Canon FD 28mm 1:3.5 S.C. Lens Review

More Fun Up-Close

7 min read by Dmitri.
Published on . Updated on .

Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. is an affordable wide-angle lens for a very popular film SLR system. It features a close focusing distance of 40cm/16”, medium-high contrast, and minimal distortions across the frame.

In this review, I’ll explain what S.C. stands for, share plentiful samples made with this lens on my Canon AE-1 Program, and discuss this lens’ strengths and weaknesses in terms of image quality and user experience.

What’s S.C. and how does it compare to other Canon FD lenses?

Lens coating design is very important for the image quality the glass produces. Coatings prevent flares and reflections that intensify with a greater number of lens elements.

The process of formulating a thin layer of material that reduces its carrying lens’ reflections was invented early in the 20th century. It’s been improved numerous times since then and remains an active area of research today.

Canon’s Spectra Coatings were introduced with their FD SLR system in 1971. The lenses were later updated to Super Spectra Coatings (S.S.C.), which is what Canon uses to this day.

Though I have not yet had the chance to compare S.C. and S.S.C. coatings against each other directly, I can give you my casual opinion about the two based on my experience with this and the FD 50mm 𝒇1.4: S.C. appears to be a lot more prone to flaring than S.S.C.

Lens flare doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Photographers like to avoid it as it can introduce a distracting element to an image, but it can also serve as a story-telling device. Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 lenses can be found with S.C. and S.S.C. coatings, which you may choose accordingly for your needs (S.C. for more flaring and S.S.C. for less). Note that lenses not marked with either have S.S.C.

Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. with Canon AE-1 Program and Fujifilm 400.

Image quality.

Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. is reasonably sharp. It shows a lot of contrast in detail in the centre at all apertures, though it can get noticeably soft when shot wide-open.

I initially thought that the lens rendered strong aberration at wider apertures as well, but that is not the case (colour correction eliminated what I thought were the fringes around the branches). Some of the blur in the top half of the frame (below) is from the curl in the film when it was scanned, but the lens blur is also undeniably there, as seen around the remaining edges.

Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. with Canon AE-1 Program and Fujifilm 400.

This lens and the FD 50mm 𝒇1.4  can sometimes render coma distortions that show up as tiny flares where specular highlights get obstructed by darker objects. You may notice them in the bottom-right corner of the photograph below:

Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. with Canon AE-1 Program and Fujifilm 400.

Flaring can appear quite severe on the S.C. version of this lens. To be fair, the below example is probably the “worst-case” scenario:

Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. with Canon AE-1 Program and Fujifilm 400.

I like the way this lens rendered colour on film and I don’t mind the flaring. But I’m most impressed by its performance up close.

Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. with Canon AE-1 Program and Fujifilm 400.

Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. can focus just over a foot away from the subject; the 28mm focal length can render more detail at that distance without ridding the image of context.

Of course, you can expect no less from any 28mm SLR lens. Still, the 𝒇3.5 FD appears to lose no contrast or sharpness at this distance, there are no new distortions. At the same time, the glass renders an almost modern-looking bokeh that shows no swirl, with just a slight cat-eye effect. The bokeh balls themselves look soft and bubbly, which I find is an excellent spot between the over-corrected soap bubbles and the overly-soft under-corrected spots that can make the image look washed out.

I think this lens is more fun for close-ups.

Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. with Canon AE-1 Program and Fujifilm 400.
Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. with Canon AE-1 Program and Fujifilm 400.

Build quality.

The S.C. is a solid lens. It feels good in hand, maybe better than the Olympus-branded lenses.

The FD lenses aren’t Leica lenses. Notably, the later FD models used more plastic components to save the company money and lighten the photographer’s load at the same time. I would not hold this against Canon; the copy I own is much older than me and it performs as well as new.

Lens size, weight, and ergonomics.

My Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. lens weighs 252g/9oz and protrudes 5cm/2” from the camera body.

It uses a breech-lock mechanism, which means you’ll need to mount the lens on the camera and then twist the silver ring at the base to lock it in. Newer versions of this lens have bayonet-style mounting hardware (both types are compatible with all FD cameras).

One more close-up shot with Canon FD 28mm 𝒇3.5 S.C. with Canon AE-1 Program and Fujifilm 400.

The focus throw is very short — 45° — which I found refreshing compared to many other vintage lenses that often have you twist the barrel endlessly.

The distance markings on the lens are in both feet and metres; a depth of field calculator is on the top to help you plan your shots without having to fiddle with the AE-1’s awkward DoF preview button.

The aperture selector ring has hard clicks at full and half-stops. It has a green “O” for aperture priority mode with FD cameras. It’s normally locked but can be engaged by pressing the small silver button next to the “O.”

Mounting on digital cameras.

FD lenses are easy to adapt onto digital bodies. There are over 1,000 results on eBay for their kind and plenty in other shops, too. You can find your Canon FD lens adapter here.

Numbers to keep in mind are the FD lens’ flange distance: 42mm and 24×36mm (full-frame) image circle. It’ll work with most mirrorless cameras, but it won’t work with the modern Canon EF mounts.

Where to buy your Canon FD 28mm 1:3.5 S.C. lens.

These lenses are easy to find and cheap to buy. As of today, their prices range from $20 to $120, depending on the condition.

By the way: Please consider making your Canon FD 28mm 1:3.5 S.C. lens purchase using this link  so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!