Canon EOS 1 - The historical Pro EOS film camera

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Jul 23, 2010.

  1. This continues my series on historical EOS cameras. As fully automatic, AF cameras these find no place in the most historically oriented forum here, Classic Manual Cameras, but I feel history often helps to understand what is happening now, so I am posting here.
    From 1987 to early 1989, Canon had produced five EOS film cameras, starting with the 650 and the 620, and numbered in sequence after that: EOS 750, 850, and the EOS 630 in April of 1989. Obviously, the quirkiness of number sequences is not something new in Canon.
    Finally in September of 1989, Canon produced the first EOS camera aimed squarely at 100% professional photographers (and of course, MDs), the Canon EOS 1. It was taken off the market in September/October 1994 when it was replaced by the EOS 1n. (for additional details see such sites as

    It was intended to be a Nikon F4 killer. Now remember that the F4, introduced in 1988, was a very special camera. As no less than the redoubtable Ken Rockwell says:
    The F4 is the world's first professional autofocus camera.
    The F4 is the world's first professional camera with a built-in motor drive. (Previous cameras had to use klunky external screw-on motors.)
    The F4 is the world's first professional camera with modern Matrix (intelligent) light metering.
    I suspect that Canon might contest a couple of these, since they had called the 1987 EOS 620 with a built-in drive and autofocus their first "professional" EOS camera. Some of their early EOS cameras had interesting metering alternatives too. But clearly Canon realized that the F4 was a real challenge to Canon's quest for hegemony in the SLR market. Hence the EOS 1. In the words of a partisan website:
    It turned the tide to Canon. ... Aimed at the professional market, the EOS 1 is notable for being a major game changer for Canon. For the first time ever, Canon's standard USM lenses offered better focusing performance than Nikon's professional lenses on the then-inferior Nikon F4.​


    The EOS 1 is large - 890g with battery - 161 x 107 x 72 mm.

    It had a fixed eye-level pentaprism. 0.72x magnification and virtually 100% coverage with seven interchangeable focusing screens. Built-in dioptric correction up to ±2 diopters (but you have to remove the viewfinder "rubber bumper" to adjust it).

    The EOS 1 has a vertical-travel, focal-plane electronic metal shutter that goes from 30 sec. to 1/8000 sec., with X-sync at 1/250 sec. The film speed range is ISO 6 to 6400. The camera also has a variety of metering modes: 5.8% partial metering , 2.3% fine spot metering, centerweighted averaging metering with 6 zones, and 6-zone evaluative metering.

    The motor drives this all at 5.5 FPS with very respectable, fast focusing times.

    The AF sensor said to be 4X faster than the BASIS sensor used in the EOS 650.

    It runs on the 6V 2CR5 lithium battery that was used by all, I think, of the early EOS cameras

    By the time of its introduction, there was not only a good array of regular lenses, but some very long L class lenses (such as the 100-300mm and the 600mm) were available. At virtually the same time as the release of the EOS 1, new L lenses were also brought on the market: EF 20-35mm f/2.8L, EF 80-200mm f/2.8L, and especially the EF 50mm f/1.0L USM and EF 85mm f/1.2L USM.

    The "Operating System" on the EOS 1 is the first with the rear "quick control dial", although it has fewer actions working through it than was true later on.

    The new AF sensor technology is also said to have contributed to the development of digital sensors in the long run.

    The first picture shows the front of the EOS 1. I apologize for the anachronistic lens on it, That lens was not introduced until October 2005, but I'm very sorry to say that I do not have a EF 50mm f/1.0 L to show it with. I felt this elegant lady deserved a fine red-ringed lens, after all. Much as I love my EF 50mm f/1.8 Mark II, it would have felt wrong somehow to mount it here
  2. The first pair of pictures (in this case, shot rather hurriedly on Fujj Superia 200, all with the 24-105mm lens) shows a coffee shop popular with local literature teachers, a nice place. The bottom shop shows the progress of the new stadium, to be opened this fall if all goes well. Those who have seen some of my earlier posts showing pictures of the campus will not be surprised to learn that the stadium's name for the time being will be SIU Sports Stadium. If a big donor comes through, perhaps it will get that person's name.
  3. OK, we're definitely a college town. The top picture shows one of our fine establishments for dining out. Surprisingly there are a few good restaurants growing up, but it's been a long haul.
    The bottom picture is Ga. Perhaps an early precursor of GaGa?

  4. Finally, a shot of the threatening sky that afternoon. For a change, it didn't drop a load of rain.
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  5. That's all folks. Shortly I will present an EOS 10s and then maybe the last in my series on EOS, a EOS 3.
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  6. Nicely done, JDM - thanks!
  7. I once bought a Canon 650 at a yard sale for $10 because it had the dreaded black gunk on the shutter blades. I was able to patiently over a period of time remove it all with Q-tip, Ronsonol, and a business card. I really like the camera and used it with some older Nikon non AI lenses with a cheap adapter. I swapped it for a Canon T-90 plus cash. The T-90 is long gone and I now have a beautiful Canon F-1n (the second variation ca. 1977) with FD 50mm 1.4 and 24mm f2.8 plus a Nikon Canon made adapter so I can shoot with Nikkors also. Does your camera, JDM, suffer from the same deteriorating shutter bumper?
  8. And the best thing is great old gear like this is available for a song nowadays!
  9. No so far none of the Canon cameras I have got (with the minor exception of the Canon AE-1P that had a minor bit of it) have had a touch of the sticky foam problem. I know it exists, but I haven't yet encountered it.
    Chris is correct about the incredible bargains in these cameras. Most of my previous purchases were for around US$30 on eBay, but I have to confess the EOS 1 and EOS 3 (coming attraction) did not come quite that cheap.
  10. There's no doubt that this was THE big camera for Canon - at the time, Nikon were kings of AF pro SLRs, and Minolta led the rest of the market, due to class-leading AF. The 1, being effectively a bigger, better, AF T90 with the best AF on the market at the time turned everything on its head. In a short space of time, this was followed up with the 100/Elan and 1000/Rebel which competed just as strongly in their appropriate market sectors. Certainly the 1 was the camera that made me consider Canon - ironically, it's one of the few models I've never owned. Certainly a classic, thanks for the item.
  11. Another excellent post, JDM! The original EOS 1 is a camera that I've not had the pleasure of using, but I remember reading about it when I was shopping for my A2 a year or so before the 1n was released. I too have been acquiring some of the early EOS bodies recently, namely the 650, 10S, and I replaced my A2 that I sold a few years ago. It's very interesting to line them up starting with the T90 through the aforementioned EOS bodies plus my 1v and see how they all share some element of design heritage. While I knew of the EOS 1 back in the early 90s, I didn't know much about it as it was waaayyy out of my realm of possibilities. Thanks for these historical posts. I find them most enjoyable to read and to view. BTW, the 24-105 looks very nice on that body!
  12. While it's not like the superstitions that dog-breeders sometimes have about letting a cur in, it would have been tacky to mount the ever-so-plebian 50mm f/1.8 mk ii on this patrician body. The AF on the 24-105mm works very nicely on the EOS 1, although the AF is overall a little less sophisticated in terms of focusing points than the newer digital cameras. Things like the multiple metering and so on are very cool, of course, and it's going to be a toss-up I think about whether I will shoot more film in future on my T90, my EOS 1, my EOS 3, or (here speaks the old Nikonian) my still-belovèd Nikkormat EL (which exemplifies the older, pre-AF state of the art while the T90 goes into new territory).
    Maybe someday I'll find one of the 50mm f/1.0 lenses on eBay at a buy-it-now price of $50 or so, :)
    [I just watched a rerun of a show about alternate universes, where "anything possible could have happened".]
    I certainly will be using my elderly Nikkor-S 55mm f/1.2 on all of my old and new favorites (with adapters on the FD and EF bodies). I am not really dedicated to film per se, although by far the majority of my portfolio was shot on Kodachrome. However, I enjoy both the mechanical and electronic elegance of these older machines so much that I do the extra work to get the images scanned after I shoot.
  13. Never go back over things, some people say. However the citation in association with the statement about the "then-inferior Nikon F4" is from Camerapedia (link) although the source listed after the statement says much the same thing.
  14. JDM - I would argue that the T90 was the first professional camera with a built in motor. While it was not built like the New F1 (which was still being sold at the time) the T90 was heavily used by professionals as well as amateurs. It was revolutionaly in many ways as it included lots of new and evolutionary developments (CW, partial, spot and multi-spot metering, built in 4.5 fps motor drive, TTL flash - finally). The motor wind was very special as most 5fps winders at that time took 12 AA batteries or a big NiCad pack. By using three small motors Canon was able to create a way to get a 5fps motor to operate on 4 AA cells - the Nikon F4 copied the Canon approach - as did almost all film cameras after that date.
  15. I am well aware of the T90, and I have done a similar post on in in the FD forum as a "Twilight, harbinger, and herald"of things to come (link).
    The Ken Rockwell (not to be confused with George Lincoln Rockwell) listing is typical of the "Hypnoken's" postings in being provocative without necessarily having a firm grasp on reality, but lots of Nikon people would agree with Ken and I meant it to represent the breed, so to speak. Important as the T90 was, it was really the EOS 1 that established Canon's dominance for the next decade at least IMHO
  16. Thanks for another welcome reminder of (relatively) recent Canon history, JDM.
    In 1990 I finally found myself in a position to move on from my original F-1, bought in 1972, with which I had a small set of FD prime lenses, and that meant an open choice between the EOS-1 and the Nikon F4. Although I had been happy with the F-1, I was perfectly prepared to consider both alternatives without prejudice! I chose the EOS-1 for two main reasons. First, I did not want the extra bulk and weight of the F4; if I wanted a vertical grip / power booster, I would add it, but I did not want it forced on me (one reason I have never considered the 1D series). Secondly, it was clear by then that mechnical camera-lens interfaces had already become quite complicated enough, and adding mechanical AF was the straw that broke the camel's back. Canon's then-painful decision to go all-electrical/electronic was clearly the right one as I saw it at the time, and I douibt if many people now would argue with that decision, especially since that approach is now the industry standard.
    Now, as to lens. I am not aware that Canon ever used the EF 50/1.0L as the "standard illustration lens" with any Canon body (so you can relax, JDM!). Once it was available, that niche was occupied by the EF 50/1.4, and it is still sometimes used in that way – it seems rather odd to see a clearly consumer-grade lens in a marketing illustration of a high-end professional body. But at the time of introduction of the EOS-1, the lens with which it was actually illustrated (and which appeared in the manual) was the EF 28~70/3.5~4.5. That lens later acquired something of a cult status, for reasons that, having owned one, I never found obvious.
    I used my EOS-1 from 1990 to 2001. In 1998 I bought an EOS-3 to use alongside it (I never had an EOS-1n), and in 2001 I moved on from the EOS-1 to an EOS-1V. I always liked the original EOS-1 for its size, shape and weight, which is no doubt why I feel so comfortable with the 5D and now the 5DII, which are pretty similar. Certainly the 1V was a noticeably taller and heavier camera. I only ever had one problem with the EOS-1: in 2000 while I was using it for botanical work on Madeira, the below-the-frame display in the viewvinder suddenly failed, with only odd green segments being visible at varying intensity. I suppose some damp may have got in from the rather humid air, although this had never happened before in comparable conditions, and the EOS-3 being used alongside it was unaffected. Over the next twelve months the display slowly came back to life, and when I traded it in for the 1V, it was fully back to normal.
  17. I started with the 650 in 1989, then the 630, etc. I never had the EOS 1, but after washing out an A2 in a downpour whilst shooting a soccer game I bought an EOS 1n and a 70-200 2.8L. What a satisfying combination. I hope you will do something on the 1n because it was the most satisfyingly easy body I have used over the years. I did not have to think much about operating the thing as compared to say my 5D today or my Bronicas then. I did a lot of sports and news coverage as well as weddings with the 1n. I sold it in 2002. Wish now that I had kept it. Thanks for the piece on the EOS 1.
  18. That's all folks. Shortly I will present an EOS 10s and then maybe the last in my series on EOS, a EOS 3.
    Nicely down, JDM, thanks.
    My first EOS was the 10S in 1990. I bought another one 4 years after, and then, just 2 years ago bought the EOS 3. Good cameras indeed.
  19. An addendum for those who find this in a search
    This is the EOS 1 review from the Popular Photography of December 1989
    88K pdf file
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  20. In my opinion, the EOS 1 is the most aesthetically pleasing of all Canon cameras. (The T90 is the runner-up in my book.)
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  21. Much later. Kodak's 560 early digital camera for EF-mount lenses was based on the successor to the Canon EOS 1, the EOS-1n:

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