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Need for speed for the A7-A7r: The radioactive(!) Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 aspherical.


The three FD 55mm versions. Image source: The asperical and latest FD 55mm1.2 lens is on the left.

Sony stated many times that they will not go after crazy speed on FE lenses. What matters is having top quality in a “not to big” sized lens. That’s ok for me, but what if some A7-A7r owners absolutely needs the extra speed? There are plenty of options out. Today I am going to tell you a bit about one of the lenses I just purchased to make it work on my A7r. It’s the [shoplink 22839 ebay]Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 Asperical lens (to find here on eBay only)[/shoplink]. I will receive the lens soon. Meantime here is a bit of history:

The lens has been announced in 1971 and was Canon’s answer to the Leica Noctilux. There are three versions of it. The first two non-aspherical (and very cheap on [shoplink 22851 ebay]eBay[/shoplink]) and the last aspherical version. That one is the lens I am interested in:

Erwin Puts writes about the aspherical FD 55mm 1.2 lens:

“Some commentators called the Canon FD 1.2 aspherical the best standard lens in the world. It is hard to disagree.”
“In 1971, when the Noctilux was still being produced and sold, Canon introduces their own version of an 1.2 design with aspherics. Presumably they could not stand the humiliation of being defeated by the Leitz construction, at least wide open.
With this lens Canon pulled all stops. See my report on the Canon design here. The Canon aspherical is wide open clearly better than the Noct 1.2. Especially in the outer zones the Canon is much improved and in the center of the image the Canon has an impressive performance, that surpasses the one you get from the Noct. Stopped down the Canon wins easily. Wide open at 1.2 you will note a difference in approach of correcting aberrations. The Canon has a very good image quality ove the whole picture frame, where the Noct concentrates on the center part of the image. Whatever the approach, the Canon design gives the better imagery, aperture for aperture.”

Mir writes:

Despite its large aperture, it is highly reputed for its high contrast and stabilized image definition at full aperture opening. Because of its fast f/1.2 speed, it provides high image quality in low light level photography.
Additionally, this lens incorporates the Floating System which enables aberration-free shooting at close subject distance. Thus, a sharp image is obtained through the entire focusing range. Therefore, the focused image through the viewfinder can be reproduced just as it is.

The crazy news on that lens is that the lens is actually lightly…ehmmm….radioactive! But there is nothing to worry about: Olypedia writes:

“If this lens worries you, DO NOT EXPOSE YOURSELF TO THE SUN! It’s much more dangerous to you and your film…”

Few more images and test can be read here: Comparison with other f/1.2 lenses at Presentation page at Image samples on Flickr.

After reading all these articles and watching many image samples I got mine [shoplink 22839 ebay]Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 Asperical lens on eBay (all cutions are here)[/shoplink]. I can’t wait to test it on the A7r and compare the results with the Zeiss FE 5mm f/1.8 lens which I will get within the next days (yes Sony Europe is shipping mine!). Get yours here at Sony DE, UK, FR, IT, ES, NL, BE, CH, AT, SE, FI, NO, PT.

P.S.: Feel free to contact me at if you have tests to share (or if you want to write a full article).

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