Fun at f/1.2 on a budget

Seems like everyone wants to shoot images with a very shallow depth of field (Dof).

  • Depth of field is defined as:
    “In optics, particularly as it relates to film and photography, depth of field (DOF) is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. Although a lens can precisely focus at only one distance at a time, the decrease in sharpness is gradual on each side of the focused distance, so that within the DOF, the unsharpness is imperceptible under normal viewing conditions. In some cases, it may be desirable to have the entire image sharp, and a large DOF is appropriate. In other cases, a small DOF may be more effective, emphasizing the subject while de-emphasizing the foreground and background. ”  –Wikipedia

There are a few ways to get that look. The closer your subject is to the camera, the shallower the depth of field.  You can also achieve a shallow depth of field by changing the aperture. DoF will be less at 1.4 than at 2.8 and so on, and if you combine a very large aperture with a very close subject, you can achieve a very shallow depth of field. Sounds simple, right? There is one catch. Large aperture lenses are expensive. Canon’s 85/1.2 retails for around $2000.00, the 50/1.2 sells for $1300.00. Used copies of these lenses are not much cheaper, either. So, game over, right? Maybe not. If you are a canon user or use a mirror-less camera system there are some very interesting options to get fast glass at an affordable rate. Canon has been making really fast glass for quite some time. There are several 50/1.2 and 85/1.2 lenses for the older FD mount. There are a few people that make adapters for these older lenses that will make them work on a modern day dslr.
The process for converting most lenses is pretty simple, and is completely reversible on most of them. I picked up a Canon 55/1.2 FL mount lens for a little less than $250, spent a few bucks for the mount, and now I have a 55/1.2 lens that works on my modern canon dslr, and it even has focus confirmation. The image quality is similar to the modern day equivalent, but it is $1700 less. Sure, it is manual focus, but, like anything, with a little practice you will become quite proficient with it.

We had some snow yesterday, and during my lunch, I got out with a Canon 6D and a Canon 55/1.2 FL and a Canon 35/2.8 Tilt-Shift. Modern equivalent of these 2 lenses would cost me somewhere around $3500. I spent a little less than $1000. Not too bad, if you are willing to do a little of the work your self.

mhsnow from Ben King on Vimeo.

Canon 55/1.2  FL lens. Converted to Canon EOS mount.



Canon 35/2.8 Tilt-Shift FD mount. Manufactured in the late ’70s early ’80s. Converted to fit Canon EOS auto-focus.

Canon 35mm Tilt/Shift S.S.C. Fd Mount Lens (converted to EOS)MVI_0812

5 thoughts on “Fun at f/1.2 on a budget

    1. thanks for noticing, I really like your mount. i have been looking for a few more lenses to convert. go ahead and link to it. no prob. thx

  1. Thanks,
    very nice article, I’m also loving vintage lenses and just few days ago discovered FD world.
    Just for a case I have a configuration identical to yours: 6D and FL55 1.2 with edmika conversion kit.
    Could you please tell me how is mirror clearance of the combo?
    does the mirror lock and do you need to use live view for long focusing distances?


    1. thanks for reading. I have a problem with the mirror on the 6d clearing the rear element when focused to infinity as well on the 55/1.2. I use this lens on a 40d and a 7d and there is no issues with the mirror.
      I usually put the camera in liveview to shoot this any way, and as long as you are not set to infinity focus when you switch to liveview it works fine.

  2. Thanks Benjamin,
    I was not notified of your reply, anyway I went on with that lens and I like it a lot!
    Very nice results…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *