I wish I could still recommend Canon EOS Rebel-series cameras, like the EOS Rebel S, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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