Cameras, Photography

Canon EOS 630

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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 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 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.

Decoys

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.

Chairside table and lamp

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.

Golf course trees

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.

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. I’ll share more of those photos in an upcoming post, but for now, here’s a dinosaur in front of a child care.

Dino

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.

Fence

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.

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19 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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