The 5 Best Canon A-1 Lenses

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: March 27, 2020
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Best Canon A-1 35mm Film Camera Lenses

The Canon A-1 along with the Canon T90, is the highest-end FD mount camera. If you don't have a lens or want a new lens, this article will cover the top 5 lenses to use with your Canon A-1.

More details are further down, however here's the list if you are in a hurry:

  1. Kit Lens - Canon FD 50mm f/1.8
  2. Wide Angle Lens - Canon FD 28mm f/3.5
  3. Portrait Lens - Canon FD 100mm f/2.8
  4. Zoom Lens - Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5
  5. Macro Lens - Vivitar 90mm f/2.8

Below the top Canon FD camera lenses, are broken down by type of photography and value. A lot of excellent camera lenses readily available, several are even collectible.

Kit Lens and Standard Primes

Canon FD 50mm f/1.8

If you don't already have it, your first lens should be the original "kit lens" for the A-1, the Canon FD 50mm f/1.8. The 50mm f1.8 is cheap, plentiful, and has very good image quality.

Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 Camera Lens

Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 Lens

  • The "classic" setup as it can be considered the original kit lens.
  • Phenomenal value.
  • Light and compact.
  • Widely available in good condition.
  • 55mm filter threads.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

For the 50mm focal length of photography, a 50mm lens is a very good choice. The aspects of photography encompass landscapes, portraits, street, architecture, casual use, and travel. This is the most common focal length that is paired with the Canon A-1.

It is a light, small, and well-balanced lens. The lenses weigh anywhere from 170-305g, with older versions being heavier. If you want the lightest lens, look for a new FD version.

Canon FD 50mm f/1.4

Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 Lens

Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 Lens

  • Outstanding optics.
  • Optical multi-coatings.
  • Widely available.
  • Be on the lookout for condition issues.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 is 2/3 of a stop faster, but that comes at the cost of additional weight. While it is more expensive than the f/1.8, the cost increase isn't that large.

What you need to be careful about with this lens, is the condition. For whatever reason I have come across more problems with haze, fungus, and tight focus rings than I see with 50mm f/1.8 lenses.

You'll be able to find 4 different copies of the 50mm f/1.4. The "new FD" variant is the newest and lightest, which makes it the best choice.

Canon FD 50mm f/1.2

Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 Lens

  • Has a large maximum aperture.
  • Large and heavy.
  • Not a good value.
  • Hard to find in good condition.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

This lens is large, hefty, and hard to focus. Shot wide open, photographs will not be sharp and due to the very small depth-of-field, the lens will be very difficult to focus correctly, which negates any shutter speed advantage from the fast maximum aperture.

Stopped down, you're not going to see a noticeable difference in photo quality between it and the f/1.8 or f/1.4. The metering system in the A-1 won't even take advantage of the faster aperture. The sole advantage is that the Canon A1 viewfinder will be slightly brighter than the alternatives.

The main draw is the relative rarity and collectibility of the 50mm f/1.2 as the two versions are the fastest lenses available for the Canon FD system.

Alternative Standard Lenses

If the 50mm focal length isn't what you prefer, here are some other possible choices. You should expect to spend a greater amount than you would for a 50mm of similar speed.

Canon FD 35mm f/2 SSCAmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Canon FD 35mm f/2.8AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Canon FD 35mm f/3.5AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Canon FD 55mm f/1.2AmazoneBayKEHAdorama

Wide Angle Lens

Canon FD 28mm f/3.5

Canon FD 28mm f/3.5 Lens

Canon FD 28mm f/3.5 Lens

  • Great combination with a 50mm lens.
  • Available in good condition.
  • Reasonably priced.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The problem with the 28mm f/2.8 and 28mm f/2 is that they are very difficult to find in good usable condition. Your best bet for those lenses is to purchase one from Japan, but then shipping can become a headache.

Potentially the slower aperture could be an issue if you intend to use it with the A-1 in most of the automatic shooting modes. With aperture priority you won't have any problems. In shutter speed priority mode or program mode, in low light the aperture may not be fast enough.

Be sure to use film with a fast enough ISO in the Canon A-1 for the conditions you intend to shoot in. If you're out during the day shooting landscapes or street photography, film speed shouldn't be an issue.

For interior architectural photography, you might want to use a tripod and a cable shutter release. That would also hold true for the faster 28mm lenses.

Alternative Wide Angle Lenses

In terms of cost, the relationship is simple. The larger the field of view, the more expensive the lens ıs going to be. Larger apertures also go for a whole lot more.

Weight will differ based on the characteristics of the lens. You will see lenses from 170g to 500g. Faster apertures will also mean that those lenses will be bulky and cause the camera to be front heavy.

Canon 7.5mm f/5.6 FisheyeCanon 24mm f/1.4
Canon 14mm f/2.8LCanon 24mm f/2
Canon 15mm f/2.8Canon 24mm f/2.8
Canon 17mm f/4Canon 28mm f/2
Canon 20mm f/2.8Canon 28mm f/2.8

Portrait & Telephoto Lens

Canon FD 100mm f/2.8

Canon 100mm f/2.8 FD Mount Camera Lens

Canon FD 100mm f/2.8 Lens

  • 85mm alternative.
  • Great value.
  • Inexpensive and easy to find.
  • Light and compact.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The 85mm lens wasn't as significant in 1978 when the A-1 was initially made available. Rather, the 100mm and 135mm focal lengths were more commonly used for portraits. This is in part because they were less expensive and easier to manufacture as they contain fewer lens elements than their 85mm contemporaries.

If you want to take portrait photos with the Canon A-1, there are a bunch of short telephoto options. The 100mm f/2.8 lens has the advantage of being widely available and inexpensive. You're also not going to have to use as fast of shutter speeds to avoid camera shake as you would with a 135mm.

An 85mm will have the highest price, with 135mm options coming in the middle of the price range.

Alternative Telephoto Lenses

An alternative option, the Canon FD 135mm f/2.8 is among the most affordable prime lenses you can find. You will need to dig through a good number of results for third-party 135mm lenses that have significantly lower image quality than Canon.

You will find several 85mm lenses to pick from. The highest-priced is the Canon FD f/1.2L lens. A less pricey choice is the Canon FD 85mm f/1.8 lens, but it will be relatively more expensive when compared to the numerous other telephoto lenses in this article.

Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 LCanon FD 85mm f/1.8
Canon FD 100mm f/2Canon FD 135mm f/2.5
Canon FD 200mm f/2.8Canon FD 200mm f/4
Canon FD 300mm f/2.8Canon FD 300mm f/4
Canon FD 400mm f/2.8Canon FD 400mm f/4.5
Canon FD 500mm f/4.5Canon FD Reflex 500mm f/8
Canon FD 600mm f/4.5Canon FD 800mm f/5.6

Canon A-1 Zoom Lenses

Canon FD 35-105mm f/3.5 & Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5

Canon 35-105mm f/3.5 Zoom Lens

Canon FD 35-105mm f/3.5 Zoom Lens

  • Ideal focal length range for most photography.
  • Excellent value.
  • Physically large.
  • Hard to find in good condition.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

Vivitar 70-210mm f/3.5 Zoom Lens

Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5 Zoom Lens

  • Covers a popular focal range.
  • Great for portrait or wildlife photography.
  • A rare time when a third-party lens is the best.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The ease of use of combining a Canon A-1 along with a zoom lens is tempting. Having access to a range of focal lengths without having to switch a lens is nice.

Take into consideration that all of them are older zoom lenses.

  1. Image quality will likely not be good when shot with the largest aperture.
  2. One or possibly both ends of the focal range may suffer from a significant amount of distortion.
  3. Zoom lenses have significantly more parts than prime lenses, so they are more at risk of damage.
  4. Zooms will be physically larger and usually heavier than prime camera lenses.

Alternative Zoom Lenses

With regards to prices, many vintage zooms will likely be bargain-priced.

Canon FD 70-210mm f/4 AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Canon FD 80-200mm f/4LAmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Canon FD 28-85mm f/4AmazoneBayKEHAdorama

Macro Lens

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 & Vivitar 55mm f/2.8

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens made by Komine

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

  • My favorite vintage macro lens.
  • Available in multiple lens mounts.
  • Incredible value.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens manufactured by Komine

Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

  • My second favorite vintage macro lens.
  • An excellent choice for close-up photography.
  • It does not need an extension tube to reach 1:1 magnification.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

Komine built the two recommended macro lenses in Japan. The lens was also released under different brand names. Quantaray, Panagor, Spiratone, Rokunar, and Elicar are names you might find on a copy of the lens.

There is a Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review and a Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review.

For photographing at macro magnification (1:1), the 90mm lens is likely to be the better choice because it has a larger working distance.

The 55mm focal length lens is top-notch for close-up and table-top photography.

Alternative Macro Lenses

Canon FD 50mm f/3.5AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Canon FD 100mm f/4AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Canon FD 200mm f/4AmazoneBayKEHAdorama

Used FD Camera Lens Prices

Prices change constantly. For the past few years, involvement in film photography has been increasing. Subsequently, price ranges have slowly risen.

Your smartest option is to get pricing from a lot of online stores. Promptly get a fantastic price whenever you find one mainly because the best deals are purchased the fastest.

What Lens Mount Does the Canon A-1 Use?

The Canon A-1 makes use of the Canon FD lens mount. Canon used the FD mount for film cameras manufactured starting in 1971 and ending in 1992.

Here is a list of all of the film cameras that use a Canon FD mount.

The Canon FL mount was preceded by the FD lens mount, which was used from 1964 - 1971. FL mount lenses can be used on the A-1, but you should be prepared to use stopped down metering.

Standard Lens Cap Size

The standard lens cap and filter ring thread diameter for Canon FD lenses is 55mm.

Utilizing a standardized filter thread size is useful since you just need to buy and bring one set of filters.

Some telephoto and zooms have larger filter ring thread diameters due to the fact that they have substantial front lens elements.

FD vs FL Lens Mount

Front and Rear of a Canon FL Mount Lens

The Canon FL lens mount was made before the FD lens mount. You can make use of FL mount lenses on the FD mount, and FD mount lenses can be used on the FL lens mount.

What Canon FL mount lenses are unable to automatically do stop-down metering. Which means the lens needs to be stopped down by using the depth-of-preview switch to ensure the A-1's light meter to show the proper value.

FD vs new FD Lenses

Original Canon FD mount lens versus a Canon New FD mount lens.

The whole body of the new FD lens rotates to lock onto the camera, similar in function to the bayonet mount used on the Nikon F, Pentax K, Minolta SR, and Olympus OM mount.

The original FD lenses have a breech-lock ring at the back of the lens that has to be tightened in order to secure a lens. While Canon made a big deal about this being better than a bayonet mount, it was the only design that had users complaining about lenses getting stuck on whatever Canon camera bodies they were using.

New FD and FD lenses are interchangeable with one another. There are no compatibility issues between either of the versions and camera bodies that support them. Both have all the physical couplers to allow for all exposure modes supported by the Canon A-1.

Quite often you will see new FD lenses written as FDn. This is one of the things that makes it easier to identify them in online listings.

Telling FD and FDn Lenses Apart

It is quick and easy to tell FD and new FD versions apart. New FD lenses have a silver button on the barrel of the lens that acts as a lock.

The earlier FD lenses have a ring that is required to be rotated in order to lock the lens to the camera mount.

More Canon A-1 Resources

When I am able to add more information on the camera I will add it here. As the Canon A-1 was a professional level SLR camera, they sold fewer copies and tended to get beaten up more.

Best Film for the Canon A-1

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