Shooting With Canon's First Autofocus SLR: The EOS 650


Oak Tree, Koreshan Unity Settlement, Estero, FL, T-Max 3200


I recently won can online auction of a collection of various old photographic equipment for next to nothing. Included in my winnings was an old Canon 650 35mm film SLR camera. This acquisition brought back a lot of memories for me!

Way back in the early 1990's, when my motorsports photography career was still pretty young, I returned home to my apartment one day to find that a window had been jimmied open and all my photographic gear had been stolen! At the time I was shooting with Canon FD manual focus gear, having had very little experience with the new autofocus bodies, I was not really sold on the new technology and did not really trust the autofocus equipment. ( In fact it was several years before I started using and trusting autofocus, and even after I'd acquired autofocus gear, I continued to manually focus on all my assignments!)


Arlo the Dog, T-Max 400


With Daytona's Speedwells rapidly approaching and with very little hope of getting my camera gear back, at least before the races arrived (I never did get any of the gear back), I decided to order a couple of the new autofocus bodies and a few lenses. The bodies I ordered were a Canon EOS 650, which had been Canon's first autofocus body in 1987 and a Canon EOS 620. Along with the bodies, I ordered a wide zoom and a Canon EF 75-300 zoom. I remember missing my Canon T-90's, A-1's and F-1, but with no choice, I soldiered on with the EOS gear and it was not long before I had graduated on to the EOS-1's and started to actually use the autofocus technology with good results and life went on from there.


Mt. Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY, T-Max 3200

So my recent auction acquisition brough back a lot of memories and, with my recent re-involvement in 35mm film shooting and processing, I was anxious to attach some of my current lenses to the EOS 650 body and run a roll or two through it.



I'm a back-button autofocus shooter, and I'm not even sure if that was an option on the 650, but I could not figure out how to do it, so I accepted the fact that I would be shooting shutter-button auto-focus, which I really do not like. With no camera manual, it took me awhile to figure out how to work the aperture in the manual shooting mode. The camera also has Time Value, Aperture Value, Program and Depth of Field shooting modes.


Alligator Warning Sign, Estero River, Estero, FL, T-MAx 3200


It was not long before I was happily snapping away, starting at the back of the camera blankly after each shot, waiting for an image to pop up on the non-existent LCD screen, as is the habit of most digital shooters who pick up an old film camera out of curiosity.

35mm Film

I've always been a fan of the feel and sound of a film shutter and film motor drive, so these sounds and sensation all came back to me. The feel of the camera in my hands was quite familiar and the ergonomics of Canon cameras have changed surprisingly little over the past 30 years, although this was before the days of the rear control wheel which is so familiar to Canon camera shooters.

Every 36 pictures, of course, you are jarred back to reality as the whirring of the film rewind motor tells you it's time to load another roll of film, quite a change from the virtually unlimited shooting capacity of today's digital cameras.


Mt. Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY, T-Max 3200

Because am not yet familiar with today's active photo labs and because of the poor result sI've had dealing with local photo labs, I am so far shooting only black and white film since I still have my old film processing gear and, with chemicals ordered from Amazon, I am developing my own film for now,

I as I gradually reimburse myself in film photography, many of the old ritual sand feeling come flooding back. Just like riding a bicycle, I guess you never really forget how to load film on processing reels once you know how. For me, the inability to let the film fully dry before I am searching for a loupe and holding the dripping film up to a light source so I can see my photos is still a fact of my photographic life.

Having never been a big fan of darkroom printmaking, and only having endured it for years out of necessity, I really have no desire to load my negatives into an enlarger and splash paper in chemicals to produce prints. I am more than happy to scan my negs and do my editing on a computer! Still, film photography is a very different experience than digital photography, and one that I am happily rediscovering in the later stages of my photographic career.

I've always liked the idea of salvaging something off the scrap heap and putting it productive use, and find it exciting to purchase the cameras that I either used or longed after earlier in my career for virtually pennies and loading them with film to go out and make pictures.

To view my full EOS 650 35mm film gallery, please click here


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www.bcpix.com is the online home for the photographic archive of Florida-based photographer Brian Cleary. At this portal not only can you search and browse an ever-growing collection of photography covering more than 30 years, but many of the images are available for online purchase as editorial images, commercial images and/or personal use prints.