Canon FDn Series

1976-1986

The Canon FDn series was released in 1976 and is the predecessor to the current EF line-up. Being the most recent of the Canon classics means that these lenses also happen to be the most abundant. At our studio we own two lenses from this vintage; the 85mm 1.8 & 135mm f2. These lenses do not sit on a shelf – in fact we love the look that they create so much that we take them to weddings & portrait sessions frequently. While these lenses lack modern features, such as auto focus, they are quite capable of rendering incredibly romantic and dreamy portraits.

These classics tend to display a softness that our modern lenses just don’t. Softness isn’t generally a favored trait of a lens, but for portraiture it works beautifully. We have converted both of these lenses to work with our modern EOS DSLRs. Rather than using a cheap adapter system with a piece of glass (that interferes with image quality), we’ve selected to use the Edmika adapters. Each adapter is custom designed to work with each lens, so  it’ll work with precision and accuracy. We’ve used these adapters on almost all of our classics and recommend them highly.

This duo comprises the perfect portrait range and the large aperture capabilities, combined with the rather soft focus makes for beautiful portraits. These lenses require manual aperture and focus control, this certainly makes them difficult to use during fast paced scenarios. However, when the action slows down and we can take our time setting up, these lenses simply amaze. We were fortunate to have local Denver model, Emily pose for us in this summer time scene. All of the example images were created with the Canon 6d camera, utilizing the live view focusing method.

004-canon-vintage-fdn-85mm-example
005-canon-vintage-fdn-85mm-example

Modifying & Using the Lenses

Adapting the lenses to work with recent DSLRs is a fairly simple endeavor. The 85mm 1.8 and 135mm f2 conversion kits from EdMika are specifically made for each lens and the installation walkthrough videos are very welcomed. In under 15 minutes total we had both of our lenses modified and ready to shoot. The 85mm doesn’t quite focus to infinity without crashing the mirror, so we are careful when using it. However, everything else works as expected and the focusing rings on both of ours turn quite nicely, despite being over three decades old.

When shooting with these lenses, the aperture and focus are acquired manually by turning either the focusing wheel or the aperture dial, respectively. Not only do they have no autofocus they are also lacking autofocus confirmation, which make focusing via the view finder fairly difficult with standard focusing screens. Due to this hindrance we tend to use these lenses in live-view mode only. For a more exact explanation of this method see this manual focusing in live-view explanation from Canon.

Canon-FDN-85mm-detail-1
Canon-FDN-85mm-135mm-detail-1
Canon-FDN-135mm-detail-1

For a True Classic Vintage Look

Attaining a romantic and classic image seems-at times-to be almost effortless while shooting with this pairing. The lenses recreate an ethereal look, while providing enough sharpness that finer details pop. Sun flares tend to envelop our subjects as opposed to completely washing the subject out. For this purpose we love shooting them into bright open sunlight.

Being older and lacking some of the modern coatings it does suffer from some artifacts. Color fringing is very apparent at open apertures, and will require some post work clean up when shot into direct bright light. But, the overall look is more vintage right out of the camera. The pairing of an older, softer lens with the detail from the modern DSLR sensor adds up a portrait pairing that we cannot live without!

Canon-Vintage-FDn-85mm-Example

Conclusion

If you are a portrait photographer and don’t need the power of autofocus this could be the perfect set of everyday lenses. However, if you shoot events, especially live events this is probably not a good consideration at all. We have modern versions of these lenses with all the bells and whistles, when we need the bells and whistles. Portrait sessions can most certainly benefit immensely from either of these lenses. We will typically carry along a classic during most shoots to add some diversity and classic romance to the final images. Consider seeking out your favorite focal lengths in the classics and see what they can do for you!

Canon-Vintage-FDn-85mm-Example
Canon-Vintage-FDn-85mm-Example
Canon-Vintage-FDn-85mm-Example
Canon-Vintage-FDn-85mm-Example
Canon-Vintage-FDn-85mm-Example

More Resources

Are you interested in learning more about this lens?  There are lots of great useful resources all of the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams!  We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.

Canon Museum – 85mm 1.8 specs

Canon Museum – 135mm f2 specs