FD Lens Test: Canon FD 50mm f1.4 vs Olympus 45mm f1.8

I’ve reviewed a lot of FD lenses, some lenses come and go but one that I still hold to is the Canon FD 50mm f1.4. I don’t know why. For all intents and purposes the Olympus 45mm f1.8 is the more logical choice for any situation. I mean, I don’t shoot video. If I needed 1.4, I’d rather switch to the Pan-Leica 25mm f1.4. I will say this though, the old school Canon FD lenses are sexy. Not those “New FD” lenses. But the old school S.S.C. lenses with their all metal construction. On a retro’d body like my EM-5, it’s even sexier:

OMD EM-5 with Canon FD 50mm f1.4
OMD EM-5 with Canon FD 50mm f1.4

And at about $50, they’re a pretty good deal. But how do they hold up against modern Micro 4/3 lenses?

I’ve tested it against my Olympus 45mm f1.8 and Panasonic-Leica 25mm f1.4 (at f1.4) to illustrate a comparison. Now, this is anything but a scientific test. But it doesn’t need to be. I’ve shot with a lot of FD lenses enough to tell you that they can’t quite match the sharpness against modern counterparts. With a possible exception going out to the L lenses. I’ve used the Canon FD 20-35 L and found it to be a very sharp lens. But at the size and cost, I’d still opt for the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 or 25mm f1.4. I would like to see the much touted Canon FD 85mm f1.2 L vs the Olympus 75mm f1.8 but there aren’t any comparisons on the web yet.

But getting back to the topic on hand, here’s the Canon FD 50mm f1.4 vs the Olympus 45mm f1.8 at f1.8, 1/160s and bounced flash to reduce any chances of motion blur. Even at a 50% crop, it’s enough to tell the difference between the two lenses.

Olympus 45mm f1.8 vs Canon FD 50mm f1.4 @ f1.8
Olympus 45mm f1.8 (Left) vs Canon FD 50mm f1.4 (Right), f1.8, 1/160s

The Canon is overall a little flatter, not quite as sharp with a little more chromatic aberration. Though admittedly, if you’re thinking about purchasing either one of these lenses you might not be seeing a that big difference. And for this specific shot, I agree a little. But if you had both, the more you shoot with them, the more you’ll know. I could really tell with portraiture, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 holds a lot more detail with skin, which is important for post-processing even if you plan to soften it out. Here’s a recent shot of Brenda with the Olympus 45mm at f2.8:

Olympus 45mm f1.8
Olympus 45mm f1.8 @ 2.8

So if you are evaluating a portrait lens for Micro 4/3, I’d say spending $200 more on the Olympus 45mm f1.8 is well worth it.. it goes for just about ~$250 used on Amazon.

Lastly, also wanted to throw in a comparison at f1.4, since the Olympus 45mm can’t reach that aperture, in comes the PL 25mm f1.4. Another 50% crop, this time the difference is more drastic:

Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 vs Canon FD 50mm f1.4
Panasonic 25mm f1.4 (Left) vs Canon FD 50mm f1.4 (Right) – 1/160s @ f1.4

Manually focused, and used the best of 3 shots for each lens. Bounced flash at 1/160s to reduce chances of motion blur.

At the end of the day, with a growing assortment of native lenses for Micro 4/3, I see less and less of use for legacy lenses. Don’t get me wrong, they still have their purpose right now. You can get a FD 135mm f2.8 for about $100, a prime still non existent on Micro 4/3. They’re great for video, even better when you attach a MetaBones speedbooster. But when you’re considering size (as all Micro 4/3 owners do), and you get auto focus, for me going native is a no brainer for any lens that you plan to use regularly.

What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below!

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