Canon FL Lens Series

1964-1971

We start our project off with the Canon FL lens series. While this is not the first Lens Series in Canon’s lineage, lenses from this time period are still very available today. Canon launched the lineup in 1964 to critical acclaim. One of the biggest hits amongst photographers was the super fast 58mm 1.2 first released in 1964. While the 58mm is available on the used market it’s difficult to convert to EOS and so we’ve chosen to avoid it entirely. However, Canon had decided to drop the 58mm and reiterated in 1968 with it’s predecessor this the Canon 55mm 1.2. It, unlike the earlier version, can be modified to EOS easily, and we’ve done just that!

Our 55m 1.2 was printed in 1968 and while it lacks today’s precise computer aided design, its very capable of creating a beautiful look. With it’s massive aperture and standard perspective it produces environmental portraits that radiate a very fine art feel. While the images certainly look high end, the cost was most certainly not. We picked up our copy from eBay for a mere $120USD at the time of this writing and converted it with the EdMika kit for another $99USD. Granted, our lens does have a few bumps and bruises and the focus is a little sticky (it is almost 50 years old). But, paired with the much more modern Canon 6D full frame camera it can really shine.

We should also mention this lens is quite antiquate, it was never designed to work with modern DSLRs at all. Due to this antiquity, you will forfeit modern bells and whistles when using this lens or other antiquated gear. For instance this lens has no auto focus and must be focused by turning the focusing ring. It also has no focus confirmation at all. We mostly employ live view focusing and will zoom in 5 to 10 times to acquire digital focus. For this shoot Ariel and I invited our longtime friend and Denver Stage Actress Melissa Jane Morris to strut the streets of Denver to create our specific 1968 fine art feel. She preformed wonderfully! Give her some love on Instagram!

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Purchasing & Converting

Finding a pristine copy of this lens can be a lengthy, if not impossible processes if you are looking for the best deal possible. Read more about identifying and purchasing canon vintage equipment. This particular lens is now in popular demand and has since increased in cost due to cheap adapters and modification to mirrorless cameras. Recently, a very suitable adapter became available and the conversion process is actually quite simple. The hack of this lens from FL to EF mount literally took under 5 minutes. You will need an adapter kit made by EdMika. As a fellow photographer he designs each adapter specifically for each antique lens.  He is bringing the classics back to life and we can’t thank him enough! He also has a very helpful YouTube Video to walk you through the conversion process.

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Environmental Portraits & Artistic Uses

This lens has incredible ability to render whimsical and ethereal scenes with its massive 1.2 aperture. It is surprisingly usable @ 1.2, however we found if used @ f2 or f2.8 it sharpens up like a tack. It also responds to flares in a big way! While this was probably to the detriment for the photographer of its day, today it’s quite welcome in our tool kit. Our modern high-end lenses manage flares and other artifacts so well. We crave for the power of the lens flare to help tell our love stories in a striking way. This lens achieves the look quite well, when shot into a very bright light source.

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Conclusion

It amazes me that while lens design has most certainly improved over time, the sole look achieved many decades ago is still very similar to our modern lenses of today. When paired with a modern DSLR full-frame camera this duet can create beautiful music. If you are looking to create something unique or expand your current kit, this lens could create a look you can’t live without. For the cost and the photos it helps to produce, we are very very pleased with this addition to our own kit.

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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.