The Canon EOS 650 is the first-ever Canon EOS camera, from 1987, making it historically significant. And I got the body for a trifle: a buck! (Plus $12 shipping.) I love a bargain!

Canon EOS 650

Even though I already had a 35-80mm zoom lens for this mount, I wasn’t very impressed with it. So I bought a used EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens for $45. It has long been the least expensive prime Canon sells for its EOS cameras, but it’s widely praised.

Canon EOS 650

I already owned an EOS 630 which, despite its lower model number, came out two years after the 650 and had more features. The 650 lacks some of the 630’s modes, and its motor drive is a little slower (3 fps vs. 5 fps). Also, the 650 doesn’t automatically rewind the film after the last frame as the 630 does. You have to flip down that little panel below the film door, and press the rewind button. I learned that the hard way — after shooting the roll, I opened the camera and ruined a bunch of photographs. Drat.

If you like, you can see my review of the 630 here. Other Canon EOS SLRs I’ve reviewed include 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), the AL-1 (here), the T70 (here), the FT QL (here), and the TLb (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I dropped some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into the 650 and took it along on a trip to St. Charles, Illinois. The Fox River flows through town. You’ll find fox statues all over town. These twin foxes guard the bridge that carries St. Charles’s main street over the river.

Foxes on the mighty Fox River

Fast film and a fast lens let me get these night shots of the art-moderne St. Charles Municipal Building. The dome changes color.

Municipal Building

The downside of using a 50mm lens was that I would have had to back up all the way into the river to get the entire building in the photo.

Municipal Building

Here’s a near-sunset shot of the main drag through St. Charles, also known as State Route 64.

Downtown St. Charles

And here’s a daylight shot of a footbridge over the Fox, south of downtown. As you can see, the 650 and this lens handles a bunch of lighting conditions with ease. But I’ll bet that if I’d brought one of my Pentax SLRs with a 50mm Pentax prime attached, I’d’ve gotten warmer, livelier color tones on the same film. These colors just don’t jazz me.

Piano Factory Bridge

Fast film and fast lens let me shoot indoors with available light, too. The in-focus patch was mighty thin, however.

Bumblebee glasses

The 650’s autofocus worked fine for the most part. It’s a little slow, but for what I was shooting it didn’t matter. Once in a while I was puzzled by its focusing choices, as in this shot. But this is my favorite photo from my test roll anyway. I like the light play and the rough surface of the desk my Kodak 35 was sitting on.

Kodak 35

To see more photos from my test roll, check out my Canon EOS 650 gallery.

I shot everything in straight program mode and let the camera focus for me. The EOS 650 handled just like the EOS 630, which is to say fine, which is also to say uninspiringly. Frame, press the button, zip-zap-click. I just don’t have as much fun with auto-everything SLRs. But as you can see, this one performed competently.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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25 responses to “Canon EOS 650”

  1. Richard Armstrong Avatar
    Richard Armstrong

    Nice review of the 650, I’m thinking that the 650 was numbered 650 as it was a basic version, the more advanced 620 came out just 2 months later in 1987. Of course the the highly advanced and professional models only have a single digit number eg. EOS 1 (1989), EOS 3 (1998), EOS 5/EOS A2(1992), EOS 7 (2000)’

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I had a line on an EOS 1 not long ago but lost out. Looked like a fine camera.

  2. Christopher Avatar

    Nice review and photos, I have just got one of these off eBay for £6 about $9 it arrived today so will put a film through it soon. I like the night shots.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s the great thing about these old EOS cameras — you can sometimes get them for a song.

  3. Alex Baker Avatar
    Alex Baker

    I picked up an EOS RT, which is essentially an EOS 630 with a pellicle mirror, for cheap money. Back in the day, the claim to fame was a higher frame rate, and no mirror blink. The one nice thing about it, is you can get away shooting crop sensor (EF-S) lenses, because the mirror is fixed. I have a Tokina 12-24mm zoom that works nicely, for the most part. You get a vignette at 12mm, but it is gone by 15mm.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I hear that with those pellicle mirrors the viewfinder isn’t as bright. Do you find that?

      1. ambaker49 Avatar

        This is true, but I find I need a side by side comparison, to see a difference. The pluses are 5 frames per second, not huge these days, quieter with less vibration (no mirror slap), and no blackout during the shot.

  4. pesoto74 Avatar

    I have had one of these for a few years and like it pretty weil. I don’t do much action photography so the slower auto focus isn’t a problem. I have always had good results with the auto exposure. I usually just use it in program mode unless there is some tricky lighting. Still if I am going to use film I prefer the mechanical classics.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I just seem to be unable to fall in love with these plastic blob SLRs, whether Canon or Nikon. But they are competent shooters nonetheless. And I’m with you: when I use one of these, I just stick to program.

  5. Wes C Avatar
    Wes C

    My EOS 650 still gets pretty regular use and gives fine results. Plus, I have a sentimental attachment to it as well. It was the last camera that my dad purchased and used in the late 80’s. I remember it being a big deal when he brought it home and it seemed very advanced back then. He was proud of the EOS! When I shoot with it now I tend to use aperture priority mode most often and I find that exposure metering always works very well. Thanks for writing about your experiences.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s great! It’s cool that you get to use your dad’s old camera.

  6. sergepontejos Avatar

    Hi Jim–

    You just might inspire me to dig out my 620 out of my storage loft to get back to film shooting. I moved my lenses to a 5D a few years ago. I got the 620 as a pawn shop buy and enjoyed taking many photos with it until I moved to digital. Having been very accustomed to the Canon EOS interface it was not a difficult transition. The thing about those earlier cameras is the focusing mechanism specifically works off that center spot that looks kind of like brackets. The subsequent cameras had multi-zone focusing, but this and the 630/650 you have to focus with subject in center and then recompose as needed. I’d also suggest that if color is not lighting you up with the Canon EOS, try out a few rolls of Black & White film, and try exploring the Aperture-priority mode some more. It might take some getting used to using the finger dial to scroll the aperture back and forth, but you might find some more satisfying results.


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I just recently shot a Canon EOS Rebel and liked it a lot better than this 650 — well, in terms of how it handled, anyway, as the Rebel’s shutter is toast and I got no images back. But its smaller, lighter body and more intuitive controls just make it a more compelling shooter. Again, it would if it worked. But I’d have a working Rebel over the 650 any day!

  7. Dean J Linney Avatar
    Dean J Linney

    I Like all the early eos 600 series cameras. I own all the models, and enjoy shooting with them. The 650 is a good camera but, go for the 620, or the 600/630 as the 620 has faster top shutter speed and flash sync and, the 600/630 has faster frame rate and faster AF and they both have the program shift function, which the 650 lacks. As i say they are excellent cameras and can be picked up for only a few pounds/ dollars, and are well worth a look.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have a 630 as well. I’ve been experimenting lately with the later, smaller-bodied EOS models like the Rebel S. I like these older ones okay but they’re pretty big. But you’re right, they go for a song.

  8. […] such as aperture. I found the autofocus was a little slow and random at times, but acceptable. This reviewer found the […]

  9. […] Further Reading Don’t just take my word on the EOS 650, you can check out the reviews by other awesome camera reviewers! Casual Photophile – Canon EOS 650 Camera Review – The Autofocus Revolution Arrives Lomography – A Review of the Canon EOS 650 Scott Locklear – Canon EOS 650 Camera Review Down the Road (Jim Grey) – Canon EOS 650 Review […]

  10. Ted Marcus Avatar

    You’re lucky that your $1 650 didn’t have a sticky shutter bumper. I got my 650 in 1989. It cost a lot more than $1. I used it for 9 years. Then I noticed that some of my pictures looked like half the frame was missing. The repairman told me that a rubber bumper in the shutter assembly had deteriorated and was oozing a gummy liquid that was making the shutter stick. It was apparently a common problem on those cameras as they got old. The only way to fix it would be to replace the entire shutter assembly, which would cost a significant percentage of the price of a new camera.

    So I traded in the 650 for an Elan II (not the eye-control version), which I used until I went digital in 2005. The Elan II has more features than the 650, but it’s lighter and less substantially built. I still have the Elan II, but I have no desire to shoot and scan film.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve bought a couple old EOS bodies that had exactly that problem. The Rebel series seems especially prone to it.

  11. Erwin Avatar

    The 650 does roll the film back automatically after 24/36 pictures, as it is stated in the manual. And my 2 old 650 bodies I just got via eBay do it as well …

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks. Mine must not have worked right then.

      1. Arkadiusz Proc Avatar

        There is a hidden menu, but you’ll need a manual to read the settings. (menu looks like numbers 1, 2.. etc.) Every number means something. For example: should the camera rewind the film automaticly, or: should the camera rewind all the film to the canister, or leave the end of the film outside. And by every number of menu you may set yes/no – the horizontal bar will apear at the top screen. Eos 600/630 has 7 settings, Eos RT has even 12. I’m not sure how many 650 has.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Fascinating! Thank you for adding this detail.

  12. […] Further Reading Don’t just take my word on the EOS 650; you can check out the reviews by other awesome camera reviewers! Casual Photophile – Canon EOS 650 Camera Review – The Autofocus Revolution Arrives Lomography – A Review of the Canon EOS 650 Scott Locklear – Canon EOS 650 Camera Review Down the Road (Jim Grey) – Canon EOS 650 Review […]

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