oozes quality and fine craftsmanship. And it is a f1.2 lens. You can get some delicious bookeh.

Poppy in our garden. Sony A7 + Canon FD 85mm/1.2L and Canon 500D diopter. Click to view large.


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 Novoflex or Leitax. The Leitax is a fantastic option if you want to stick to a certain camera brand for a while. I use novoflex adapter for all my Canon FD lenses. For this lens as it has aperture priority or operating in manual mode, just press the locking button to release the aperture to any aperture setting that you want. I've always used this lens in aperture priority to start with to check if it is mounted correctly. 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.

Click to view large. Canon FD 85mm f1.2 L lens.

Click to view large. Canon FD 85mm f1.2 L lens. Aperture setting button clearly seen.

As soon as I received the lens I decided to do some flowers photography in our garden. It was mid-summer and all sorts of flowers were in bloom. Good test for shallow depth of field this lens affords and also sharpness wide open. These were taken on a relatively breeze free evening which is near impossible if you live on an island called as UK. All shot wide open and using canon 500D diopter for close focusing. Bit of drizzle and over-cast conditions before the shoot helped to bring out the best colors possible.


What is Good -

  • Sharp as a Swiss knife. Even wide open. It only gets better stopped down.
  • F1.2 and the bookeh it affords.
  • Quality is evident.

Issues

  • I bought the lens mainly for portraits however could not use it as often I should / could have. I always went for the shallowest DOF possible at f1.2 or may be f2. It is very difficult to focus at this aperture. I missed few shots. I'm used to manual focus lenses including large format lenses however this is partly use error and partly "it is not a bug but part of the package" issue.
  • The aperture setting on FD lenses can be tricky at times. It also depends on the type of mount on the lens. My 50mm macro and 35mm TS lenses are different to this 85mm.
  • CA can be an issue however I could easily correct it in Lightroom.
  • This lens is heavy. It is almost front heavy on Sony A7 series cameras. Not sure how it can work well with Fuji.