I don’t usually use zoom lenses with 35mm film cameras and instead I prefer to carry a selection of prime lenses and change as I go. I prefer primes because the image quality is usually better and the aperture is usually faster. My kit bag would usually contain the FD 50mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/1.8. Maybe the 24mm or 28mm f/2.8 and the 135mm f/2.8 too on a good day.
Zooms have just never interested me and dabbling with the cheaper FD zooms like the New FD 35-70 f/3.5-4.5 showed that they are mediocre. Then I heard about the Canon New FD 35-105mm f/3.5 from 1981 which is said to be the best of Canon’s non-L zoom lenses. It has a fast continuous maximum aperture and a useful range of focal lengths, so I was suddenly interested. They tend to be quite expensive but I watched eBay for a while and got one for a bargain price. It’s taken me a while to get round to it, but I’ve now taken it out for its first run and processed the film.
The build quality is great. It’s a heavy lens but it feels solid. Unlike many manual-focus zooms, this one is two-touch – it has separate rings for zoom and focus. The cheaper one-touch lenses have a single ring that twists for focus and slides for zoom, and I hate them. This lens has a larger front element than I expected, and takes a 72mm filter. It also has a macro mode. While this isn’t a true macro mode, it could be pretty handy out and about.
I wasn’t sure how much use I’d get out of it but actually I really enjoyed using it. I don’t really do much street photography but a sunny, spring day in Bristol floating harbour was the ideal opportunity to try it. With the lens mounted on my Canon T90 and a roll of Ilford FP4+ inside, I found I used the longer focal lengths (especially around 80mm) quite a lot.
I can’t think of a sensible order to present these photos from the test roll so I’ll go through them in chronological order and make a few comments.
This shot of some ivy on a concrete wall was taken using the macro mode. There’s something strange about the image that I can’t place my finger on. It looks somehow “swirly” which could indicate curvature of field or astigmatism. You don’t expect amazing results from the macro feature on a zoom lens, but this is acceptable.
This was also taken with the macro mode. While the background still looks a little odd to me, the detail on the bud itself is pin-sharp.
This is a fairly unremarkable picture of some people lunching on College Green, but you can see a nasty lens flare in the flower area. The sun was high in the sky but I was shooting generally towards it, and it it’s well known that older zoom lenses suffer more badly from flare than modern designs.
Nothing special about this image in terms of testing the lens – I just like it. It’s the fountains in Millennium Square.
I don’t usually use longer focal lengths for “out and about” photography in the city, because you often can’t get far away enough from your subject to fit it all in. Here, looking up St Augustine’s Reach I was able to crank in the zoom almost all the way to 100mm and achieve the typical telephoto compressed perspective. I like this one.
Another example of compressed perspective but more importantly, a Gromit on the front of the Brigantia. Very Bristol.
I wish I’d taken notice which sailing ship this was. I like the contrast with the small rowing boat. This image was taken zoomed almost all the way out to 40mm, and the lens still performs well.
Last but not least, a portrait of my daughter. This was taken at 100mm and f/8, although with hindsight I would have opened up the aperture a bit more to blur the background more. It works well on portraits, and it did well not to flare on her white clothes in sunlight.
So in summary: other than the increased risk of flare when using an old zoom lens, this lens performs really well at all focal lengths. The macro mode compromises image quality, but that’s to be expected. I don’t think this lens will replace my fondness for primes, but if I’m travelling light I would certainly consider taking just this lens.
7 thoughts on “Testing the Canon FD 35-105mm lens with sample pictures”
Hello Jonathan, I was keen to see your images on this topic but they are not showing up, only a very small icon and when I click on it I receive this message :-
We couldn’t find what you were looking for.
If you’re sure this is the place you’re trying to go, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
Hope you can help
Hmm, grumble. I had problems with images on this blog before – thought I’d fixed it. I’ll have a look this evening and get back to you!
Hmmm…. I did not receive notice you had replied even though I also have a WP site (maybe I need to investigate that too) Funnily enough I had ‘binned’ the email to myself with your link on it because of the no-show of images. (it’s a way I save interesting blogs and videos I find when on my tablet to view later on my computer) –
So on going through my bin for a second check before deleting all, I found the mail to me, clicked on the link and VOILA!! all your images came up this time.
It’s a very good article you’ve written, I’m still humming and harring whether to buy this lens or not as I have only just bought the Canon A-1 and still need to test it out.
But one very important detail you have pointed out is that there are the two models of this lens, the later 1981 being the better one.
Glad I found your link again – have a very Merry Christmas and lots of happy snapping 2019
p.s. – just seen I need to tick the “Notify me ….etc” box
An interesting test of the CAN FDn 35-105 f3,5. This is not a macro lens. The macro funcion is just a makeshift solution if one is on foto tour. Analogue lenses were constructed to have their optimum performance a hundred times the focal length speaking of 3,5 to 10,5 meters.
Yes, it is not a true macro lens but if the macro function is good enough to use occasionally, then this lens fulfils its role as a general purpose zoom lens 🙂
Interesting rule of thumb about the optimum focal distance being 100x the focal length – I hadn’t heard that one before.
I do have this lens, lucked out and got it with an AE-1, but I had 2 of those, and can’t remember which i got it with. So it either was free with an AE-1 I got from my grandmother, or i think it was with an AE-1 I bought with this, and possible another lens, for $40 USD. Either way, it was a steal, as I know this lens is very popular, and I think still commands a decent price used. My copy appears to be in really good condition. I opted to keep this lens over a 35-70 f/3.5-5.6(?), that one I know came with the free AE-1. I prefer other Canon FD mount cameras than the AE-1, and I mainly bought the 2nd to get the lenses that came with it.
I have enjoyed it greatly! I’ve mostly used it also with a T90, but I have used it a couple of times with the AE-1, but it is used with a New F-1 & motor drive combo when it’s not on the T90. I think this would be a great lens to pair with an A-1, I’d love to have one of those one day. It’s maybe a little overkill for my T70 (my family’s camera when I was growing up), or my recently acquired (in the last year) T50. I’d love to see what this lens would do when adapted to a mirrorless body. In this year I’d like to add a Canon R/RP, Fuji X-Mount, or a Sony a7 something to my gear. Too bad I can’t really adapt it very well to an EOS body. As I’d love to use it on my Elan 7e, Rebel T6, or a hopeful EOS 1/1n/1n RS/1v I’d like to add this year as well. But I believe there is an EF that’s very similar, like a 24-124, or 135, around a constant f/4. I’d like to add one of those to the lens gear as well.
I enjoyed your article very much, and love it when I see others appreciating old camera gear like I do!!