Canon FDn 28-55mm lens

FDn 28-55mm f/3.5-4.5

A few weeks ago I answered an ad
on Craig’s List placed by Leo who had
2 FDn lenses for sale. One of them
was this “new in the box” New FD
28-55mm lens which I acquired
And it’s a great little lens it is!

I say “little” because this is not a large
lens being not much bigger than an
FDn 50mm f/1.8 prime. But size
aside, it is a very capable lens with a
desireable zoom range for a
“walk about” lens.

This lens was first introduced in March of 1983 (the Canon Museum gives two dates for its introduction, March of ’83 and December of ’83) along side the T50 camera. It has 10 elements in 10 groups and the lenses are S.S.C. coated, although FDn lenses did not specifically say that anywhere on the lens. The iris has 5 blades and the minimum f stop value is f/22.

Canon FDn 28-55mm lens
Canon FDn 28-55mm lens
Canon FDn 28-55mm lens
Canon FDn 28-55mm lens

The lens came in it’s original box with all the packing materials including the plastic bags and end caps. 

The Canon FDn lenses did not mention their anti-reflective coating on the lens but all of the series received the S.S.C. (Super Spectral Coating) coatings (except for the 50mm f/1.8) which had formerly been reserved for more expensive lenses. On a fresh lens, like this one, the coating is a thing of beauty!

From the minute I saw this lens I knew I wanted to have it, and to use it. It has a solid feel to it and its size makes it well balanced on the camera. And it has that Canon feel of solid quality.

So, the only thing left to find out was how well this little marvel performed. As it turned out, it was really a little marvel!

In the Collection my lens is:

Collection No.:              L-200
Ser. No.:                        62717
Introduced:                    March 1983
Focal Length:                28-55mm
Aperture:                       f/3.5-4.5
Filter Thread:                52mm
Hood:                            BW-58C
Condition:                     New

So How does it Perform?

As I have said many times, I do not do rigorous lens tests (if there are such things). But it is fun to get an idea of how good a lens is and if it is useful for my extended kit.

My simple test consisted of two images, one at 28mm and one at 55mm. Both were taken on my Canon R with FD adapter. Each scene was taken at f/3.5 at 28mm and f/4.5 at 55mm and f/8 at both ends. That is four pictures and each was sampled at the center and at the edge at 100% in Photoshop. So lets get to it. 

28mm f/3.5

At 28mm wide open, f/3.5, this lens shows vignetting in the corners which is not that unusual. This can be dealt with easily in post processing. 

At 100% in Photoshop center sharpness is surprisingly good.

Here is the problem. The corners are dark and sharpness falls off quickly.

28mm f/8

At f/8 things improve greatly. Vignetting is almost gone and focus appears to be better right into the corner.

At the center sharpness is better but it was already good at f/3.5. Stopped down this lens is a performer at 28mm.

The big difference is in the far corner where vignetting is almost gone and sharpness is considerably improved.

55mm f/4.5

At 55mm wide open at f/4.5 the image shows some vignetting but not as much as it did at 28mm.

At 100% center sharpness is excellent.

The the extreme edge there is some fall off in sharpness.

55mm f/8

Vignetting is reduced at f/8 but there is still some visible. However, as expected, overall sharpness and depth of field is improved.

Central sharpness is still excellent.

Edge sharpness is improved at f/8 but still with a little fall off at the extreme edge.

Testing against a Modern EOS Lens

I was looking at these photos and was very impressed with the performance of this lens, however, these photos and talk about the performance is lacking any absolute reference. How does this lens compare with a modern EOS one? So I mounted my EF 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on the same camera and took the same pictures using, as close as I could, 24mm and 55mm’s at f/3.5 and f/8. Now we’ll see see how it stacks up with a modern lens.

To save time and space I am only showing the full frame once. Details in the several frames will be different but they were all taken at the same time in the same place.

EOS 28mm f/3.5

At this scale there appears to be little to chose between these lenses except there is almost no vignetting.

At 100% center sharpness is again good and only marginally better than the FDn

On the edge brightness is uniform and the EOS is clearly sharper.

EOS 28mm f/8

As expected the sharpness improves at f/8.

The corner is brighter and it is here that the superiority of the EOS shows.

EOS 55mm f/4.5

At 55mm even wide open the sharpness is superior.

In the upper left corner at f/3.5 the branches are much clearer.

EOS 55mm f/8

The EOS at 55mm and f/8 is in the middle of its range and it really shines. But you have to remember it is three times the size, four times the weight and fifty times the price of the little FDn lens.

Right out to the edge the EOS is uniform, bright and sharp.

And so what do we have?

What we have here is an excellent little lens. But, in saying that, remember what this lens was designed for and that there is no point to designing a lens to do more than anyone will ever see. Well, film has a resolution of, what, 10 to 12 megapixels under the best circumstances? Usually much less. It certainly was not designed for a 30 megapixel sensor! But the EOS 24 to 70mm lens was. However, to get that superior performance the lens is three times the size of the FDn, four times as heavy and way more expensive.

For film, for 1983, this was a great lens with an excellent focal range. And if you look at the images here that it took and think about your own photography, in most situations it is adequate for your purposes and mine. I will use this lens. I will use it to take family photos, to snap pictures around the house, for anything that will not be enlarged beyond about 11 x 14 inches, which is most of my photography.

I will certainly use it on my older cameras when I get the urge to shoot some film.