Camera Reviews

Canon EOS Rebel S

I wish I could still recommend Canon EOS Rebel-series cameras to first-time film shooters. I used to; they’re inexpensive, easy to use, and great fun to shoot. Unfortunately, I’ve bought two in a row now that have failing or failed shutters. Checking with other film shooters, I find that this is common to these cameras.

If you’re looking to break into film photography, I still recommend an auto-everything 35mm SLR. Just choose one that’s robust, like the Nikon N60 or N65, the Canon EOS 630 or EOS 650. Or go for broke and check out all the cameras I’ve reviewed, here. You’re bound to find one that suits you.

But it’s a shame. For easy breezy SLR shooting, these Rebels are hard to beat.

Canon EOS Rebel S

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.

Canon EOS Rebel S

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.

Canon EOS Rebel S

If you groove on Canon SLRs, you might also check my reviews of the AL-1 (here), the A2e (here), the FT QL (here), the T70 (here) and the TLb (here.) Or just go see my long list of all the cameras I’ve reviewed, here.

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 son. I twisted the Rebel S’s mode dial to P so it would choose every exposure setting for me, and shot with abandon.

At the Fair

Other than wishing for a bigger, brighter viewfinder, the Rebel S handled flawlessly and I had a great time. These cameras are such a pleasure to use.

Born in the USA

Only nine of the roll’s 24 photos turned out. The rest were mostly or entirely black, as the shutter did not open properly. What a bummer.

Leather handbags

I suppose you could try higher-level EOS bodies. You could even buy older bodies like the EOS 650 and EOS 630 bodies, which are hardy but also larger, slower, and less fun to shoot. These cameras are dirt cheap. 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.

hats

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.

cows

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.

cow

To see the other few shots that turned out, check out my Canon EOS Rebel S gallery.

If you find a Rebel-series camera for cheap, check its shutter curtains for black goo. If you see goo, steer clear, as that shutter’s a goner.

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.

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20 thoughts on “Canon EOS Rebel S

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    Back in the day, when I was managing a big studio, I converted all my 35mm fashion shooters to Canon cameras from Nikons when auto focus came in. Canon’s decision to redesign the lens (and incorporate the focusing motor into the lens), was just the right way to go, including make the f/stop setting a camera body function, so people that shot mostly strobe, like my crew, could set an f/stop and it would remain that for the whole zoom range, even in “floating f/stop zoom lenses!

    I can’t say I thought the bodies were as long-term dependable, but the cameras sure functioned way more elegantly than the Nikons, even the auto focus method seemed better and more intuitive.

    I used a series of lower end “prosumer” Canon auto focus cameras of the era myself (like the Rebel), and I have to say, they were all just perfect. As much as I love mechanical, metal, manual focus cameras of my “pro” youth, I am really surprised that place like KEH have some pretty high-end 2nd-gen Canon auto-focus film cameras for virtually nothing! I’ve seen A2’s, which were considered pretty high up the “pro” scale, for about 60 bucks in excellent shape! It really makes me want to buy another one!

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    • I did some sleuthing after receiving your comment and yes, you can pick up A2s for next to nothing. I wonder whether there will be a boomerang effect in 5-10 years and these will go for more again. Kind of like I could pick up Canonet QL17 G-IIIs for $30 10 years ago but holy wow not anymore.

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  2. A friend of mine that has worked in camera stores for quite a while pointed out that the problem with the shutters is that the foam used as a light baffle in the shutter mechanism turns to a gooey mess and infiltrates the curtains. Sure enough, I had a Rebel S that I picked up at a thrift shop that appeared to work, but on closer inspection, I could see the gummy stuff on the mechanism. So, it’s not so much that the shutters fail, they fail because they get gummed up by something else.

    Canon made millions of Rebels, so I suspect that later models may be less prone to this problem. However, they are cheap cameras, and you may want to look at an EOS Elan II…which I used for a while and really liked.

    Comparing something like the Nikon N2000 to a plasticky Rebel makes one appreciate the sturdy Nikon build. :)

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  3. What did you think of the lens? I have heard people complain about that kit lens over the years, however it looks like it did a good job for you. I guess these Rebels were never meant to last for a long time. I imagine that Canon would hope that once the problems with the shutter set in that most people would have moved on to the next generation.

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  4. Marcus Peddle says:

    People tell me that Canon has better colour than Nikon but that Nikon produces sharper photos. I don’t think I was ever very interesting in buying a Canon because of the design. Pudgy with sloped shoulders. Or something. They lack the sleekness of the Nikon SLRs. But that’s probably a silly reason not to choose a camera.
    You mentioned opening the back of a camera before rewinding the film. Man, I did that two days ago, possibly the first or maybe just second time I’ve ever done that. I was at the end of the roll as well, so probably a lot of the photos are ruined. Lots of people say not to enable auto-rewind on the Nikon F100 so I didn’t. I regret that. So I turned the feature on when I got home. Man . . . . Luckily, all the photos were landscapes near my home and I can go back any time to do them again.

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  5. Cathy says:

    I have a Canon EOS Rebel S for sale if anybody interested. It is still a very good condition with lots of lenses. We did not used for a long time because we forget and it was sitting in our garages for so long. It comes with two hard cases.

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  6. Enjoying your posts, Jim. As you mentioned the 630 and 650 as upscale alternatives to the Rebel you reviewed, I might also mention the 620. It came out at about the same time as the 650 but has a more professional feature set. Otherwise they look almost identical.
    I bought my 620 at about the time they were introduced and it served me well, but I had the chance to sell it when I jumped into the EOS-1 (original version). In a fit of sentimentality, in 2012 when these were not selling for very much, I bought a like-new 620 and have relished its straightforward design (in this age of menu’d everything!) and rugged feel. Nice to put this “old friend” back in my pack – for the lordly sum of $28!
    Thus, to people who might consider the Rebel but be on the fence over shutter issues, the 620 is every bit as easy to use, especially in its full-auto Green Zone and its body innards are metal.

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