Canon FD lenses


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Jul 29, 2013
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Hi all,

I recently brought a Canon AE-1 which came with a Canon 50mm FD 1.8 lens but after a bit of reading everyone it seems everyone agrees the 1.4 is a lovely piece of glass. Would you recommend selling the 1.8 and replacing it with the 1.4? I am a bit confused as to why the 1.8 can be brought a lot cheaper than the 1.4, is the 1.4 built any differently than the 1.8? Does the extra f-stop make enough difference to warrant exchanging the lenses?

I've only developed 4 rolls of film since using the 1.8 and I have been extremely pleased with the results so I am in no immediate rush to change the 1.8... just curious to know more about the kit I currently have.

Thanks for all of your help,

The Canon FD 1.8 and 1.4 are completely different lens designs. And, there are a number of variations of each as well. Both are highly regarded in general and I wouldn't worry a bit about having the 1.8. By the way, there is less than ½ stop difference between 1.8 and 1.4 in terms of light transmission.

These days "1.4" or faster lenses have become endowed with a certain "optical mystique" in the minds of buyers and are very sought after -- all out of proportion (in my opinion) to their 1.7 and 1.8 cousins which are often so close in image quality to the 1.4s that the difference of about a ½ stop isn't worth worrying about. The 1.4s were once pretty common but nowadays a new 1.4 is quite pricey which makes the older MF versions even more desirable.

IMO, the 1.7 and 1.8 lenses represent a great bargain because many people pass them by in favor of the "magic number" 1.4 lenses.

On the other hand, there's certainly nothing wrong with buying the 1.4s -- they are often of better overall construction and they certainly seem to be holding their value. Some of them are better optically then their slower siblings though the difference you will see in the final photos is probably microscopic.

Another thing to consider is: are you really going to shoot the lens wide open? If you do a lot of low light work then it may pay off to get that 1.4 but keep in mind that it's only about ½ a stop faster than a 1.7 or 1.8 which isn't much. Also keep in mind that most lenses are at their worst in terms of image quality when shot wide open and usually at their best when shot one or two stops down.
Besides a larger maximum aperture, some lenses just have a different design that can produce better (or worse) results.

I wonder if you're confusing the 1.8 vs 1.4 discussions about EF lenses...with FD lenses. One of the most popular discussion topics on internet forums, is the difference between the Canon EF 50mm F1.8 and the Canon EF 50mm F1.4. The main difference being the build quality and the type of focus motor.

I'm not sure of the details of the FD lenses...but I don't think the FD 1.8 is a cheap POS like the EF version is.

I've got an FD 50mm F1.2, but I haven't had a chance to use it yet.
FD 50/1.8 is a very good piece of glass and you wont see any difference until you will print large and even then film processing will be more important. But no doubt the word on the street is 1.4 is faster, sharper has better coatings. That all might be very well so as the 1.8 was regular kit lens and 1.4 was the professional glass of the time. If you can get 1.4 for reasonable price (some guys think too large), get it. But keep 1.8 as a backup, you never know, this stuff is 40 years old by now.
If you are happy with the 1.8 I'd keep it. I have the 1.4 which I use with my Sony Nex5n. The 1.4 was the standard for color rendition that Canon based all their other lenses off of and it is fairly sharp even wide open so it gets a lot of love. I got mine off ebay for $60, not sure what they are going for now. I think for every day use you won't see much difference unless there is some gremlin I don't know about in the 1.8.
Thanks for the advice everyone, I will stick with the 1.8 for the foreseeable future as I've been extremely happy with the results...

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