Canon EOS 650 - First of the Breed

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Feb 14, 2010.

  1. By 1986, Canon had developed a number of modern electronic, more or less "automatic" cameras. One of the biggest sellers at the time was the Canon AE-1 Program (1981). The physical design of the body was much like other cameras of the time, basically, like the rest, following in the design footsteps of the original eye-level prism camera, the Contax S, later known as the Pentacon.

    At nearly the same time as the AE-1P, however, Canon began to develop cameras that did not look much like most earlier cameras. These were the T-series, from the T50 (1983) to what many consider the top of the FD-mount line, the T90 (early 1986).

    The T90 body took on a sort of angular plastic "jello mold" look that is very familiar to users of Canon EOS cameras. The T90 was manual focus. The earlier T-80, however, had introduced a line of autofocus lenses (AC lenses), a 50mm f/1.8 prime and two zooms, although the appearance of the T80 body was more traditional than that of the T90.

    All of this was heading to the first EOS camera, the EOS 650 of March 1987. A few months later in May, the first "professional" EOS camera, the EOS 620 was released. Both of these had an external appearance like the T90, but combined with a new, and larger, mount--the EF mount with only electronic connection to the lens. Some of the older Canon users have never really forgiven Canon for this, since it is difficult and impractical to adapt FD or older Canon lenses to infinity focus on the new mount.

    EOS was the development code for Electro Optical System, from which the reference to the Greek goddess of dawn was noted (link ). It is a 35mm film camera, and the control system is set up with a series of modes that will be familiar to users of more recent EOS cameras. (Specs at link )

    In recent months, the going price of a good, working EOS 650 body has been from around $10 up to $70 with one of the early zoom lenses. It's probably the cheapest solution for the EOS digital shooter who wants a film camera back up that will take all of the EF lenses (but not, of course, the EF-S lenses).
    Modest beginnings, but most of them still work, more than 20 years later.
    This is by way of an experiment to see if this forum will respond positively to historically oriented threads like those of the Classic Manual Cameras forum, but dealing with the classics of the electronic, AF age.
  2. Here in the best Classic Manual Cameras tradition are a couple of test shots with these swell old cameras
  3. I owned the immediate descendant of the 650, the EOS 630. It was basically the same body with tweaked AF. I could rarely get it nail focus in AF mode and ended up using it as a MF camera with wide angle lenses. Although it was plastic, the fiberglass reinforced polycarbonate was tough as a brick and made later designs like the EOS 5, Elan and 10S feel cheap, although they focused much better.
  4. I bought a 650 in 1988. There are a couple of B&W tri-x pictures taken with that body in 1991 in Leningrad in my PN gallery under Russia. I had it for a few years before going on to a succession of other Canon bodies. I don't frankly remember how well it focused. I bought a Sigma 35-70 with it. I soon switched to Canon lenses and have stuck with them ever since. An interesting thread JDM. As you say it was quite well built as I dropped it on pavement once without damage.
  5. JDM,
    I clung onto my FD gear with grim determination for years. The turning point for me was when I wanted a new 20-35 FD zoom, when I looked on eBay the price of a used FD one was higher than the EOS one! Of course the 20-35 EOS didn't last that long, the 17-35 then the 16-35 then the 16-35 MkII all replaced each other. Ended up going new 1V's, now that will be a classic in years to come, and new (at the time) 16-35 MkI. Still got the lens and both 1V's but one ended up with less than 100 rolls of film before the digital tidal wave swept over me too.
    I don't have any early film EOS cameras, but what do you suppose might be the classic EOS digitals? I think the 1D will end up being a sort after classic, I have one, with all the boxes and paperwork that came with it but it is far too worn to ever be a collectible, handy because I still use it on occasions.
    Anyway, nice thread idea, Scott.
  6. Was this one of the Canons that has a tendency for the shutter "bumper" to deteriorate, resulting in a sticky mess on the blades?
  7. I should also have pointed out that these were not inexpensive when they were new. Here are the Adorama and B&H offerings of June, 1988. These are 1988 dollars, worth somewhat more than the dollar is today - a $340 camera would cost about $617 in 2009 dollars.
  8. I too had a 650, with a 35-70 standard zoom lens - the first zoom lens I'd ever had. I bought the 650 in 1988 and I kept it until 2008, when it, and whole load of other things, were stolen. I never had many lenses for it: I bought an EF 28-105 in the early 90s, and subsequently a truly awful Sigma 70-210 - very slow, very soft. Later in the 90s I bought a 10, then a 100, a 3 in 2000, and in about 2002 a 33 (the 3 was always too much camera for me). With them I bought more and better lenses. All of these were objectively 'better cameras', but for me, the way that 650 handled is the way that feels most natural to me. For example, I've never been able to cope with multiple AF points - I always set any EOS to just use the single central AF point. A few years ago I bought a 600 (630 in N America) to get that feeling back, and very occasionally I take it out. It's true that the 650's AF system was very slow (though I remember it getting rave reviews for being fast & responsive at the time). Somehow the burglars missed that one and the 28-105 lens which was attached to it.
    After the burglary my insurance company replaced all the stolen items with 'new for old'. In the case of the 650, they gave me a 300V, a tiny plasticky thing. But body and robustness aside, when I looked at its specification I realised that it comprehensively beat the old 650; and of course the performance in areas like AF speed is much, much better.
  9. I had the EOS600 (630) it was my first EOS body and first AF SLR. I could not believe how good the AF was. I bought the camera on a Friday evening afterwork and was shooting rally cars in the forest the next morning using Ilford HP5 pushed to 800. I never had any problems geting the AF to work and most of the negs were well focused. After the 600 was stolen I got the EOS100 with the insurance money and was not so impressed with the build quality. Eventualy I picked up a mint used EOS1 that I continued to use for the next 10 years or so.
  10. "I don't have any early film EOS cameras, but what do you suppose might be the classic EOS digitals?"​
    The D30 defined the form & operation of a digital EOS; everything since then has been enhancement but not a serious change in direction. And the 5D achieved full-frame coverage and was (more or less) affordable.
  11. I also recall that Canon took a real hammering in the press over the decision to change the lens mount. Comments like 'a slap in the face for existing loyal Canon customers' were common, and some commentators wondered if this would adversely affect the commercial success of the new range. Other manufacturers, e.g. Nikon, Pentax) were building AF cameras that were compatible with existing MF lenses.
    Time has shown that the decisions that Canon took when designing the EOS range & the EF mount were absolutely right.
  12. Well, I love my 50D, and it is certainly objectively better than my first Canon, an FTb, so I forgive Canon. However, I still miss using the FTb. It was ergonomically primitive, but it was solid as a rock and beautifully built. Its simplicity made it fast to use, and the microprism made manual focusing fast and accurate. I haven't used it for years, but once in a while I take it out, and it makes me nostalgic.
  13. Nice thread JDM- wasn't it Colani who did design work for the original T90? If so, his influence is still evident today!
    Though very capable (and tough!) these plastic bodies were a bit abhorrent to this early Canon F-1 owner.
  14. Yes, Rick, Luigi Colani was indeed the designer of the T90. And a lasting design it has been.
  15. Thanks for the history refresher, JDM. I remember when that one came out. I really wanted it at the time, but I had a Minolta and couldn't afford the 650. Funny how that doesn't seem that long ago. (sigh)
  16. Ahhh. I remember when these cameras came out. I was firmly planted in the FD camp having learned the ins and outs on my dad's AE-1 Program and then absolutely falling in love with my first camera--a well used A-1. Since this was at a time when I was heavily interested in photography (I was in high school) but had no money (again, high school) I stuck it out with my A-1 and it carried me through college and beyond. I eventually moved to EOS with an Elan 7E when my beloved A-1 finally went down and then on to digital about three years ago, but I do remember looking at those ads in the photo mags at the EOS 650 and 620 and wondering if they were that much better than what I had. Camera envy and upgrade fever start young.
  17. Thanks, JDM, a welcome reminder of the early days of the EOS system. I never had any of the EOS 6XX bodies; my entry to the EOS system was with the EOS-1, bought in 1990 to replace my original-version F-1, and I am still using the 50/2.5 bought at the same time. In both design and capabilities, I always thought of the EOS-1 as the true, and very worthy, heir of the T90 (as well as the successor to the much loved but rather clunky F-1 series) with the 6XX bodies being at best a cadet branch.
    Although the early EOS bodies were the start of a new generation, it's easy to forget what a shock it was to move from the almost uniformly nicely made FD and nFD lenses to the mechanically ghastly early EF lenses. Subsequent developments have shown how wise Canon were to make the break from the FD mount to the all-electric EF mount, a system that has stood the test of time, even if the change was painful. Indeed, one of my reasons for choosing the EOS-1 over the Nikon F4 and a Nikon system back in 1990 was my belief that Canon had got it right – another was the desire NOT to have a compulsory vertical grip adding to size and weight. Optically the early EF designs were mostly a natural development of the nFD designs, and some indeed were identical, but even some of the L-series early EF lenses handled really badly, and it took Canon quite a while to work out how to combine AF with a "quality feel" – ring USM was the key to solving the problem.
  18. I was too young to be really affected by the FD-EOS change.
    My dad had/has an FT which was proportionatly even more expensive than the original EOS cameras.
    I don't recall him being all that bothered as his camera didn't immediately stop working and had he wanted autofocus he would have had to buy a new body and new lenses anyway.
    My sister got an EOS1000 in 1991 which I was allowed to use sometimes and my dad tried, but stuck to his FT until he got an EOS 350D around 3 years ago.
    In this technological age with video and live view and whatever latest and greatest feature its easy to forget that old cameras don't stop working or doing the job you bought them for at the time, just that newer cameras might make the odd thing easier here or there.
    I've never really fully understood the FD users gripe. Canon wanted to make the best SLR camera system in the world for its users. With the EOS system it did. Where would canon be if it had stuck with the FD mount? Any user wanting AF would have needed new lenses and cameras in any case.
    The big epoch defining moments have been the change from stop down / external metering to full-aperture TTL, MF to AF, and the change from film to digital. All of these improvements required new bodies, and in some cases new lenses. I take better images thanks to these changes, and I'm sure the FD users would begrudingly admit the same if they ever tried it.
    On that point, how many FD users exsist who ONLY shoot on their FD cameras? Can't be that many.
    All that aside, nice idea for a regular feature, and I think one way to take in account the interest of film EOS users and digital EOS users.
  19. Ha.

    I bought an EOS650 without knowing any of that.
    I was imprinted on a young age on Canon. (the father of my best friend had an A1)

    Only after 20 years I learned how new and radical it was at that time. (wow, I guess that made me an unaware rebel)

    Now I'm happy with that choice because it led me where I am now, in love with my 50D.
    Though I must confess I was pretty disappointed with the performance of the 35-70 when I mounted it on my previous
    camera, a 400D, three years ago.

    Oh well, times change. Even nostalgia evolves...
  20. JDM, nice EOS 650 picture, but it is missing it's 50mm Mark 1 lens!
    My 1987 Mark 1 is still in use today. Hats off to Canon, for having the foresight, for 1986 glass to be still with us today, and has survived film, to be quite useful in the digital age of 2010.
  21. Yeah, I thought about erasing the II on it in PS, but that would be dishonest (and probably wouldn't have fooled those who care anyhow). I don't have a Mark I, so the "plastic fantastic" had to do. I don't think anything is different except for the mount. Perhaps I'll mount the EF 35mm f/2.0 on the next in the series* (probably the EOS 620).
    *I am pleased that people seemed to find this diverting, at least, and will go on after a decent and respectful interval to other old EOS cameras I have. Of course, I am not claiming any sort of monopoly on this sort of feature, so others may wish to chime in with an article about an EOS 3, or some such. the more the merrier. It would be especially interesting to see some historical coverage of the early digital EOS cameras.
  22. In regard to sticky foam bumper, I think all EOS cameras earlier than the EOS Elan II/50 circa 1996 are prone to that. I had a EOS 1000 whose shutter was shot because of that gunk. My 13 yrs + Elan II still perform fine today, still love the user interface.
  23. JDM, I really enjoyed this post. I didn't get into the EOS system until I bought my A2 in 1994 (June, to be precise, for $640!), so I missed out on the earlier EOS bodies. Recently I saw a 650 at our camera shop with a 35-something lens mounted on it. I passed on it at the time, but my interest is still piqued. With my 7D being my latest EOS purchase, it's interesting to be reminded of the earliest days of the EOS system to see where it started and how far it has come. A lot of photographers on this forum started using the EOS system with a DSLR, so this was a great history lesson. I like this idea and I hope it continues and expands; there's so much more to the EOS system than the latest DSLR.
  24. I had an A2. I don't know what I paid for it. I very much liked the body and was doing newspaper sports with it. I was shooting a soccer game with it in the rain against a deadline and drowned it. It was in no way water proof. I followed that up with an EOS 1n that was simple, straightforward, robust and was at least water resistant as I never drowned it. I used it until after I got digital. I have a bad habit of trading things I would later regret not keeping like my Bronica ETRS stuff and the 1n.
  25. Much later explanation:
    Well after this was posted here, a new forum, Modern Film Cameras, was started.
    If you like historical posts, look there for more of the same.
    Also for a full lists of the reports here on Canon EOS film cameras see the list at
  26. I am actually a Leica shooter (M Monochrom), but bought a Canon 6D full-frame DSLR during the holiday price madness on that model. I have been saving for a solid film Leica, but after playing with that 6D I remembered fondly my EOS 650/620 lust back when those were introduced (I was a Minolta SRT shooter then).
    Anyway, my used EX condition EOS 630 arrives from KEH tomorrow, and should make a wonderful match to my latest and greatest 35mm f/2 IS and 85mm f/1.8 lenses. Should be fun to go for a walk with the old 630 and a roll of HP5 or Pan F.
  27. I am a Canon EOS 6D user too and have a couple of EF lenses. Recently getting interested in film photography so I just got my EOS 650 from eBay for $12 in mint condition. With a new battery, this 30 years old camera fires up without issue. I have to say I absolutely love this camera. Solidly built and beautiful. Placing 6D and 650 side by side, I just can't believe this is a camera first introduced in 30 years ago. I am going to get a few rolls of HP5 and try it out in the field this weekend.

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