The Unique Lens That Had Autofocus Over 40 Years Ago

Canon introduced the EF mount in 1987, and it brought with it a number of innovations while ushering in the autofocus era for the company. Before that, though, was the FD mount, and while it had almost exclusively manual focus lenses, one special lens, the FD 35-70mm f/4 AF, actually had a very strange and unique autofocus system, and this neat video shows what it was like to shoot with. 

Coming to you from Kai W, this neat video takes a look at the Canon FD 35-70mm f/4 AF lens. When it first arrived in 1979, almost a decade before the EF mount, the lens was rather unique for Canon shooters, offering the chance to remove the need to manually focus — an experience that would surely be rather stunning the first time. The lens used a "Solid State Triangulation" autofocus mechanism, which used two fixed mirrors to compute the distance to the subject and pass focusing commands to the motor. And for 1979 technology, it worked surprisingly well! The FD 35-70mm f/4 AF would go on to become a popular lens, particularly given its zoom function and neutral focal lengths that made it perfect for a lot of casual photographers who just wanted to make sure they got the shot. Combined with the autoexposure capabilities of the A-1, photographers were able to automate a lot more than they were able to just a few years prior. Check out the video above to see the lens in action. 

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Jason Berge's picture

There were actually 3 FD AF lenses, introduced and confutable with the canon T80, AC 50mm f/1.8, AC 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5, and AC 75-200mm f/4.5.

Paul Trantow's picture

A 4-minute video jammed into 12 minutes. Youch.