I’ve become…Canon curious. It’s not like I haven’t shot Canon before. My main camera is the wonderful Canon S95. But it’s a point-and-shoot digital camera, not a film SLR. And frankly, I’m a Pentaxian first, a Nikonian second, and that’s enough to keep a man busy for a long time.
I have shot two manual-focus Canon film SLRs, but never a camera from Canon’s EOS line, the bodies and lenses of which were designed from the ground up for automatic exposure and focus. Where Nikon has stuck doggedly with its lens mount that dates to 1959, Canon started with a clean sheet in 1987 with EOS. So I went looking for an early example, and came up with this EOS 630.
Canon introduced the tall and bulky EOS 630 in 1989. It’s long specification list (see it here) can be boiled down to this: it has several autoexposure modes including full program, a shutter that operates from 30 sec to 1/2000 sec, and autofocus. Like most early all-electronic SLRs, there’s no mode dial; to change settings, you press buttons and look at the LCD panel.
This EOS 630 came to me with a plastic-bodied, nearly weightless f/4-5.6 35-80mm lens. I was surprised that this lens tips the camera forward, because the plasticky EOS 630 is surprisingly heavy.
If you’re interested in Canon EOS cameras, by the way, I’ve also tried the EOS 650 (here), 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) and T70 (here). Or just check out all of my camera reviews here.
Despite the EOS 630’s various modes, this camera really wants you to just set it in Program and shoot mindlessly. So that’s what I did, after loading a roll of Arista Premium 400. Film loading is as easy as it gets: insert the film, draw the leader across to the red mark, and shut the door. The 630 automatically rewinds the film after the last frame.
Even though an f/4 lens doesn’t exactly scream “available light photography” I tried shooting a few things around the house. My mother’s grandfather — or was it her great grandfather? — made these duck decoys. As display pieces, they haven’t fooled any ducks in at least a half century.
Despite being an unimpressive kit lens, the 35-80 is capable of capturing rich tones on the Arista Premium film. I shoot this trio of trees frequently, as they’re convenient: on the golf course behind my house. The sun was bright and the shadows were crisp.
Meet my next-door neighbor’s new puppy. I think the EOS 630 is meant for candid, casual shots like this — aim at the subject, press the button, let the camera make zip-zap noises while it focuses, get the picture. If the zip-zap were faster, I might have captured pupper before he turned his head.
I figured I might as well take advantage of the zoom lens, so I took a walk along Michigan Road near my home and photographed the surroundings. I’ve been meaning to do it for years. Here’s a longtime barber shop — the “421” refers to this road’s number when it used to be a U.S. highway. Despite being big and bulky, the EOS 630 handled fine on my walk.
I hoped for more contrast and sharpness in these photographs. To be fair, my lens is defective — on my first shot, the front element fell off. Plop. I fitted it back in as tightly as I could and hoped for the best. Perhaps a non-broken lens would have performed better. But I feel like I won’t know what the EOS system is capable of until I shoot with a 50mm prime.
So I bought one, For a 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF lens, and took the EOS 630 out again with Eastman Double-X 5222 film aboard.
The lens made the most of the Double-X’s inherent contrastiness, and returned excellent detail. Win!
The EOS 630 continued to be a big lump in my hands, inspiring no love or joy. But it did its job.
I know a lot of people loved these cameras. I’m not one of them. I didn’t dislike the 630, I just wished for more dopamine (or seratonin, or whatever the right feel-good chemical) to wash through my body as I used it.
To see more photos, check out my EOS 630 gallery.
Cameras like this are a great way for a first-time film shooter to dip a toe in the water, as you don’t actually have to know anything about exposure or focus to get good shots. While I generally recommend cameras like the Nikon N60 to such people because I find them more joyful to shoot, cameras like this EOS 650 can be picked up for an absolute song, sometimes less than $10, and as you can see they still do great work.