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Canon EOS 620 & EOS 650
The Birth of EOS (1987-1988)
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations

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Canon EOS620

Canon EOS 620 and 50mm f/1.4 USM (27.2 oz/772g wet with no lens; EOS 650 looks the same). enlarge. I'd get it at this direct link to it at eBay, where you can take your chances for about $15, and also Adorama who sometimes has guaranteed EOS 620s and EOS 650s for around $50-$75. It helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.


October 2013   Canon Reviews   Canon Flash   Canon Lenses   All Reviews

How to shoot the EOS 620 and EOS 650 digitally

Why We Love Film

How to Shoot Film

Film specials:    transparency (slide) film   B&W film   color print film

I've been getting my film directly from B&H and Adorama ever since the 1970s; you've never been able to get pro film at local retail stores. I use NCPS to process and scan all my film. If you're reading this you have a mailbox and can get all the film and processing you need; B&H and Adorama ship worldwide, and NCPS does mail-order work from around the world every day.


Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations

"Fewer controls mean greater control."

"Extraordinary, ultra-fast autofocus system."

"The faster you can respond to each photo opportunity, the more opportunities you can take advantage of."

"Unlimited potential for future development."

"Operation is incredibly easy."

"Exceptionally easy to obtain truly creative flash effects."

These are from Canon's literature, and boy are they right.

The EOS 620 and EOS 650 are solid cameras with big, sharp, beautiful viewfinders that do everything you need, and nothing you don't.

This means that you can shoot faster and get a higher percentage of keepers, instead of missing shots because you were off fiddling with some pointless setting.

Because of this, I astounded myself when I realized that I've already published over 50% of the images I shot on the very first roll with the EOS 620. I never get that percentage of keepers on newer cameras; I waste too many pictures dicking with their settings.

The model number will never tell you this, but the EOS 650 is the world's first EOS camera. The EOS 650 is the camera from which all Canon SLRs and DSLRs descend. For example, today's 5D Mark II takes the same eyecups and has its controls in the same places. Whether you like it or not, it has exactly the same uncomfortable front control dial as today's EOS DSLRs from the Rebels to the 5D Mark II and 1Ds Mk III.

The EOS 620 came out two months after the EOS 650. It adds a faster shutter, shiftable program, exposure bracketing, multiple exposures and the world's first electroluminescent LCD illuminator. It lacks the confusing depth-of-field priority mode of the EOS 650.

The Canon EOS 620 and EOS 650 are otherwise the same camera and will be discussed together. The EOS 650 is wonderful, but get the EOS 620 if you have the choice.

The Canon EOS 620 and EOS 650 have everything you need, like 6-segment evaluative (matrix) metering and the smartest, easiest TTL flash control system I've ever seen, and nothing you don't need to get in the way.

It is extraordinarily refreshing to use these advanced cameras because they just go. Nothing, no menus, no custom functions, nor anything else needs to be twiddled to make a picture because they are designed properly. All you do is compose and shoot, exactly as photography should be.

They are relatively heavy, advanced amateur cameras. The Canon EOS 620 and EOS 650 are solidly built SLRs with big, sharp glass-prism viewfinders, which are bigger and with less distractions than even the full-frame 5D Mark II!

Everything (shutter, aperture and compensation) works in half-stops. If you want third stops, change the ISO, and if you want sixth stops, use both. Of course actual automatic exposure is stepless.

They work great with infra-red film. There are no IR sensors inside the camera to fog IR film, as there are with newer EOS cameras.

Since Canon started the EOS system as a completely brand-new, ground-up design, the EOS 650 and EOS 620 are complete masterpieces of modern simplicity. They are not sloppy hacks like Nikon's first attempts at AF cameras.

Because they are original EOS cameras, every Canon lens made today, like L, USM and IS, work perfectly, unlike with Nikon, where nothing from 1987 works well with Nikon's newest cameras or lenses.

Top, EOS620

Top, Canon EOS 620 and 50mm f/1.4 USM. The EOS 650 is the same, minus the "ME" mark. enlarge.

People today will spend $8,000 to buy a LEICA simply because it has no superfluous controls to get in the way of making a great picture. The Canon EOS 650 and EOS 620 share this simplicity, along with advanced Matrix TTL metering and superior viewfinders, and many other important features simply not available in today's LEICA at any price.

So why do more expensive cameras offer more stuff? To sell more cameras. Each year, no matter how great a product, every company, except for LEICA, feels the need to pile on more silly features to get people to buy more cameras.

Today, cameras are so overloaded with crap that no one knows how to use them. I write the guidebooks, and even I have to refer to them to figure out basics like where to find the self timer on newer cameras.

I much prefer simpler cameras that work as they should, instead of having to waste time in menus working around useless fluff instead of having direct access to what matters, as I get with the EOS 650 and EOS 620.

Canon got it right the first time. Newer EOS cameras are nice, but not necessarily better while definitely more complicated.


Features         top

EOS (Electro-Optical System): a brand-new, clean slate, all-electronic lens control system that throws Nikon back to the 1950s.

Autofocus: High-speed and precise.

Built-in 3 FPS Motor Drive: This was hot stuff in 1987.

6-Segment Evaluative (Matrix) Metering: P, Tv, Av and Manual Exposure modes.

World's First EL Illuminated LCD (EOS 620).

Automatic ISO Setting.

Fully Automatic Film Loading and Rewinding.

Full-Information Finder: Shutter, Aperture, Focus Lock, Exposure compensation warning,

Rear Control Buttons: Behind a magnetic flip-down door, later copied by Nikon in the F5 and F6.


Compatibility         top

Compatible with all Canon EOS EF, L, USM and IS lenses, past and present.

Want to use the newest 70-200mm f/4 L IS or oldest 70-210mm f/4 EF? They all work perfectly.


Legoland. enlarge. Photo made with Canon EOS 620, half a roll of Fuji Quality II ISO 100 film (made in Brazil), Canon 28-135mm IS, Costco develop and scan.


History         top

EOS means Electro-Optical System, heralding that the lenses were not only focused electronically, but that even their diaphragms were controlled electronically.

As Canon's first autofocus SLR camera system, Canon designed it as a completely fresh camera, with nothing (except the top LCD) coming over from their old mechanical manual-focus cameras.

Canon took a huge leap, since 100% of their existing customer based was ticked and many vowed never to buy Canon again, since Canon just wasted every Canon camera ever made into obsolescence with little resale value.

Canon took this leap because they took the long view.

Canon was an amateur camera with pro aspirations back in the 1980s, compared to Nikon, which was the undisputed camera of the pros.

Canon gambled that if they started from scratch and did everything right, that in 10 years they could replace Nikon as the pro camera of choice and could afford to lose the few pros who had invested in the manual-focus FD system. Nikon, crippled by needing to pacify pros who had more invested in lenses than cameras (and who knew how to focus), tried to make an autofocus system that could work with the existing lens mount.

Canon won. Just five years after the EOS 650, most pro sports photographers had moved to Canon for its superior AF system. They've never come back, although the Nikon D3 is winning them.

Nikon is still crippled today for its choice in the 1980s, because today's Nikon mount still carries mechanical baggage from the 1950s. This is why different Nikon AF, AF-S and G lenses are not compatible with each other, while all Canon EOS lenses are. Even after 23 years, Nikon's AF-S and G lenses are only partly caught up to Canon's EF lenses from the 1980s. Ha hah!

Many of Nikon's lenses still autofocus mechanically today, and all their newest lenses still use the same mechanical diaphragm coupling as they did in 1959. This is why the depth-of-field preview of all Canon EOS cameras is instantaneous, almost silent, and stops down to the exact aperture chosen by the camera's meter, while Nikons today still make huge clunking and shutter sounds as you use the DOF buttons. It took Nikon about another decade to figure out how to get the DOF button to stop down to the actual shooting aperture, instead of simply stopping all the way down.

Canon put it this way in the EOS 650's sales brochure, saying that (Nikon) "took the easy way out and mounted their focusing motors in the camera body."

Canon thought they would stick it to Nikon by bringing the EOS 620 to the 1988 Summer Olympics and passing them around to pro sports photographers. Canon wasn't stupid: they also brought along the brand-new 300mm f/2.8 USM lens, which focused fast with the EOS 620.

Canon got a surprise, however, when Nikon decided to show up with their first new pro camera in a decade, the autofocus Nikon F4.

As it turned out, the EOS 620's AF, with the 300/2.8L USM, was great, but its good amateur build quality didn't win Canon the pro market. Comparing the EOS 620 the F4, the F4 has the pro build quality demanded by pros, but had crappy autofocus with Nikon's slow, mechanical AF lenses of the time.

Nikon knew pro photographers knew how to focus manually, so Nikon brushed off AF as a joke.

Canon took it seriously, so when Canon came out with a camera with the same good AF and supporting lenses as the EOS 620, but in a tougher pro body, sports pros left Nikon to go to Canon in the early 1990s and have never been back (except maybe today with the D3).

Canon won, and the EOS 620 and EOS 650 started it all, thus my moniker "The Future of Photography."

Just for fun, here is the tiny range of lenses available when Canon first introduced these cameras:


All Canon EOS EF Lenses, 1987. enlarge.

That's right: when new, there was only a a fisheye (the same excellent one still sold today), a 28mm, a 50mm and a couple of pokey zooms available as the only lenses that fit this camera.

Cut to today, where Canon makes about 60 different lenses, and every other EF lens made since 1987 still works perfectly on the EOS 650 and EOS 620.

Rear, EOS620 and EOS650

Rear, Canon EOS 620. EOS 650 is the same, minus one of the two small unmarked buttons at the top right. enlarge.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations

EOS 650 versus EOS 620

They are the same camera, with the following exceptions:

EOS 650
EOS 620
March 1987
May 1987
1/2,000 ~ 30s
1/4,000 ~ 30s
Maximum speed with flash
24-exp rewind
10 sec.
7 sec.
Shiftable Program
Auto Bracketing
Backlit top LCD
Multiple exposures
DOF-priority AE


AF System         top

One sensor.

TTL Secondary-image based registration phase-detection using a base-stored image sensor.

Rated to work at LV 1 ~ 18.

A red (700nm) LED assist beam is in many Canon flashes.


Finder         top

Slightly bigger than even a 5D Mk II.

94% coverage

0.8x magnification with 50mm lens.

19.3mm eyepoint.

Finder Displays

"M" for manual exposure mode.

Shutter speed.


"+/-" warning, but no value, for exposure compensation.

Flash bolt.

AF OK dot.


Depth of Field Preview

Left, Canon EOS650

Side view, showing depth-of-field preview button. enlarge.

Yes, near-silent, and it's smart enough to stop down to the exact value at which you'll shoot.


Meter and Exposure Modes         top


6-segment evaluative (Matrix), called "Factor-Six Light Analysis System" by Canon.

Semi-spot, called "Partial" by Canon: reads only the central circle in the finder.


Meter Range

With an f/1.4 lens:

LV 1 ~ 20 at all temperatures.

At normal temperatures, LV -1 ~ 20.


Exposures Modes

Manual, Program, Tv and Av.


Program Mode Combinations

These cameras favor faster speeds with longer lenses, but not always.

The combinations chosen aren't always what you want. They vary by lens focal length and even by aperture.

Canon calls it some sort of magic adaptation. No big deal; if you dislike it, just shift it on the EOS 620.


Shutter         top

Type: Electronic, vertical metal focal plane.

Top Speed with flash (sync): 1/125 (EOS 650), 1/250 (EOS 620).

Top Speed, no flash: 1/2,000 (EOS 650), 1/4,000 (EOS 620).

Slowest Speed, all exposure modes: 30 seconds.

Bulb: Yes, needs expensive remote cord.

Curtain Travel Time: 6.2ms for 24mm of vertical travel.


Power         top

2CR5 throw-away lithium.

Rated 100 rolls of 36 at normal temperature, 10 rolls at -4ºF (-20ºC).


Size         top

5-13/16" x 4-1/4" x 2-5/8," WHD.

148 x 108.3 x 67.5 mm.


Weight         top

EOS 620

27.240 oz (772.2g) ready to shoot with film, battery and eyecup, but no lens, caps, or strap. (27.225 oz (771.8g) if you lose the eyecup.)

26.460 oz. (750.1g), measured with battery and eyecup, but no film, lens, caps or strap. (26.445 oz. (749.7g) if you lose the eyecup.)

24-11/16 oz. (700g), rated, naked.


EOS 650

23-5/16 oz (660g), rated, naked.


Accessories         top

Cable Releases

60T3, for use with the GR20 grip.



420 EZ and 300EZ

Use the 420EZ or 300EZ with the EOS 650 and EOS 620.

The 300EZ is the smaller model and doesn't bounce.

The 420EZ adds a little more size, weight, 2/3 of a stop more power and bounce.

At 50mm and ISO 100, the 420EZ is rated at GN116' / 35 meters, and the 300EZ at GN 93' / 28 meters. Both use thyristors for fast recycling at closer distances.

Both have automatic zoom reflectors, AF illuminators for use in the dark, as well as IR active ranging for preflash metering.




300EZ Normal Mode (red ready light) Guide Number Ratings at ISO 100:

GN, meters
GN, feet

I haven't tested it yet, and when I do, I find almost all Japanese flashes have one stop less power than rated.



Much newer than the original EOS cameras, the 540EZ was a big, fancy complicated and powerful flash for the EOS film cameras. It uses a separate xenon tube behind an IR-pass (red) filter to fire the ranging pings.

The 540EZ is loaded with features that no one can figure out. It's so complex that even Canon made so many mistakes in the users manual that it had to include a multi-page errata! If you can figure it out, it bounces and has the same ping-based advanced predictive metering and shoot-fast-while-recycling modes as the simpler flashes.

Its rated Guide Numbers at ISO 100 are:

GN, meters
GN, feet



GR10 Grip L: For American (larger) hands. No remote connector.

GR20 Grip (standard with the EOS 620): has a remote control socket.

GR30 Grip (standard with EOS 650): no remote socket.

Are you kidding?

Not only did Canon expect you to buy an expensive, dedicated cable release for the first time, if you bought the first EOS 650, they also expected you to buy a new GR20 grip just to be able to connect the expensive release. I don't think even the Germans ever envisioned this level of torture.



Quartz Date Back E imprints data through the end of 2029.

Technical Back E prints and memorizes exposure control data. There is also a special keyboard for it (Keyboard Unit E), and an Interface Unit TB lets yo plug it into a personal computer.


Focus Screens

The standard screen has a circle to show the semi-spot metering area, and a bracket for the AF area. Beautiful.

There are six more optional screens.

You also can get a screen with a microprism spot, a magic split-image spot that works with all lenses without blacking out, a grid, a cross-hair graticule in millimeters, a clear center with a cross hair (for astrophotography), or a 4-way center split -image that works at f/5.6 and bigger.


Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations


The EOS 620 and EOS 650 just goes.

Focus, metering, ergonomics and everything work great.


Focus         top

Autofocus is fast.

AF is so good that this is what won pro sports photographers away from Nikon in the early 1990s!

AF is also quite consistent. All my shots are in focus, compared to modern Canons like the EOS 5D Mark II, on which some percentage of "in focus" shots arent.

Sure, used with an old EF 70-210 f/4 of its era it's slow, but that same lens isn't much faster on my 5D Mark II. Use a new lens like the 70-200mm f/4 L IS, and the EOS 620 is fast.

How many sensors do you need? You only can focus on one thing at a time anyway, so the single AF sensor is plenty.

When shooting, the AF OK dot is big enough that you can see it out of the corner of your eye as you're working and recomposing.

You have your choice of fixed (single) or tracking (servo). There is no magic mode that selects between them, which is called AI Servo in newer models. So? it's easier to switch between these two modes than it is to find the menu to swap among three or more modes in newer cameras.


Ergonomics         top

Everything on these cameras is easy! This is what makes these cameras such winners.

It is moderately heavy, as you'd expect from a serious camera.

Like most 35mm SLRs when hung from a strap with a telephoto lens, it wants to point down, digging the bottom of the body into you.

There is no 2 second position on the self timer; it's always 10 seconds.

The power switch takes a second hand, but since you can leave it on all the time, I don't see that as a problem.

You need a second hand to change the exposure mode, and need to look at the top LCD unless you can count clicks.



Focus is fast and easy. The finder is bright and sharp.

It's easy to see the AF OK dot out of the corner of your eye as you pay attention to the subject.



The top LCD is big and legible. Tap the left button near it on the back to light it up at night on the EOS 620.

The finder LCD is always legible, better than the finder LCD of the Nikon F3 and F4. The EOS finder LCD varies its brightness automatically, so its always visible in any light.

The top LCD frame counter is much bigger than the mechanical ones on film cameras, but smaller than most newer LCDs. Frame count shows only on the top LCD, not in the finder.


Noise and vibration

Film advance is far more refined than Nikon's first AF cameras. Film advance makes a moderate level of noise with a moderate level of refinement.

It's not silent, but it doesn't sound like a broken toy either.

Vibration is moderately low; Canon says these two EOS cameras have shock and noise absorbers. Low vibration contributes to sharper hand-held shots.



The finder is wonderful. It's not littered with black boxes and dots all over like newer Canons; it's just a big, sharp, clear rectangle in which you can compose.

The big, sharp glass-prism finder is much better than the A2E and Rebels.

It's even bigger than the 5D Mark II and slightly smaller than the AE-1 Program.

You have to take your eye away from the finder to set exposure compensation; it doesn't read through the finder.

The standard screen is optimized for lenses of f/2.5 and slower. Lenses faster than f/2.5 won't show their actual, narrower depth of field at larger apertures.


EOS 620. EOS 650 is the same. enlarge.

Metering         top


6-segment meter pattern.

The 6-segment evaluative (matrix) meter works well enough to shoot Velvia.

It ensures that whites in daylight stay white, not gray, and that if you point it into a bright light, the bright light stays bright.



It reads down to 30 seconds at ISO 100 at full aperture. It only reads down to 8 seconds at ISO 400.

At ISO 50, you can make it read dark enough that it will blink the 30" mark to let you know you've gone under-range.

Watch your eyepiece; in some cases light streaming in the eyepiece can lead to underexposure if your eye isn't there. Use the blind integral with the original strap.


Flash         top

Flash is metered off-the-film as it exposes.

Everything is completely automatic for shooting everything from total darkness to daylight fill-flash.

It works quite well with the 300EZ flash, even for daylight fill. If anything, it errs on the side of overexposure, which is bad for slides but great for prints. The only thing it can't do well is shoot into mirrors where the flash sees itself — for that you need Nikon's flash system and D lenses.

The A-TTL flash system with the 300EZ and 420EZ flashes seems smarter than anything today. These flashes, with either the EOS 620 or EOS 650 cameras, make a system so smart that it sets the aperture automatically depending on ambient light and distance!

If you're too far away, it tells you before you waste film by blinking the finder display!

It does this by firing high-level, but almost invisible infra-red pings as you focus. This is how it pre-meters the subject and distance before you press the shutter, so there are no shutter-delaying and subject-blinking bright white preflashes of today's systems. The flash system is already locked, loaded and ready to fire the instant you press the shutter.

As you compose, you'll see the chosen f/stop vary automatically in your finder! No more will you have over-exposed close-ups or dark distant shots. While today's flash systems choose just one aperture, like f/4, for everything, this system uses what's needed, like f/16 for close-ups and f/2 for very distant shots.

The flash system is so smart it does something else no other flash system today can do: if you want to shoot before the flash is fully recycled, the flash and camera work together to know the partial state of flash charge, and calculate exposure using that reduced available flash power! You can see this work by noting that the flash's ready light first lights green, then red.

While green, the flash isn't fully recharged, but charged enough that you still can take a perfect photo. If you pay close attention, you'll see the camera's chosen aperture get smaller as the flash continues recharging!

There are two ways you can shoot flash pictures quickly: at close distances, only some of the flash power is used and the flash is ready for the next shot immediately, and if the flash has to fire at full-power, you can shoot at reduced power, with perfect automatic exposure, before the flash has fully recycled. You never have more than about a second of down-time, even after a full-power dump.

The flash system is elegant. Unlike today's systems overloaded with junk features no one can figure out, this system with the 300EZ has only two switches: power and front/rear sync, and does everything you need.

Turn it on, and you're done. It deals with everything I've mentioned automatically so you don't have to.

I have no idea why newer systems do less, with more buttons to get in the way. Elegance doesn't sell well to most people, so we have systems today that no one can figure out.

(more under Usage.)


Power         top

I haven't shot enough to run down any batteries.

The battery checker is excellent. For the low price of these cameras, it's almost worth having one around just to test 2CR5 batteries under load.


Film Economy         top

Film economy is poor: only 36 shots on a roll of 36.

This is because it wastes the first few frames as do all electronic cameras, and worse, with DX coded film, it rewinds at exactly the rated number of frames, regardless of how many you might squeeze out.

With the EOS 650 and EOS 620, there is no 37th frame unless maybe you tape over the DX contacts and remember to set ISO manually.


Power Rewind         top

36 exposures rewind in about 12 seconds, which is pretty good.


Long Exposures         top

The EOS 620, 640 and 650 are favored by astronomers who need to make exposures many hours long.

They draw very little battery power when the shutter is open for hours.


Durability and Survivability         top

Like all Canons, the eyecups tends to fall off. It uses the same EOS EB eyecups as many of Canon's newest cameras today, like the 5D Mk II.

It's got tough metal innards with plastic outer covers. Today, Canon would pop on magnesium covers instead of plastic to impress the innocent.



Like all 1980's cameras, Canon warned that the top LCD might stop working in five years. Needless to say, 22 years later, it still works perfectly.

Canon also warns that it goes black above 140ºF (40ºC) and gets slow below 32ºF (0ºC), which is normal for all LCDs.



I've never seen this, but readers write to warn me that there is a rubber bumper in the shutter system that, like foam seals, can get gooey and make the shutter stick half-closed. This causes only half the photo to get exposed!

A warning is if you see oil on your shutter blades as you load your film.



The cameras have slotted metal lugs for direct attachment of straps.

The included strap has plastic buckles. If one breaks, your camera drops. See straps for other suggestions.


Usage         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations

All you have to do is pop in film, close the door, and start shooting. Everything is already set up the way you want it. Bravo!

The EOS 650 and EOS 620 are a lot easier than I imply with all the detail below. Just load and shoot.

Most of the controls are locked out and set to their defaults in full auto [  ] mode. Use the A mode if you want to fiddle with settings.


Attach Lens

Line up the dots, and rotate until it clicks.


Pop in Battery         top

Unscrew the grip and slide in a 2CR5.

It can go in a few ways, be sure the contacts line up.


Turn on and Check Battery         top

Power Switch EOS620

Power switch, EOS 620. (EOS 650 lacks ME mark). enlarge.

Rotate the knob to the left of the finder to any setting except [L] (lock).

Check the battery by flipping down the rear door and pressing the fourth button.

rear door, EOS620.

Rear door, EOS 620. (EOS 650 identical, except no AEB mark.) enlarge.

Three bars on top LCD is good.

Two bars is low.

One blinking bar, or no bars, is dead.

Blinking "bc"

"bc" should not blink. If it does, it's indicating a malfunction.

If you see a blinking "bc," that's a fault.

Check the battery, and when OK, try pulling it out, replacing it, and pressing the shutter once to clear it.


Power Switch         top

The little knob by the finder has only four settings:

[(-)]: Beeper. Don't use this; it annoys your neighbors. If you do use it, the EOS 650 and EOS 620 are smart enough to sound the slow-shutter blur warning only if the shutter speed drops below 1/the focal length of your lens. Clever, eh? It's not smart enough to drop those speeds if you have IS on, even though IS does work with these cameras.

The beeper setting is the same as A: Auto, with an added beeper.

A: Auto (on). Use this.

[ L ] : Lock (off). When you go back to A: Auto, your settings are recalled from the last time you shot.

[     ] : Full Auto. Sets everything to normal and locks-out almost all settings, and even blocks the depth-of-field preview:

Beeper: on.


Program auto exposure.

Single-shot advance.

You can return all the A: Auto settings to these defaults by selecting [     ] (Full Auto), then turning the knob back to A: Auto.

LCD Backlight

On the EOS 620 only, press the smaller button on the top right of the back panel.

It won't light while rewinding film.


Film Loading         top

Press in and down on the catch on the left side of the camera. The back pops open.

Pop in film.

Pull the film leader to the orange dot. If the leader is poking out too far, wind it back into the cassette first.

Close the back. It loads automatically if the power is on.


Film Speed Setting         top

ISO sets automatically via DX coding.

If you want to force it manually, flip down the rear door, hold down the two ISO buttons, look at the top LCD and spin the dial.


Advance and Self Timer         top

Flip down the rear door, press the blue button, and spin the knob.

S: Single-shot.

C: Continuous shooting as long as you hold the shutter button

( \ ): Self timer (10 seconds). The camera counts-down on the top LCD. To cancel the self timer, turn off the camera or tap the battery check button.


Focus         top

To select the AF mode, flip down the rear door, tap the yellow button, and turn the dial. To select manual, slide the switch on the lens.

Your autofocus options are:


ONE SHOT: Focuses, then locks both focus and exposure. This is usually instant, but if the camera takes a moment, it won't lock until it gets it perfect. The shutter only fires once focus is locked, which is usually instantly. If you are shooting in the C: Continuous shutter mode, all the shots get made at one locked focus distance, which is probably silly.

The big green dot in the finder lights when locked.

If focus is difficult, AF hunts for a second, after which it rapidly blinks the AF OK dot in the finder to warn you. It keeps searching even while blinking rapidly, and will lock when it can.

Exposure also locks as soon as focus locks.

The EOS 650 and EOS 620 came out before instant manual-focus override was invented. It still works, but you need to wait until AF locks before turing the MF ring. otherwise, the EOS 650 and EOS 620 will keep trying to grab focus away from you until it first hits lock.


SERVO: Tracks focus and shoots anytime you press the button, in-focus or not. Exposure isn't locked. Servo works best for one shot at a time as a subject approaches you smoothly; unlike newer cameras, it can't track moving subjects if you're also shooting them at 3FPS in C, continuous shutter mode. For that, shoot a modern digital camera.

Don't try using the instant manual-focus override of newer lenses in Servo mode; the EOS 620 and 650 will keep trying to focus for you. Use ONE SHOT mode and let it lock first.


Metering         top

Rear, EOS620 and EOS650

Rear controls, Canon EOS 620 (EOS 650 lacks the LCD light button). enlarge.

The 6-segment evaluative meter is used by default.

The unmarked top right button on the rear, near your thumb, is what Canon calls the partial metering button. On newer EOS cameras it's still in the same place, and marked with an *.

When you press the * button, the meter changes to metering only within the central circle, and locks the exposure. You'll seen an * in the finder as long as you hold down this button.

The evaluative 6-segment meter readings lock in AF One Shot mode, but free-run in AF Continuous modes. The only way to use the center-only (partial or *) meter is by hitting the lock button; you can't let it free-run.

Nikon usually offers more freedom, but Canon got it right. Each of these meters does what it needs to do perfectly.

Use evaluative all the time.

If you need to take a semi-spot reading and lock it, just hold the button down until you shoot. This saves the time of changing meter modes and exposure locks; Canon does all of this with one push.

To keep it locked, keep your finger on the * button, or keep your finger on the shutter button, too.

Better than newer EOS cameras, to unlock, just let go of whichever button is keeping it locked.

To make a few shots with the same locked setting, choose the Continuous advance mode and keep either the shutter half-pressed or your finger on the * button. In Single mode, it takes a new reading for each shot even if you keep pressing.


Exposure Modes         top

Canin EOS620

Canon EOS620 and EOS650 Controls. enlarge.

Hold MODE on the top, and spin the dial. Read the mode on the top LCD.

The modes are:

P: Program. You may shift the program mode to other choices of equivalent aperture and shutter speeds by spinning the dial, but only on the EOS 620. There is only one set of value on the EOS 650.

Tv: Shutter-priority (Time value).

Av: Aperture priority (Aperture value).

M: Manual.

Conveniently, every time you enter the manual mode you're preset to 1/125 at f/5.6.

The control dial changes the shutter speed.

To change the aperture, press the M button near the lens mount and spin the same dial.

To get the meter to display, you also must press the M button near the lens mount.

In other words, you first guess your shutter speed, then press M to set the aperture while watching the meter.

Oddly the meter doesn't display + or -. Instead, it displays OP, oo and CL.


Here's the logic behind the manual meter mode:

Displayed as
Which means
CLose the aperture
OPen the aperture

To make metered manual settings:

1.) Press MODE and spin knob to MANUAL mode.

2.) Spin knob to your best guess for shutter speed.

3.) Press M and spin knob to change aperture until you see "oo." You see the aperture, but not the shutter speed, while you're doing this.

4.) If you can't get a good exposure, release the M button, try a new shutter speed, and repeat from step 3.

This sounds screwy, and it is, but for the few times I need manual exposure, it works fine, and I don't have to take my eye of the finder.

Manual mode uses the Evaluative 6-segment meter, unless you press the unmarked * partial-metering lock button, in which case you see an * in the finder and are metering using that locked centerweighted value.

DEPTH (magic depth-of-field mode) is only in the EOS 650. To use it, you do some screwy stuff to point the camera at the near and far points and record it. It takes four pages in the manual (pp. 38-41) to explain how to do it, so I'm not going to try it here. I don't understand how this is supposed to be more convenient than not using this feature.


Exposure Compensation         top

Press the EXP COMP button on top, and spin the dial.

Look at the top LCD; the finder shows "+/-," but not the value, as you adjust it.


Flash         top

EOS620 and 300EZ flash

Canon EOS 620 with 300EZ flash and 50mm f/1.4 USM. enlarge.

420EX and 300EZ

it's easy!

Set the EOS to its default Program mode.

Turn on the 420EZ or 300EZ flash.


The 420E and 300EZ flashes zoom magically to track the lens in use, and fire infra-red pings as you focus to measure distance and set everything, including the aperture, for perfect TTL off-the-film dark or daylight fill-flash exposure with no annoying preflashes or shutter delays.

The EOS 620 and EOS 650 will choose a shutter speed between and 1/60 and their x-sync speed.

If you're too far away, it tells you before you waste film by blinking the finder display!

If you're to close or if the ambient light is too bright, it blinks just the minimum aperture number, like "22." A backlit subject may still get exposed OK, but the background will be overexposed.

To shoot at slower than 1/60 to brighten up darker ambient light, simply select Tv mode and a slower speed, like 1/8 to 1/30. This is so much easier than Nikon's menus. In Tv mode the aperture will also be set magically for distance and ambient light based on the camera's meter and the IR pings from the flash. If the aperture blinks at a large value, like f/1.8, that means its dark and that the background may be darker, but the flash-lit portions will be fine.

The 300EZ and 420EZ turn off after 5 minutes of non use. Just tap the shutter to wake them up.

300EZ falsh controls

The two switches and one button of the brilliant 300EZ.

The left-side switch on the 300EZ with the little triangles is the rear- or front-curtain sync control. The normal position, with the rectangle around it, sets the flash to go off at the start of each exposure. I set it to rear, the right position as seen in the photo, so the flash fires at the end of each exposure. This way anything that blurs during a longer exposure has the blur behind the subject, making motion look correct. it also keeps the flash from firing until the end of longer exposures, so people don't start moving at the start of a 2-second exposure.

This is so easy. By comparison, it takes a day to figure any of this out with any flash today.

Other Flashes

For other flashes, Canon says to use the EOS 650 and EOS 620 in Manual mode.

With the 300TL flash from the T90, Canon says set either A-TTL or FEL on the flash for TTL flash with the EOS 650 and EOS 620.

With the 277T and 299T, don't set Program mode on the flash. Set these flashes to "F No Set" mode.

Canon says forget using the 244T and T90 multiple flash accessories.

The 300EZ doesn't work on the modern 5D Mk II. All it does is fires at full power each time, even though it does set its zoom properly.


Filters         top

Use circular polarizers.

AF won't work with older linear polarizers.


Bracketing (EOS 620 only)         top

Flip up the rear flap and press the two AEB buttons, left one first. You'll see AEB on the top LCD. You may now release the buttons.

Look at the top LCD and turn the top dial to the right. This sets the difference in stops between each frame.

Once set, press the shutter and the EOS 620 fires off three shots, at under, normal and over, and clears itself. It does this even in Single advance mode.


Use ±0.5 stops for slides, and ±1, ±1.5 or ±2 stops for print film.

Exposure compensation works at the same time, allowing you to offset the sequence as you like. For instance, with AEB set to ±1.0 and exp. comp. set to +1, you'll get shots at normal, +1 and +2.

You can set as much as five stops over and under, perfect for HDR, and wider than today's cameras can handle between shots.

If you arm it and decide not to shoot a three-frame bracket, press the two buttons and set it back to 0.0 to clear it.

Bracketing doesn't affect flash.


Multiple Exposures (EOS 620 only)         top

Top, EOS620

Top, Canon EOS 620. The EOS 650 has no "ME" mark. enlarge.

Hold the two ME (Multiple Exposure) buttons on the top. You'll see [ME] on the top LCD as you hold them.

Spin the dial to the number of exposures you want. "1" is regular, single-exposure operation, and "2" is a double exposure. You can go to 9.

Release the ME buttons, and press the shutter button for each exposure. As you do, [ME] flashes and count down.

If you change your mind, hold the two ME buttons and adjust back to 1 (normal, single exposures).

While shooting a series of multiple exposures ([ME] blinking), you can add more exposures, or cancel them the same way. If you want to cancel after you've already started them, be sure to set the number to 0 at which point [ME] and the number goes away.

The EOS 620 isn't smart enough to add exposure compensation for cases where al the frame is exposed each time. If you're doing fireworks, no problem, but if the sky or anything else lights up the whole frame, dial-in -1.0 for two exposures, -1.5 for three or -2.0 stops for four additive exposures.


Bulb (long exposures)         top

Set Bulb in manual exposure mode, just under 30 seconds.

You'll see the exposure count up on the top LCD. After 30 seconds, a bar (from the film indicator) lights, and starts again at 0. Since there are three bars, you can get to 120 seconds this way.

For instance, if you have two bars and see "20," that means (2 bars x 30) + 20 = 60 + 20 = 80 seconds.

Canon says the camera uses relatively little power in bulb mode.

Canon suggests using the remote switch 60T3 and GR20 grip (standard with the EOS 620).

Bottom, EOS620

Bottom, EOS 620 (EOS 650 is identical). enlarge.


Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations

The EOS 620 is a nice camera. The EOS 650 is similar, and I prefer the shiftable program of the EOS 620.

For the price, you can't possibly go wrong. Get one!

They are solid cameras. You might want to consider a newer Rebel if you prefer lighter weight in exchange for lower durability and a dinkier finder.

I'm ashamed that newer cameras seem to offer so little that matters compared to Canon's very first AF SLR. I'm ashamed that I've fallen for all the marketing pitches that made me think I need whatever useless newer features have come out since 1987; I haven't needed any of these features.

Save your money and spend it on great lenses, like the 16-35mm f/2.8 L II, 24mm f/1.4 L II and 70-200mm f/4 L IS.


Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Lee Olson, who sent me this EOS 620 for my Retirement Ranch. If you've got an unused camera you might like to send my way, go right ahead. Thanks! Ken.


Help me help you         top

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Thanks for reading!


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July 2009