Nope, not a typo. I have, in my possession a Canon 55mm f/1.2 lens with an EF mount. How? Well, many of you may know of Ed Mica, an engineer with a passion for photographic lenses, and lens mounts more specifically. He has worked to provide many mount conversion kits for older FD lenses, converting them to a more modern EF mount and while Ed has had a conversion mount for the FL 55mm f/1.2, I’d been waiting for an FD 55mm f/1.2 SSC conversion since I’d first heard about Ed’s products a couple years back. Now, he has a conversion mount for many different FD, FL and FDn lenses including my lovely 55mm. Not only do I now have an ultra fast semi-standard lens for my full frame Canon cameras, I also need to keep one less micro 4/3 adapter around which turns this lens into a 110mm equivalent lens capable of absorbing light in the near darkness for both formats… Examples and test shots on the other side…
If you have any FD era Canon lenses and current EOS era Canon bodies, I’d highly suggest having a look at Ed Mica’s offerings on Ebay HERE.
That said, today I’m focusing on the awesome FD 55mm f/1.2 SSC lens (using this adapter).
Using one of Ed’s adapters, you’re able to convert the lenses back to their original mount very easily, which is nice if and when I choose to sell, or pass this lens along. Ed has step by step instructional videos to remove the original mount, and replace it with the newer mount. I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous as I’d never torn into a lens like this before, but after doing it, I realize that as long as you have the proper directions and tools (small enough screwdriver essentially) it is very manageable, and even easy.
I’d acquired this 55mm lens, among other FD lenses via my local craigslist classifieds a few years back with the intension of having fun shooting some film as well as using them on my micro 4/3 camera (at the time the GF1). At that time, I’d also purchased one of the FD>EF adapters which included the optical element to enable the lens to focus to infinity.
While fun to be able to shoot these FD lenses on my 5D and 5DII, oh how does one put this, well, they sucked. The adapter was crap, and because of the sub-par optical element included in the adapter to enable the lenses to focus to infinity, it was like shooting through a dirty window. It was fun to shoot rolls of film on an old Canon F1, and they’ve been fun on the micro 4/3 cams by way of the FD>m4/3 adapter (you can see more about that marriage HERE), but I’d always wondered what this lens was capable of if properly adapted to a full frame digital camera, and I’ve luckily been able to find that out.
***One major caveat though in regards to focusing to infinity while on a DLSR, is that this particular lens, and some other older lenses may not play nicely with the mirror. Not great for either the rear element or the mirror essentially, but easy enough to avoid. For instance, if focused beyond about 25 feet while on the 5D, 5D Mark 2 or 6D, the mirror will come in contact with the rear element. The 5D Mark 3 will allow a much further focusing distance before the mirror gets involved (focused at about 150 feet), but something to be aware of regardless. You can see a chart for all of Ed’s conversion mounts on different cameras (the 1D series and the APS-C cams seem to have no, or at least far fewer mirror interference issues) on his Ebay page, (go HERE and scroll down). Good news, you can use live view to focus to infinity without any issue on any camera equipped with live view, just remember to rack the focus back to a distance closer that the interference distance before the live view either shuts itself off, or you shut it off which will swing the mirror back down.
So, with that in mind, one way to avoid this entirely is to use this with a camera that doesn’t utilize a mirror… A mirrorless camera as it were 🙂
For me, this is a portrait lens, or more accurately a more intimate lens in that I’m not looking to shoot distant subjects, but rather employ this lens to one of its greatest strengths in the incredibly shallow depth of field and immediate focus falloff that a lens this fast is capable of. Whether on my Canons or the Micro 4/3 cams, it is a beautiful, soulful lens.
Now, I have found that I can easily switch this lens between my full frame Canon cameras and my micro 4/3 cameras using my EF>m4/3 adapter and I’m loving it. While I gain the insanely narrow depth of field and the wider angle of view on the full frame cameras, I’ve really enjoyed shooting this lens on my Panasonic GX7 (and in fairness, did prior to the lens mount conversion). The tilt screen acts as a high resolution waist level finder and the focus peaking actually makes manually focusing easier than doing so though a big, bright optical viewfinder. I feel like I’ve gotten two lenses in one being able to adapt it to either system.
The lens itself suffers pretty substantially from chromatic aberration at the larger apertures and has a dreamy softness wide-open. The CA is easy to adjust for, and not in any way odd seeing that this lens is probably as old as I am, having been designed without high performance, digital sensors in mind. That said, if stopped down to about f/2.8, this lens is lethally sharp and most all chromatic aberration disappear. I’m even impressed with how sharp this lens is when I hit focus wide open on a subject within a few feet of the camera. It’s a fairly difficult task to do so as we start to deal with a DOF within fractions of an inch, but still, sometimes one can get lucky. This lens is meant to provide a unique look, and it does that.
Here are some shots from the same setup, showing both the relative sharpness when this lens is used on a full frame Canon 5D mark 2 and a Micro 4/3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7. In full stops, you can see the depth of field as well as the sharpness with each shot followed by a 100% center crop. The point of focus is 4.5 feet away, shot from a tripod with both cameras. Click on any of the shots to see them larger.
First, the 5D mark 2:
And, now from the same exact location, the FD55mm lens on the Panasonic GX7:
While certainly softer and more prone to CA while at f/1.2, I’m impressed with the overall sharpness, and really, when stopped down a couple stops, this lens on either camera is very, very sharp and also sees the CA handled well.
One fun thing to revisit, and a topic that can ignite interesting debates, is one on DOF. Smaller sensors have an inherent ability (or hinderance) to exhibit a deeper depth of field, correct? Actually, as we can see here, that is actually not entirely true. From a fixed location (tripod) shooting the same subject (bottle) the DOF is identical. The field of view changes as the image is cropped into, but if you cannot physically move closer to, or further away from your subject to achieve a relative framing equivalence (I say relative because your perspective will be altered if you change your position) a lens set to a particular aperture setting will produce a fixed DOF when focused at a particular distance, regardless of the sensor size it is recording light onto.
Everything is situational, but I do enjoy pulling this stuff out when online ramblers throw out blanket statements, and in certain, cases, a smaller sensor can offer a shooter an easier time of isolating a subject within a frame by way of the crop which will maintain, in most all cases, a higher final resolution due to pixel density as opposed to cropping into an image from a larger sensor to achieve the same framing. A little ammo for those online debates as it were.
All of that said and done, this lens like so many other, older (even some modern) manual focus lenses provide a more analog feel to the new digital reality. Auto focus is remarkably handy, but the approach and interaction for me when shooting with a manual focus lens is just different. Personally, it feels more intentional, more deliberate as I need to pay more attention, or at least I end up paying more attention to movement, composition and the need to anticipate these factors when shooting moving subjects. It has been lovely and a very welcome change of pace whenever I fit this lens to whichever camera it adorns.
Below are a few shots, captured as listed with the applicable aperture (where I remember it). Click any to see larger.
Breathing new life into older, arguably forgotten lenses is one huge boon to, and major reason I’ve fallen in love with the micro 4/3 system. Being able to gain functionality by way of adapting these lenses to my other system cameras is icing, and who doesn’t love icing? Actually I really don’t like icing as it’s too sweet, but metaphorically speaking, metaphorically I love me some icing.
Ed Mica’s new adapters (he used to make them from brass I believe) are solid and meticulously machined to achieve a perfect fit. Explained as a solid extrusion formed media (extruded composites I’d say), which is then machined on a CNC machine, it is a singular, well made piece that is built to a meticulously and repeatable standard. The conversion is easy and for those looking to unearth some older gems while being able to use them on newer digital bodies, you now have an interesting option. Go dig up your parents box of gear in the garage and for around a hundred bucks, you too could be looking at some brand new/old lenses for your Canon or mirrorless system.
Turning my 5DII workhorse into a more slowed down, analog-like version of itself reminds me of shooting film purely based on the interaction with the lens, causing me to be a bit more intentional from frame to frame. The files have a unique look to them and in my opinion are beautiful, plus who doesn’t enjoy shooting with an f/1.2 optic from time to time?
Thanks for the read guys. Go visit Ed HERE and say hi to him for me. I’m eyeballing a couple other adapters of his for a couple other FD lenses I have, and I’ll give those a review if and when I get to converting them.
I’ve got a giveaway coming up in the next post (or very soon) so sign up to receive notifications if you’ve not already. Not to spoil it, nor break hearts, but it won’t be a new camera unfortunately, …this time, but could be useful 😉
Cheers and happy shooting,
If interested, you can see more about adapting some of these older, legacy lenses to various cameras through the following article links, enjoy!