It’s a strange truth: it’s often a lot cheaper to buy a used lens when it’s attached to a camera body. That’s how I got my 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF II lens for just $55, rather than the $100 they normally go for: it came with this Canon EOS Rebel.
Cameras like this ask so little of you. Loading film might be the hardest thing about it, and it involves all of putting the cartridge in, stretching the film leader across the back to the red line, and shutting the door. You then turn the camera on, turn the mode dial to P (program), and frame your shot. It isn’t immediately obvious that you should press the shutter button down only halfway and wait for the autofocus beep, and then press it the rest of the way to get the picture. But you’ll pick that up soon enough. The camera even winds the film for you.
But the Rebel (or EOS 1000 outside North America) is capable of more, even though it was an entry-level camera upon its 1991 introduction. It offered autofocus and autoexposure across a spray of modes: portrait, landscape, close-up, and sports. It also offers a clever mode called DEP that makes you focus twice — once on the thing nearest to you in your subject, and once on the thing farthest away. The Rebel then sets aperture and shutter speed so that everything in between is in focus and properly exposed. The Rebel also offers program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and full manual modes. There’s also a Green Zone mode, the green rectangle on the mode dial, which turns the Rebel into a full-on point-and-shoot camera. It differs from program mode mostly in that you can’t adjust exposure or use the scroll wheel to change settings.
That’s what the scroll wheel (in front of the LED panel) is for, by the way: adjusting the camera’s chosen exposure settings. The camera shows you its chosen aperture and shutter-speed settings on an LCD panel inside the viewfinder. A whole range of aperture/shutter-speed combinations will deliver equivalent exposure, but with differing depths of field. Turn the scroll wheel until you get the combo you want. You can also adjust exposure up and down: press the left button on the camera back and turn the scroll wheel. The LCD panel shows you how many stops you’ve adjusted exposure, up to two stops in either direction. Your exposure setting holds until you put it back.
The camera’s specs are pretty reasonable. It sets ISO from 25 to 5,000 on DX-coded films, but you can set it manually from 6 to 6,400. The shutter operates from 1/1,000 to 30 seconds. The internal light meter has three modes: evaluative, partial, and center-weighted average. It seems to default to evaulative. There’s a self-timer and a hot shoe. One (surprisingly expensive) 2CR5 battery runs it all, and the camera is inert without it.
Although I’m happiest using one of my 1970s all-manual SLRs, sometimes I’m in the mood for easy breezy shooting. I saved this camera for just such a day, and I had a great time using it. I loaded good old Fujicolor 200 and got busy. Upon loading film, the Rebel winds the roll onto the takeup spool and pulls each frame back into the canister as you shoot. The LCD panel shows you the number of shots remaining.
I shot a lot of my usual stuff around home and around town, plus scenes from a fall festival and car show up in Zionsville. The scroll wheel for adjusting exposure to control depth of field was super useful. I really liked that feature. When I finished the roll, I was still enjoying the Rebel. So I loaded one of my precious rolls of discontinued Kodak Plus-X and kept going.
I’d love to show you the photos. But I can’t.
It turns out the camera is broken: the shutter doesn’t open. I got a long strip of blank Fujicolor negatives from the processor. The camera sounded like it worked all the way through, but nope. When an all-manual camera is broken, you usually know it the first time you press the shutter button. These electronic cameras can really fake you out.
Thankfully, I hadn’t sent the Plus-X off for processing yet. I followed some clever instructions on YouTube to get the film leader out of the canister. I’ll shoot that roll in a different camera soon.
It’s a shame, really. This Rebel was a lot of fun. Yes, this guy who loves his all-metal, all-manual cameras really enjoyed shooting the Rebel. I have a couple of Nikon plastic-fantastic 35mm SLRs made at about the same time as this Rebel, but they’re not nearly as much fun to shoot. I don’t get it; these plastic SLRs all seem pretty much alike. But now I can see why so many people choose Canon SLRs: this Rebel is simply charming.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.