Camera Reviews

Canon EOS 630

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 frankly, I’m a Pentaxian first, a Nikonian second, and that’s enough to keep a man busy for a long time.

I have shot two manual-focus Canon film SLRs, but never 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 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.

Canon EOS 630

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 plasticky EOS 630 is surprisingly heavy.

If you’re interested in Canon EOS cameras, by the way, I’ve also tried the EOS 650 (here), the EOS A2e (here), the EOS Rebel (here), and the EOS Rebel S (here). You might also enjoy my reviews of the Canon AE-1 Program (here) and T70 (here). Or just check out all of my camera reviews here.

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. As display pieces, they haven’t fooled any ducks in at least a half century.

Decoys

Despite being an unimpressive kit lens, the 35-80 is capable of capturing rich tones on the Arista Premium film. 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.

Golf course trees

Meet my next-door neighbor’s new puppy. 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. If the zip-zap were faster, I might have captured pupper before he turned his head.

Neighbor's new pup

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. Here’s a longtime barber shop — the “421” refers to this road’s number when it used to be a U.S. highway. Despite being big and bulky, the EOS 630 handled fine on my walk.

Barber Shop

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.

So I bought one, For a 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF lens, and took the EOS 630 out again with Eastman Double-X 5222 film aboard.

VDGN

The lens made the most of the Double-X’s inherent contrastiness, and returned excellent detail. Win!

Parking

The EOS 630 continued to be a big lump in my hands, inspiring no love or joy. But it did its job.

Wall

I know a lot of people loved these cameras. I’m not one of them. I didn’t dislike the 630, I just wished for more dopamine (or seratonin, or whatever the right feel-good chemical) to wash through my body as I used it.

Creek

To see more photos, check out my EOS 630 gallery.

Cameras like this are a great way for a first-time film shooter to dip a toe in the water, as you don’t actually have to know anything about exposure or focus to get good shots. While I generally recommend cameras like the Nikon N60 to such people because I find them more joyful to shoot, cameras like this EOS 650 can be picked up for an absolute song, sometimes less than $10, and as you can see they still do great work.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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28 thoughts on “Canon EOS 630

  1. bwc1976 says:

    I have heard not-so-good things about some of the kit zoom lenses from back then. Definitely try it again with a 50mm when you can. Other EOS zooms known to be decent are the 28-105, 24-85, and the original (not mark II, III, or IV) 28-80.

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    • I was meh about the performance of my 35-80 zoom. But because that front element was not properly attached, which could have affected this lens’s performance, I’m not willing to pan all Canon 35-80s. I did buy a 50mm f/1.8 and am shooting it on the EOS 650 now.

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  2. My only real SLR experience, aside from a little fiddling circa 1988 with film, is Canon… but digital; my Rebel XT 350D, which will be 10 years old this summer. Unbelievable. It’s an EOS mount as well, if I’m not mistaken. Not as up on this kind of thing as once I was.

    That second shot is so authentic. If you could just take out the 85-button remote and replace it with a half-filled 6-lb glass ashtray, you could say it was a shot from The Dick Van Dyke Show. :)

    I’m not up on my film stock. Did you shoot native B&W or did you convert colour shots in Photoshop to study the contrast?

    Ah! I hope you go for the 650 and the 50mm lens. I love 50mm lens shots. The bokeh from a good one is a kick beyond words.

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    • Yep, your Rebel is an EOS camera.

      Holy cow, yes, the 6-lb filled ashtray. I grew up with those. I don’t miss them!

      I did get the 50. I’m shooting it on the 650 now! And I shot b/w film on this test roll – Arista Premium 400, which is said to be rebranded Kodak Tri-X.

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  3. bodegabayf2 says:

    I’m sort of in the camp of wanting to find real joy in using the camera–it’s part of the experience for me. If it isn’t a joy to shoot, it should at least be a joy to look at. The Canons and Nikons from this era just seem like black, plastic blobs. I had an N50 and N70. They were capable cameras…but joyless.

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    • I’m right there with you. With old cameras so (relatively) cheap and plentiful, there’s no reason to shoot a camera you don’t enjoy. This is ultimately what is guiding my decisions around which of my cameras to keep and which to sell — do I enjoy it enough to shoot it again? If no, I sell it.

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  4. pj931 says:

    Personally I’m not a fan of kit zooms and I prefer to leave the autofocus to my digital cameras but I really like these shots. I can relate with your opinion on the FT as I’m not a fan of my FTb, Clunkier AE-1P with no program mode.

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  5. I think these images look pretty good. Probably not up to what you’d get with the nifty 50, however its not bad for one of the early kit EOS lenses. I have one of these that I used to use quite a lot. For a simple auto-focus film camera it has a lot going for it. I probably would use it more if I hadn’t gotten over my prolific use of film. There is a Promaster 35-80 lenses that I have gotten good results from with this camera. Its nice because when you can find it on Ebay it is usually very cheap for an EOS lens. I don’t think that I would have sought one out if I hadn’t seen an old article where a news photographer was talking about what a good lens it is.

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    • I bagged that nifty 50, so we will find out soon enough what it can do!

      This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a gem among the aftermarket-maker lenses. I have a Sears 200mm zoom for my Pentaxes that is just gold. You never know, I guess!

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  6. Richard Scholl says:

    Jim,
    If you want to try a Canon, and you get a chance, try an F-1 (with lenses that attach via a threaded sleeve). Although not an automatic camera, I seem to recall that some of us preferred them to the equivalent Nikons of the time (late 60s).

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  7. As if I need more cameras i might be getting a Canon SLR from a colleague soon, I got one from his dad but it was dead so i at least have a lens. Curious to see how it handles after using a Nikon F65 (UK name of the N65 i wonder?) SLR P&S. I’m sure the canon will go the way of the ‘Bay as well but you never know, might be a hit!

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  8. Snoozbar says:

    I had the 630 back in the early 90s and must say, for the landscape and nature photography I used it for it was excellent. EOS lens mount, heavy duty body and very simple controls. Produced a lot of beautiful slides with that camera.

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  9. Pingback: Canon EOS 630 – Camera Go Camera

  10. Pingback: Updated review: Canon EOS 630 | Down the Road

  11. I had a couple of EOS film cameras, the slightly later 500N, and one of the last and smallest, whose model number I can’t recall. My conclusions were much like yours Jim – very competent cameras that get the job done with no fuss… But yes there’s just something bland and unexciting about Canon cameras.

    By all accounts their EOS DSLRs followed the same pattern, but I’ve yet to try one, because I’m pretty sure I know the outcome will be the same – dependable, but dull!

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    • I’m not a giant fan of the Canon lenses, either. Look, if someone handed me an EOS SLR and a Canon 50 I could make good photos with it for the rest of my life. I just wouldn’t enjoy it as much.

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