The 5 Best Canon AE-1 Program Lenses

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

The Canon AE-1 Program is a fantastic film camera. Below are the top 5 lenses to use with the Canon AE-1 Program.

If you're in a hurry:

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

Down below the best Canon lenses are split up by type of photography and price. Many impressive lenses are available on the used market.

Kit Lens and Standard Primes

Canon FD 50mm f/1.8

The Canon FD 50mm F/1.8 lens was the "kit Lens" often sold with the AE-1 Program. The 50mm f1.8 is budget-friendly, widely available used, and has terrific picture quality.

Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 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.

Check prices at: Amazon, eBay, KEH, Adorama

A 50mm camera lens is an ideal choice for many different kinds of photography. The aspects of photography comprise architecture, casual use, travel, street, portraits, and landscapes. This is the most frequently found focal length that is combined with the Canon AE-1 Program.

The lens is well balanced, small, and light. Depending on the version of the lens, it will weigh between 170-305g. If you want the lightest lens, buy a new FD version.

Canon also developed two faster 50mm lenses for the FD lens mount.

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.

Check prices at: Amazon, 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. It costs more than the f1.8, but the difference is not huge.

You'll be able to find 4 versions of the 50mm f/1.4. The "new FD" variant is the newest and lightest out of the choices.

Canon FD 50mm f/1.2

Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 Lens
This is the closest lens I have around.

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.

Check prices at: Amazon, eBay, KEH, Adorama

This lens is bulky, heavy, and difficult to focus lens. Shot wide open, photographs will be soft. If you stop the lens down to f/1.8 or f/1.4 you will not notice a notable difference between it and the other lenses.

There are 2 versions, both are pricey. Optical quality is not the driver of cost. The original appeal was to get the view finder to be as bright as possible in low light conditions.

Now people want one as a collectible because it is rare.

Alternative Standard Lenses

If you favor other focal lengths, here are some other alternatives. Expect to spend more than you normally would for a 50mm lens with an equivalent aperture.

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.

Check prices at: Amazon, eBay, KEH, Adorama

A popular focal length for street photography is 28mm. However, the most widespread use for wide-angle lenses are architectural and landscape photography.

My recommended pick is the Canon FD 28mm f/3.5 due to the inexpensive price, wide availability, and superb optics.

Alternative Wide Angle Lenses

In terms of price, the relationship is easy to understand. The greater the field of view, the less affordable the lens will likely be. Lenses with larger apertures also go for substantially more.

The weight will vary based upon the qualities of the lens. You can get lenses from 170g to 500g. Faster apertures will also mean that those lenses will physically be large and will make the camera more difficult to hold.

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.

Check prices at: Amazon, eBay, KEH, Adorama

The 85mm lens wasn't as widely used in 1981 when the AE-1 Program was originally distributed. Rather, the 135mm focal length was the first choice for a lens for portraits.

For shooting portrait photos with the Canon AE-1 Program, there are a variety of short telephoto lenses to select among. The 100mm f/2.8 lens is one of the lowest-priced choices around.

An 85mm lens will cost the most, with 135mm lenses sitting in the middle of the range of prices.

As all the Canon FD telephoto lenses are manual focus, they are much more compact than modern versions. Keep in mind, professional lenses like the Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L is going to be heavy and sizeable due to the amount of glass in the lens.

Expect to see affordable prices for the Canon FD 100mm f/2.8. There is also a 100mm f/4 macro version of the lens. It will probably cost more and is not a good choice for portraits as it should be stopped down.

Alternative Telephoto Lenses

In addition to that, the Canon FD 135mm f/2.8 is just about the cheapest prime lenses you can acquire. You will be required to search through a great number of results for third-party 135mm lenses that definitely are not anywhere near as good as a Canon lens.

This is a variety of 85mm lenses to pick from. The most lusted-after is the Canon FD f/1.2L lens. A less pricey option is the Canon FD 85mm f/1.8 lens, but it remains much high-priced than the other telephoto lenses mentioned earlier.

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 AE-1 Program 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.

Check prices at: Amazon, 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.

Check prices at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The convenience of pairing a Canon AE-1 Program with a zoom lens is appealing. Being able to use a range of focal lengths without having to swap a lens is nice.

Be aware that all of these are older SLR zoom lenses.

  1. Image output will most likely not be sharp when shot wide open.
  2. Apertures will be smaller so you won't be able to use faster shutter speeds.
  3. There may be a noticeable amount of distortion at one or both ends of the focal range.
  4. Zoom lenses are built with more parts when compared to primes, so they are more susceptible to damage.
  5. Zooms are physically larger and generally weigh more than prime lenses.

Alternative Zoom Lenses

Regarding pricing, nearly all older zoom lenses are economical.

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.

Check prices 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.

Check prices at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The 2 recommended macro camera lenses were built by Komine in Japan. The lens was also sold under different brand names. Elicar, Quantaray, Panagor, Spiratone, and Rokunar are brands you may 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 will probably be the better pick since it has a greater working distance.

The 55mm focal length lens is ideal 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 3-4 years, interest in film photography has been increasing. Because of this, prices have continuously risen.

Your best option is to check prices from several sites. Instantly buy a fantastic price the moment you see one simply because it can be a very long time before another appears.

What Lens Mount Does the Canon AE-1 Program Use?

The Canon AE-1 Program features the Canon FD lens mount. Canon used the FD mount for film cameras manufactured from 1971 until 1992.

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

The FD lens mount superseded the Canon FL lens mount, which was utilized between 1964 - 1971. FL mount lenses are compatible with the AE-1 Program, 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.

Having a standardized filter thread size is nice due to the fact that you only need to get and bring a single set of filters.

Some zoom and telephoto lenses have bigger filter ring thread diameters as they have enormous front lens elements.

FD vs FL Lens Mount

Front and Rear of a Canon FL Mount Lens

The Canon FL mount was made prior to the FD mount. You may use FL mount lenses on the FD mount, and FD mount lenses can be used on the FL mount.

What Canon FL mount lenses are unable to do auto stop-down metering. As a result, FL mount lenses have to be stopped down by pressing the depth-of-preview switch to ensure that the AE-1 Program's light meter to show an accurate value.

FD vs new FD Lenses

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

The body of the new FD lens rotates to lock onto the AE-1 Program. While original FD lenses have a breech-lock ring at the back of the lens that has to be rotated to be able to secure a lens.

FD and new FD lenses are interchangeable with one another. There are no compatibility issues.

Occasionally you will spot new FD lenses referred to as FDn lenses.

The modification in the design of the breech-lock ring was owing to complaints. A small number of camera owners experienced lenses getting stuck on an FD camera.

If you have not put on an FD mount lens to a camera body, don't sweat it. Simply take the process slow and don't force anything.

Telling FD and FDn Lenses Apart

You can quickly tell FD and new FD lenses apart. New FD lenses have a silver button located on the barrel of the lens, near the mount.

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

More Canon AE-1 Program Resources

That finishes the best Canon AE-1 Program lenses. As more information on the camera is published on the website, links will be right here.

Best Film for the Canon AE-1 Program

2 comments on “The 5 Best Canon AE-1 Program Lenses”

  1. I have the Canon AE1 program and recently bought the Vivitar series 1 70-210 mm zoom lens from this article, but the lens does not fit the camera. How would I go about attaching the Vivitar lens/what mount do I need to purchase?

    1. The Vivitar 70-210mm was made with a variety of camera mounts. Check and make sure that you purchased a lens with a Canon FD mount.

      Mounting the lens should be no different than mounting any FD lens.

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