Can a $100 Vintage Lens Compete With Its $1,500 Modern Equivalent?

The rising popularity of mirrorless cameras has reinvigorated the vintage lens market, with many photographers opting for far cheaper older glass used with adapters over much more expensive modern options. This excellent comparison video takes a look at the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM versus the Canon FD 24mm f/2.8.

Coming to you from Mark Holtze, this great video compares the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM to the FD 24mm f/2.8. No doubt, the EF 24mm f/1.4 is a spectacular lens, but at over $1,500, it is no small investment. On the other hand, you can get the FD 24mm f/2.8 on eBay for about $100, and adapters are cheap. Of course, you will make some sacrifices with the FD version: you will lose two stops of maximum aperture and some sharpness. Also, you will not have the modern lens coatings that help prevent flare and preserve contrast, and of course, the biggest drawback is that you will not have autofocus. On the other hand, FD lenses tend to have a lot of character, the 24mm f/2.8 is vastly smaller and lighter, and of course, it is about $1,400 cheaper, meaning if you do not need critical sharpness or autofocus capabilities, you might just be better suited (and dare I say enjoy shooting more) with the FD 24mm f/2.8 over its EF cousin. Check out the video above for Holtze's full thoughts. 

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8 Comments

Well bro, you ought to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. The FD lens to compare in this case ought to have been the Canon FD 24mm f/1.4 L instead of the plain fd 24/2.8. cs

Tony Tumminello's picture

Or compare the FD 24mm f2.8 to the EF 24mm f2.8 IS USM.

Mark Holtze's picture

I state in the first 30 seconds this is in fact an apples to oranges comparison "they're two completely different lenses". The price point being the grounding factor for many. Comparing the FD 1.4 24mm to my EF wouldn't make for a more scientific comparison, but at the price point it makes little sense seeing as the FD 1.4 costs more than the EF because of scarcity.

I really only compare what I have access to as well. Taking into account the differences in lens optics and design, the video still showcases how one compares to the other given the differences in variables :)

Just to explain my position when doing this.

Wolfgang Post's picture

If the L lens is too large or too expensive, and if one has APS-C sensor, then EF-S 24mm f/2.8 is the way to go. Small, lightweight, sharp. I can handle manual focus, but manual aperture is not my cup of tea.

Of course, two other Canon-brand 24mm EF lenses are also available: the f/2.8 IS USM at $440 at the Canon refurb store, and the pancake f/2.8 STM at $120, same. Since both are EF mounts the usual Canon EF to R adapter is all that is needed; you'll have autofocus, and both are more modern lenses compared to the old FD.

Seriously, between the FD lens and the pancake 24 on an R or RP, I'd go for the latter every time.

Tony Tumminello's picture

The pancake 24mm f2.8 STM is an EF-S lens though, so it's designed for APS-C sensors. You can use it on the R or RP, but you'll be in crop mode. For full frame coverage you have to step up to the 24mm f2.8 IS USM that you mentioned first.

Mark Holtze's picture

FD's appeal to a certain audience I suspect, coming from mainly a video background auto focus isn't an issue for me, good manual focusing controls are more important. It would be interesting to see how the FD compares to that EF 24mm F2.8 but alas, I don't have that lens to compare :)

I actually prefer to compare two lenses that have some differences, especially when the L series is "premium" and the Canon FD lens was fairly common.

I've compared the Takumar 85mm F1.8 to the Canon EF 85mm 1.8 USM lens and it was very close to looking at two identical images. Part of me likes seeing some of the charm and performances boosts and differences between variations of a similar lens.

Keith Mullin's picture

Love working with FD lenses. I wouldn't drag them out on a paid job (probably), but for my personal stuff they are fun, and have a unique character. This is the Canon FD 135 f/2.5 with a bunch of extension tubes.