Test of Canon's superfast professional-grade standard lenses on Sony A7R II - do aspherics deliver?

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jarek leo
jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 902
Test of Canon's superfast professional-grade standard lenses on Sony A7R II - do aspherics deliver?
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I have just completed another of my "a lens through decades" write-ups - this time on Canon's superfast professional-grade standard lenses. Yes, I know, it's Canon again. I simply could not resist the opportunity of being loaned a Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Apsherical lens, which is extremely rare here in Poland. I added my own Canon FD 50mm f/1,2L and a loaned Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM in the mix and tested them against each other on my Sony A7R II. You can find the full review at my blog. It is in Polish, but I wrote the test summary in English. Photos have captions, which should be self-explanatory, despite different notation in Polish (e.g. Polish "50 mm f/1,2" translates as "50mm f/1.2" in English). Here is the link to the blog entry:

https://towarzystwonieustraszonychsoczewek.blogspot.com/2017/08/standard-wedug-canona-czyli-soczewka.html

Here is the test summary in English, which you will find also at the end of the blog entry:

Test summary

The test reviews three incarnations of Canon’s superfast professional standard lens over decades: Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical (manufactured in June 1976), Canon FD 50mm f/1.2L (manufactured in June 1984) and Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM (manufactured in August 2007). The lenses were tested on a Sony A7R II camera. The good news is that the speed of f/1.2 allows for low-light photography and good subject isolation against the background, and in right conditions background blur is pleasant. All three lenses are well-suited to human photography, as the rendering is quite flattering. The latter, however, follows from modest sharpness in the center of the frame, while good background blur is attributable to poor edge sharpness. And this is where bad news starts. If contrast is adequate even at f/1.2, sharpness is poor in the center and disappointing at the edges for professional-grade lenses. Once the lenses are stopped down to f/5.6, they become very good, but the same feat can be achieved with a much cheaper and more lightweight f/1.8 lens. Certainly, there are certain differences between particular versions, and if we need autofocus the choices are limited to a single lens, namely Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM. All three lenses have a visible barrel distortion, strong vignetting and pronounced CA, in the form of bokeh fringing. Technically, Canon FD 50mm f/1.2L is the poorest of the three - with the most pronounced distortion and vignetting and poorest sharpness wide open - but at least it is small and lightweight, making it a perfect match for mirrorless cameras. I would give a nod to Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM as the test winner, mainly for user-friendliness, ergonomics and autofocus, but in all truth the differences in optical properties are minimal at most, and in some categories – such as bokeh or sharpness in the center at f/1.2 – the oldest lens, Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical, slightly edges the other two, albeit on the other hand it is the only one in the test to display the dreaded "onion rings". I know that lenses with the red stripe and letter "L" are much coveted by some, but I cannot dismiss results of the test. My experiences in photographing with Canon FD lenses suggest that the New FD 50mm f/1.4 lens – which has no aspherical element – is technically slightly superior to the f/1.2 L-series lens. Of course if you need an f/1.2 lens, only an f/1.2 lens will deliver. But if you are planning to stop down the aperture anyway, you should think twice about what lens speed you really need.

 jarek leo's gear list:jarek leo's gear list
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