Canon FD 100mm f4 Macro - Close, but not too close
I love macro lenses. I love vintage lenses. I love vintage macro lenses! I love how macro lenses offer up a whole new tiny world to shoot. Perspective is one of my favorite composition techniques and macro lenses offer a fresh perspective like nothing else.
You may have already read my review of the 50mm f3.5 macro lens, also for the canon FD mount. I like that lens quite a bit, but as I continued to use it, I realized that I had to get very close to my subject in order to take a picture at the closest focus distance. I started wondering if maybe, I might need a macro lens with a bit more reach. That’s when I started looking at the Canon FD 100mm macro lens.
Lets get the important stuff out of the way. This is a macro lens with a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:2 without an extension tube. With the extension tube, it will do 1:1 reproduction (meaning that things are projected on the sensor at life size). It has a maximum aperture of f4. It’s a relatively compact lens for a 100mm macro lens.
The build quality is typical of vintage lenses. It has a golly-gee-they-just-don’t-make-em-like-they-used-to quality about it. The focus ring is smooth and has plenty of movement from near to far focus. That’s one thing I like about this lens over and above the 50mm macro, it does much better as a non-macro lens.
This is a lens for the Canon FD mount, which is an older Canon film lens mount. This means that, in order to use it with modern cameras, you will need an adapter. Adapters are cheap and that means that, even factoring the cost of an adapter into the equation, this lens is still a bargain.
The largest pro in favor of this and many other manual focus lenses is price. I paid $45 for this lens including shipping. I already had a Canon FD adapter, but these can be had for around $10. I bought the Canon "life size adapter" for around $20. So, for the package, I paid around $75 for a 1:1 100mm macro lens. To put this in comparison, the Rokinon 100mm 2.8 is around $500.00 and the Fujifilm 80mm 2.8 is about $1,200.00. By comparison, this lens is an absolute bargain.
Next, there's the image quality. This lens is pretty sharp wide open and stopped down it gets even better. The background blur is smooth and isn't distracting or nervous. The other thing I love about Canon FD lenses is that they have a great signature to them. The images Canon FD lenses produce a great muted filmic tone to them. They are muted, but still sharp with a lot of visual interest. It's hard to put into word, but I absolutely love Canon FD lenses.
Regarding usability and handling, the Canon 100mm Macro is a substantial upgrade from the 50mm. I would say that the image quality is pretty much equal with both lenses, but the 100mm macro is much more usable. You have to put the lens right up on subject to get the closest focusing distance. When trying to photograph bugs, you end up scaring them off. The 100mm Macros allows you to be substantially further away from your subject and still get that macro look. This also helps if you want to use a ring flash to illuminate your bugs.
This lens also pulls double duty as a decent portrait lens. F4 doesn't sound like it's that fast, but at 100mm it'll give you some great background separation with sharp focus on the entirety of your subject. This is something that is missing with the 50mm lens and macro lenses are really great specifically because they can usually pull double duty as portraiture lenses. So, that's another tick in the 100mm's column.
I feel like a broken record when it comes to the cons on these vintage lenses. The heat of them is a definite con. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, modern lenses are much much lighter than their old school counterparts. You will notice the increased weight with these lense. There's the obvious con of a lack of autofocus, but, with a macro lens, manual focus might be the better way to go anyway. This lens is also relatively large, but no larger than a typical lens in this focal range. Ths lens isn't especially fast at f4.0 maximum aperture, but again, considering it's a macro lens, the aperture is okay.
Ultimately, I like this lens a lot. I like it quite a bit more than the 50mm 3.5 Macro for the Canon FD system. As I said earlier in the post, I love macro lenses. I think they are an absolute essential bit of equipment for any photographer's bag. Macro lenses are so versatile and open up such a huge world of possibilities that it's hard not to recommend one.
The Canon 100mm FD Macro is a fine macro lens and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to just about anyone who is capable of dealing with the difficulties presented by vintage lenses. The extra 50mm reach above the 50mm macro means you can stay quite a good distance away from your subject while still getting close. The way it renders light is absolutely wonderful. I love all FD lenses paired with my Fujifilm cameras, but this lens has something special about it.
Please check out the image samples below and feel free to let me know if you have any questions about this lens or anything else. Please also feel free to check me out on Instagram. Thanks for checking out this blog post.