Canon 500mm f/4.5 (FD Mount)

It’s Thursday morning February 21st, 2008 roughly 4am and the moon has begun to enter its lunar eclipse. Over the past few days at work, we had discussed ways to capture this celestial moment not having really had the time to research tried and tested methods of others. One suggestion was to shoot with a wider lens and capture a shot every 15 mins and layer them in a single image, but I was determined to try and fill the frame… a problem when my longest lens goes to 150mm.

Now the moment had arrived, I set the tripod up and thanks to Johan at KAMERAZ in Rosebank Johannesburg – I pointed a Canon 500mm f/4.5 into the dark sky, the moon barely clearing the roof of our 2 story block of flats. I captured a few frames in the early stages before my wife left to go back to bed.

When I looked up again my subject matter was sinking behind the roof tiles, so I grab the tripod and lens making a dash up the stairs – being careful not to wake the neighbours – getting to a break in the trees just as the moon had a tiny crescent to go before its complete eclipse. I snapped a few more shots anxiously awaiting the final stage and then, as if they had come from nowhere, clouds covered my view. The picture above was the only frame I managed to get before the clouds concealed the rest of this anticipated moment for good.

On to the real reason for my typing this, as great as the eclipse was, it was even better to have the use of a Canon 500mm lens. Now before I get carried away, let me explain that this lens is an old Canon FD (manual focus) 500mm f/4.5 “L” series lens that has been converted to fit any Canon EOS camera and is available for hire from Kameraz in Rosebank. The cost to hire the lens is R300.00 a day and R500.00 for a weekend – though specifics should be confirmed with the store. But being such an old lens, how did it perform?

The key is to first be familiar with manual focusing, which – eye sight permitting – I preferred for most of the shooting situations I found myself in using this lens. Metering with your camera is done in the old ’stop down’ style, meaning the aperture closes down as you turn the ring darkening the view finder and allowing the light meter to accurately measure the scene. The negative – no full program mode, but if you shoot in AV (aperture priority) as I often do, it possess no real problem further than the fact that there is no read out in the viewfinder of the aperture you’ve selected.

In terms of sharpness, the lens does not disappoint, being “L” series glass and the design little changed from the old FD lens to the newer EOS version – excluding the current IS (image stabilizer) model. I used the lens quite successfully in fact this morning, capturing the Dikkop family living in the garden, and to end off my time with the lens I even managed a hand-held shot of a Black-Eyed Bulbul shake free. In my books, a 500mm F/4 is king of the big lens crop, weighing in at nearly half the weight of the 400mm f/2.8 or 600mm f/4 offerings out there, and usually a little cheaper too, but before you spend enough for a small car, why not try hiring one first.

Contact: KAMERAZ (011) 880-2885 or