Vintage Lens: Canon FD 35mm f/2 SSC

For me, there’s a few specific things that I like in vintage glass. First, I like bokeh, and shooting wide open to produce effects in the image that may be different than you might get with modern lenses. Second, many of the vintage lenses (from the 1970’s and 1980’s especially) can focus fairly close. Many modern lenses can focus relatively close, but when looking at vintage lenses, I like to be able to focus close. This particular lens has a minimum focus distance of less than 1 foot. And, last, I like to be able to shoot into the sun with minimal adverse effects. So, for including sun stars and general shots toward the sun, I don’t want excessive flare, or softness due to the brightness of the sun. I’ll try to demonstrate how this lens performs under such conditions.

Canon FD 35mm f/2 Mounted on my EOS R.

First, what does the bokeh look like from this lens?

I would say bokeh is very pleasant with this lens. Pretty normal. I also think the lens produces some sharp images (if my eyes are good enough to focus). I like how the red flowerpot is sharp in the first and the second to the last image above.

Now, how does it do pointing directly into the sun? This will generally be better with lenses that have better coatings on the glass. Multi-coated will be generally better than single coatings at reducing flare and maintaining contrast.

Image shot directly into the sun.

In the image above, there is some flare from the sun, and brightness toward the light source, but I don’t think it’s bad at all. I doubt I would get much better results with a modern 35mm lens. I also like the bokeh in this image – very pleasing.

Now, there’s another effect that I like – that of the sunstar. So, instead of shooting wide open to create pleasant bokeh, I’ll stop way down to see how the light looks at a very small aperture…

Sunstar shot at f/22.

In the image above, I stopped down to f/22 and photographed the same tree branches, looking into the sun. The result is a nice, 8-point star, with some tiny spots of flare toward the bottom of the photo, but very minimal.

These SSC lenses were supposed to have advanced (for the time) coatings. I’m not sure how much better coatings are today, but this lens seems to be very good.

I’ve always read that Canon’s f/2 lenses from this time (1976-ish) were very good quality. I’ve never really shot with it much, but the FD 35mm f/2 SSC seems to perform well, and I would recommend it. 35mm is a nice focal length for walking around the city, for portraits, and for your next hike in the mountains. I’d like to shoot at this focal length more, and this lens seems provide the quality to get some good shots – if I can see good enough to focus sharply, that is.

One of the benefits of shooting with a mirrorless body is the flexibility you have to shoot with many vintage lenses. I’m just starting to explore more and more lenses, so you’ll be sure to see more postings about vintage lenses, shot on digital and film.

Today is a holiday in the US (Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday) so I’m sure I’ll be out experimenting with one of my cameras, and hopefully taking some interesting photographs!