Chunky, clunky, but really quite funky. I have lots to thank Lomography for - but letting me rediscover my analogue soul is top of the list. Through Dianas and other toy cameras, I reconnected with the joy of film photography once more.
But where does the non-digital photographer progress after toy cameras?
Once I realized that 35mm film rather than 120 film or medium format was my thing, I dabbled with many models. I had great fun using Lomo-friendly cameras like the Olympus Trip and the Smena Symbol, but I also got loads of unusable photos too from the limits of using point and shoots. Every pack of processed snaps from a 36 exposure film I got back would maybe have 10 usable shots – other pics had nearly everything going for them – composition, colour, exposure – but fuzziness caused by the lack of accurate focusing prevented some ok photos from becoming truly great ones – they were like stillborn children! If I was an eccentric millionaire, I wouldn’t care, but the budget-conscious Lomographer has to be wary of such things!
So I knew I needed a good quality analogue SLR. I originally learned my photographic chops at art school many years back on an Olympus OM10 from the early 80s. I took some truly fine photos on this cheap 2nd hand camera, but wanted something else this time around. Maybe there was a later model from that decade that would give me more options and better pictures? I ADORE street photography, so a zoom lens was also compulsory for getting closer to my subjects…
Then on Ebay, I chanced across the Canon EOS 650.
Not knowing much about this range , I thought “Hmm… Canon – classic make. Manufactured in 1987 – much later after my OM10 – bound to be a better camera!” At exactly the same time I discovered a Flickr site devoted to this model showing some wonderful photographs taken on it. It’s very low sale price and the fact it came with a tasty 35-80 zoom lens made buying it a no-brainer purchase for me. So then I looked into it‘s history.. The 650 from 1987 was the very first model in the EOS range that’s with us today due to Canon’s current range of digital cameras still sharing the brand name
But I had no idea how heavy it would be! All those cranky old motors in it’s body that were once hi-tech made it really heavy to handle – I always thought Zenit cameras were heavy to hold, but they feel like cradling a new-born kitten in comparison ! And forget about casually hanging this baby around your neck by the camera strap – unless you don’t mind walking around bent over double like Quasimodo. (But when did the keen Lomographer worry about something like a camera’s weight?)
I tried out every kind of film on this camera – expired color film, black and white, cross-processed slide negative, and it never let me down. Look at my photos – in 20 years of photography, these are by far some of the best I’ve ever taken.
(P.S. The auto-focus is a pain in the ass. Unless your subject is right in the center of your shot, it can be tricky focusing correctly quickly for street shots, so I nearly always switch to manual instead.)
So if you want a cheap quality 35mm SLR, you could do a lot worse than buying any of the EOS range. I was so impressed with my 650 I upgraded and bought the advanced later EOS 1000n model from 1993. It’s so much lighter and has cool additional features like multi-exposure and has now become my main camera- but that’s a story for another review.