Updated 04/2022 with more sample photos (bottom of the page) along with my updated opinions.
Years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to vintage glass and all the wonders that come with it. He gave me his Canon FD 50mm F1.8 to try out with my Sony a6000.
Many years later, after shooting with a whole myriad of vintage lenses, I’ve come to love my Canon FD 50mm F1.8.
Out of all lenses I’ve used, I believe I’ve owned this one the longest. My photos and a complete review are below, read on!
Looking for just a quick summary before jumping in?
- Heavy-duty vintage build quality
- A pleasant manual focus experience
- Dirt cheap, even w/ adapter
Size: it’s small and light!
Firstly, if you read my previous review, you’ll know that I’m a big advocate of lightweight, compact glass.
The Canon FD 50mm F1.8 pretty much fits the bill, weighing in at only 10.8oz and 1.8in long (plus the adapter).
Coupled with the Sony a6000 (or a6300, a6500, etc.), this lens allows for an fairly compact setup. I was even able to fit it comfortably inside my jacket pocket!
I shoot a lot of street photos and tend to prefer a more discreet looking kit. This compact lens definitely fits the bill for that, as well. Using it with a small body such as the Sony a6000 allows it to pull off a very harmless, point & shoot vibe.
People generally are not as intimidated by small setups as opposed to huge, bulky DSLRs, which is definitely a positive when shooting street.
In addition, handling is just very nice, the lens is compact & light, making it very easy to hold and operate for a long period of time.
Next up is image quality. Despite the fact that the Canon FD 50mm F1.8 is older than me, and costs very little, image quality is superb. It is very difficult to put into words, but this lens delivers a very crisp, contrast-heavy look that I haven’t been able to replicate (straight out of camera) with any other lens.
Images are consistently tack sharp, especially when you bump up the aperture to f2.8 and higher. That being said, even photos taken at f1.8 look incredible, so long as you nail the (very thin) focus.
As for handling glare/chromatic aberrations, it does fairly well. You don’t really notice a substantial amount of chromatic aberrations, except for in extreme cases.
As far as flare goes, it does decently. I’ve found that a lot of vintage glass struggles with flaring, but I haven’t had any major issues with this one. You can’t shoot directly into the sun, granted, but it keeps up well enough with modern lenses.
Finally, the last subjects to discuss are: build quality, focusing, and, of course, value for the money.
The build quality of the Canon FD 50mm F1.8 is nothing short of superb. It is pretty much completely metal, and feels extremely solid/durable.
The aperture ring (yes, you have to physically change the aperture on the lens) is very smooth, and produces audible, satisfying clicks as you cycle through f-stops. The text engraving, even now, decades after the lens was produced, looks crisp & clean.
Focusing & Price
The focusing ring is fantastic. With it being a very old, vintage lens, there is no autofocus. Thankfully, the focus ring is big, spins smoothly and easily, and is just an overall joy to use.
Prior to getting into vintage glass, I had very little experience with manually focusing. In the month I’ve owned this lens, I’ve really come to enjoy it. As my friend states, it “gives your left hand something to do”.
I’ve found this lens very easy to practice with, and you can make precise focus adjustments without the risk of pushing it too far.
Finally: price. In my opinion, this is one of the best options for the 50mm focal length for Sony cameras. Sony’s official 50mm costs a good bit more whilst this lens can be picked up for roughly $50 on Amazon.
Granted, if you want or need autofocus, you definitely do not want to go with vintage glass. However, if you don’t shoot a lot of extremely fast-paced stuff, and have the patience for manual focusing, this lens is the cheapest, and greatest 50mm you can get for Sony cameras.
Of course, you’ll need to add in the cost of the adaptor, but they tend to be fairly cheap. In fact, you can pick up the K&F FD → E-Mount Adapter for very little on Amazon.
My Final Thoughts
Ultimately, after owning the Canon FD 50mm F1.8 for almost three years, I am now officially hooked on vintage glass. If you would have told me back then that my new favorite lens would only cost $50, I would have doubted that statement.
However, here I am, shooting with this lens daily. It’s chunky yet still fairly light and compact, making it feel well balanced when coupled with a lightweight body such as my Sony a6000. Image quality is great, and the lens manages to produce a very crisp, heavy contrast look that I haven’t been able to replicate with any other lens.
Update as of 04/2022: I STILL use this lens fairly often, it’s amazing! I even panorama stitch landscapes with it!
Build quality is another big plus of this lens as well. It’s beautiful (subjective, I suppose), the focus ring spins smoothly and precisely, and the aperture ring makes wonderfully satisfying clicks.
Overall, it is an absolutely stellar lens for the price. As stated, I’m hooked on vintage glass, I actually just picked up another FD lens at a thrift store the other day which I’ve also been enjoying.
If you’re interested in picking up one yourself, I’ve included purchase links below. Don’t forget the adapter! (do note that Amazon may be out of stock occasionally, I’ve had good luck finding vintage glass on eBay).
Make sure to check eBay as well!
Canon FD 50mm F1.8 Sample Photos
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