I have growing doubts about my recent recommendation to first-time film shooters to pick up a 1990s Canon EOS body and lens. I’ve bought two in a row now that have failing or failed shutters. Maybe new film shooters should buy autofocus Nikons instead.
Which is a shame, really, because entry-level EOS cameras are a real pleasure to shoot. I like them better than their Nikon counterparts. No, aliens haven’t abducted me and replaced me with a double. I still prefer my 1970s metal, manual-focus SLRs, and nobody did those better than Nikon. But when I want easy breezy SLR shooting, these EOS Canons are hard to beat.
The EOS Rebel S (EOS 1000F outside North America) differs from the Rebel I reviewed last year only in that it has a built-in flash. Otherwise, these two SLRs share everything: a vertically-travelling shutter that operates from 30 sec. to 1/1000 sec., a hot shoe that syncs up to 1/90 sec. with compatible flashes, and various manual and automatic shooting modes. A 2CR5 battery powers it.
These Rebels, introduced in 1991, introduced a signature feature: when you load the film, the camera winds it all onto the takeup spool. Each time you fire the shutter, the camera rewinds one frame back into the film cartridge. The frame counter counts down accordingly. If you’ve ever forgotten to rewind film before opening an SLR and uttered the curse words that always follow such folly, you will appreciate this feature.
I loaded some Fujicolor 200, mounted my 35-80mm f/4-5.6 Canon EF lens, and headed to the Indiana State Fair with my 17-year-old son.
I twisted the Rebel S’s mode dial to P so it would choose every exposure setting for me, and shot with abandon. Other than wishing for a bigger, brighter viewfinder, the Rebel S handled flawlessly and I had a great time, just as I did with the non-S Rebel I shot last year.
But only nine of the roll’s 24 photos turned out. The rest were mostly or entirely black, as the shutter did not open properly. Some sleuthing I did around the Net reveals that this is the number one fault with old Canon EOS cameras: the shutters just wear out. And the only way I know of to find out whether one of these cameras has failed in this way is to put a roll of film through it.
But I’ll try again, and again if I must, to find a working, smaller EOS body. (I still have my older, slower, larger EOS 650 and EOS 630 bodies. Both work, but neither is nearly as fun to shoot as this Rebel S.) And why not try another? These cameras are dirt cheap right now. I bought this one from Used Photo Pro for just $13. It comes with a 180-day warranty, but it doesn’t seem worth the hassle to return it for just $13.
And on the photos that did turn out, the colors were off and the dark areas were especially dark. Photoshop brought out shadow detail in the hat photo above, but couldn’t get the colors right on the inflatable cows below.
I shot this whole roll in Program (P) mode, which chose aperture and shutter speed for me. If you like control over your exposure, you can choose aperture-priority (Av), shutter-priority (Tv), or metered manual (M) modes. There are also modes allegedly optimized for portraits, landscapes, closeups, and subjects in motion.
To see the other few shots that turned out, check out my Canon EOS Rebel S gallery.
It is funny to me that among metal, manual-focus SLRs I’ve enjoyed every Nikon I’ve ever tried, but haven’t warmed to the Canons with the exception of the T70. Yet among plastic autofocus SLRs I enjoy Canons a lot more than Nikons overall excepting my fantastic N90s.
tl;dr: This is a fun camera, but beware getting one with a worn-out shutter.