Ben Durham

BTS: Taking photos of a vintage Canon FD 50mm lens

This accidental photo session started when I was trying to capture the iris blades of this old Canon FD f/1.8 50mm lens for a tutorial on shutter speed. Talk about getting distracted and focusing on photos instead of videos. Here’s the whole process of creating these images! Here’s the instagram post too.

The Results

A total of 28 photos –about four each of different hand and lens positioning– were taken. An immediate edit afterwards made it possible for me to toss them up before getting distracted again!

Final Photo #1

With this one, I was going for something that felt like light was beaming from the palm of my hand. It’s hard to make up my mind as to which of these two are my favourite… But I THINK this is my favourite?

Final Photo #2

For this one, I actually needed to do something that only old lenses can accomplish: closing the aperture nearly all the way (closer to f/22 than f/1.8). This needed to be done because, otherwise, it was WAY less cinematic looking. Pretty much just a blob of light in the centre with no real visually interesting light streaks or lens flares.

Behind the scenes (BTS)

How it was shot

This is the setup. The initial idea wasn’t to set up a photo shoot, it was to quickly shoot about one minutes’ worth of B-Roll of the iris’ blades opening and closing. Only older lenses can do this, so I grabbed the vintage lens, whipped out the tripod and pointed it down at a studio light.

this is what the entire setup looked like.
a view from the bottom – this is what it would feel like to be the vintage lens

To shoot this authentic, quality, Canon 50mm lens… I -of fricken course- smacked a cheap Canon 50mm lens to a Sony A7Sii with a Sigma adapter. Yeah, I know, nothing here feels right. SO many Frankenstein things making things happen at this point. My gear needs some work eventually. For now, it’s working!

my janky Canon – Sigma – Sony setup!

The shots I took to get a good one

With a photo like this, I definitely couldn’t do it in one go. Because of the narrow depth of field and unique light leaks, I had to experiment. It’s not like it wasn’t fun! I just stared at the tilted screen (Sony, you need to make it flip out) and zoomed in to check focus often.

Ok, I nailed these ones really quickly. I was happy with both of them immediately, focus, framing, exposure, and all. Maybe it’s because my hand looks like that emoji. YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT, NOW YOU SEE IT! Hah!

Another version of the “light from the palm of my hand”. I didn’t really like it all that much. Mostly because there wasn’t a “pinhole” letting light through anywhere so it wasn’t as dramatic.

Before and Afters

Before and After Photo #1

As you can see, I really wanted to pump up the blues and the oranges and really have that strong clash of colours. The colours really remind me of the 2009 Star Trek reboot #lensflares.


Before and After Photo #2

Again, same colours and this time I’ll note that I photoshopped both of these images. Do you see the back-lit hairs on my hand in the Before photos? Yeah, those are very bright, off-centre, and don’t draw the eye towards be main part of the photos: the middle of the lens.




There’s another 1-hour post from start to finish. Actually more like 1.5 hours, but get off my back! I like these photos and that’s how I created them.

If you have any questions or comments, let me know in the comments below… or just message me through the contact form on the homepage. Cheers!

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ben in red shorts on a yellow ebike in a snow storm with a bright yellow jacket on, laughing

Ben Durham

Professional storyteller

Just an average person on a bike who’s focused on getting more people out of their cars and on to bicycles or electric last-mile micro-mobility solutions!

That, and rooting for active transportation infrastructure upgrades in North America (we need to catch up)!

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