After shooting the Nikon F2 all last year, I’ve become…Canon curious.
It’s not like I haven’t shot Canon before. My main camera is the wonderful Canon S95. But it’s a point-and-shoot digital camera, not a film SLR.
And I have shot two Canon film SLRs, first an AE-1 Program, which I liked, and then an FT QL, which I didn’t. But I’d yet to shoot a camera from Canon’s EOS line, the bodies and lenses of which were designed from the ground up for automatic exposure and focus. Where Nikon has stuck doggedly with its lens mount that dates to 1959, Canon started with a clean sheet in 1987 with EOS. So I went looking for an early example, and came up with this EOS 630.
Canon introduced the tall and bulky EOS 630 in 1989. It’s long specification list (see it here) can be boiled down to this: it has several autoexposure modes including full program, a shutter that operates from 30 sec to 1/2000 sec, and autofocus. Like most early all-electronic SLRs, there’s no mode dial; to change settings, you press buttons and look at the LCD panel.
This EOS 630 came to me with a plastic-bodied, nearly weightless f/4-5.6 35-80mm lens. I was surprised that this lens tips the camera forward, because the EOS 630 is kind of heavy. That’s surprising given how much plastic is in it.
Despite the EOS 630’s various modes, this camera really wants you to just set it in Program and shoot mindlessly. So that’s what I did, after loading a roll of Arista Premium 400. Film loading is as easy as it gets: insert the film, draw the leader across to the red mark, and shut the door. The 630 automatically rewinds the film after the last frame.
Even though an f/4 lens doesn’t exactly scream “available light photography” I tried shooting a few things around the house. My mother’s grandfather — or was it her great grandfather? — made these duck decoys. They haven’t fooled any ducks in at least a half century.
Except for the blown-out area at the top of the lamp, this shot shows that the 35-80 is capable of capturing rich tones on the Arista Premium film. I shot handheld, so you might notice a little camera shake in the shots above and below, especially at larger sizes. And yes, I have a tripod lamp. I think it’s cool.
I shoot this trio of trees frequently, as they’re convenient: on the golf course behind my house. The sun was bright and the shadows were crisp, but the contrast in this photo is just so-so, even after boosting it as much as I dared in Photoshop.
Meet my next-door neighbor’s new puppy. I kind of miss having a dog, but I surely enjoy the freedom to come and go as I please. I think the EOS 630 is meant for candid, casual shots like this — aim at the subject, press the button, let the camera make zip-zap noises while it focuses, get the picture.
I figured I might as well take advantage of the zoom lens, so I took a walk along Michigan Road near my home and photographed the surroundings. I’ve been meaning to do it for years. I’ll share more of those photos in an upcoming post, but for now, here’s a dinosaur in front of a child care.
Despite being big and bulky, the EOS 630 handled fine on my walk. A construction company bought a vacant factory on Michigan Road for its headquarters and renovated it, including putting in this fence. Looks like the company overextended itself and folded, and this property is again vacant.
To see more photos, check out my EOS 630 gallery.
I hoped for more contrast and sharpness in these photographs. To be fair, my lens is defective — on my first shot, the front element fell off. Plop. I fitted it back in as tightly as I could and hoped for the best. Perhaps a non-broken lens would have performed better. But I feel like I won’t know what the EOS system is capable of until I shoot with a 50mm prime.
Shortly after buying this EOS 630, I caught a terrific bargain (one dollar!) on a working EOS 650, the very first EOS camera from 1987. I’m thinking about picking up a 50mm f/1.8 lens and giving it a try on the 650.
But I’ll be listing this EOS 630 and its challenged lens on eBay shortly. I’m glad I experienced it, but I never need to shoot it again. To be fair, I felt similarly about my Nikon N65, which has much the same mission as a point-and-shoot SLR. Both cameras work, and I suppose if I applied myself I could create some art with either of them. But I just felt no joy in using these cameras.
Do you like old cameras? Then check out all of my reviews.