The Mighty Camera Shootout

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I present to you….

In the left corner, at eleven hundred and fifty grams, the title holder, the mighty Canon T90. Veteran of many fights, the most complete of his generation…..

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T90 vs. EOS 650

aaaaand in the right corner, at eight hundred and ninety grams, the Challenger! Young EOS 650, out to wrestle the golden belt from it’s predecessor.

Who will win the fight, who will survive the challenge…. only time will tell.

And time told the story quite quickly indeed. The Canon T90 (which I presented HERE) was the last of it’s line, the last of the Canon FD breed, the pinnacle of that technology. But along came the need for autofocus and the end for Canon’s FD mount.

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Now wait, appearances mislead you! In fact the T90 is bigger than the EOS 650.

A gutsy move in 1987 to replace the 20 year old mount with its dozens of beautiful lenses by a whole new and incompatible mount just to add autofocus.

But ultimately the decision was right as history showed. Unlike Nikon, whose current digital SLRs accept the vintage lenses… mostly…, Canon was unable to fit the needed autofocus contacts into the older mount (well, they might have been able, but chose not to). Now Nikon has one problem… not all lenses fit all cameras. You have to be picky to select among modern and vintage lenses to get the benefit of all the functionality (looking at you, G-lenses…. where’s your aperture dial?).

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Same different

 

Sure, Canon’s EF lenses are incompatible too, but they were the first to have the good idea to put the AF motor and aperture INSIDE the lenses!

So the T90 died less than two years after seeing the light of day… unfortunately. And the EOS family has thriven ever since, becoming the absolute leader in the SLR world. Sorry Nikon, Pentax and even Sony…. you’re beat!

But which one of these two cameras, which were on sale at the same moment, is better. And for whom?

I’m trying to show that now.

The two cameras are quite similar. So let’s start with the lenses to get a feel for the fight.

The FD 50mm f:1.8 is a known power. Excellent, but not a stellar lens like it’s f:1.4 S.S.C. sibling, it’s solid despite it’s mostly plastic construction and delivers sublime quality. It’s aperture ring is a bit too clicky, but at least it’s there! And focussing is precise and fast.

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Good!

The EF 50mm f:1.8 on the other hand is lighter, light to the point of feeling like crap! Well, honestly, it looks the part also if you ask me. Shaking it produces a peculiarly unprofessional rattle. And don’t go looking for an aperture control.

Focusing is on the horrible side also. When you slide the switch to MF you have to grab that slight ring on the far end, without getting your fingers into the field of vue. Turning it you can feel plastic grinding on plastic and gears freewheeling inside the lens.

And let’s not talk about the noise the focusing makes…. and the time it takes to reach correct focus.

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Bad!

A very clear win for the FD lenses!

And if you intend to use the lenses on other than Canon mirrorless cameras, there’s no way around the FD glass, really.

Now if you shoot digital SLRs too, there’s no choice really. It’s the EOS 650 that is the way to go. But if like me you want to buy very cheap, excellent glass. the T90 with the FD mount is the only choice.

With this in mind, let’s move to the camera bodies. And here we find a lot of similarities. The Canon T90 broke the ground for all the subsequent SLR and DSLR bodies, and not only from Canon. So it’s clear that the EOS 650 does not deviate too much from the mould.

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Imagine the offspring…

 

On the left shoulder, similar button layout with differing functions though, and on the right shoulder the now standard LCD display and wheel, common to all SLRs now.

Now the thing is that the EOS 650 is much more limited in it’s possibilities than the T90. No multi exposure (came with the later EOS 620), no display of exposure compensation. And of course ‘only’ a 3 fps burst speed when the T90 achieved 4.5 fps. Not that I use it a lot with film prices… 😉

All in all, the T90 seems more thought through, and is the more complete camera. All it lacks as opposed to the EOS 650 is autofocus…. but is that so bad?

Honestly I focus faster with he T90 than the EOS 650 does by itself. Granted it’s early autofocus, but it’s not really competitive.

And then there are the metering modes…. the T90 shines with a multi-spot metering mode, a centre weighed and an integral mode that really work and are easy to use. The only thing the EOS can counter with is it’s DEPTH focusing mode where you’re supposed to focus on the nearest and farthest point you want in focus and the camera will chose the  correct aperture…. when it works.

For me though, the T90 wins hands down.

Talking about the build quality I said in the opening lines that the EOS 650 weighs 890 grams and the T90 weighs 1,150 grams…. and that’s shows. The T90, though glossy and looking slippery is feeling much sturdier. It fits my hands like a glove while the EOS is feeling a bit flimsy.

I always avoided big cameras, hence my love for the Olympus XA2 and Leica IIIa.

IMG_0630
David and Goliath

But the T90 is a tool I like to use. The Canon A-1 is much more beautiful but deceived me with less accurate exposures (I had three of those and with all of them, exposure was less good, so it might not have been my fault). The T90 is always spot on, pun intended!

So where does all this leave us? What camera to chose?

I you already own Canon EF lenses and want to try film…. no way around the EOS 650. You can get it for peanuts – mine was 19€ (body only of course, the lens was 52€) from a good professional seller on eBay, with 30 days money back warranty… And you can get cheaper ones.

If you like cheap glass, good lenses and fine cameras, go for the T90 (or one of it’s FD-cousins). You won’t regret it. And you can adapt those lenses with a 20€ adapter to any mirrorless digital camera!

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Backsides – EOS 650 up and T90 below

Of course the T90 is a bit more expensive, and the LCD is said prone to failure. Never had that happen till now though. And it is said that they have a hidden backup battery that is good for 5 years only and has to be replaced by a professional… Don’t get fooled. That battery, if it fails, is only meant to keep your manually set ISO, exposure compensation and used frames in memory when you change the main AA batteries. Won’t happen too often!

On the other side, the EOS 650 needs the expensive 2CR5 batteries that are not available everywhere!

My choice is made, the EOS 650 will go to another loving owner, together with it’s AF lens. I’m old school and don’t need that stuff, hehe.

Interested? Make me an offer!

Thanks for reading!

15 thoughts on “The Mighty Camera Shootout

  1. Hi Frank, nice compact review of two respected cameras. I concur with you, having played with an EOS 500 and an EOS 750, I find myself going back to the T90, A1 and FD glass. I have to admit though, the EOS 500 is somewhat lighter than the A1 and the T90! By the way initial results with FD 135mm great.

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  2. The FD 135 is clearly one of my preferred lenses, the f:3,5 one, mind you!

    And I like the weight of the T90, strangely. Though I rave about compact, light cameras….

    Thanks for commenting

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  3. Although polycarbonate body, the weight does add a certain substantial feel to the T90 a business camera for sure. Mind you A1 and motordrive can weigh close the same as the T90! Not that I’m currently running it mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good review Frank,

    I had a new Canon EOS 600 in 1991 and back then the 2CR5 batteries where expensive, and no internet retailers, but we did have three camera shops in our town, all long since gone now. I have a Nikon F80 which uses CR2 batteries although not as pricey, do not seem to last very long and are not as easy to purchase in the high street. I could never understand why main camera manufacturers insisted on using obscure expensive battery sizes back then, and much like the present day. Although they have gone to rechargeable units for digital, it will cost you dear for a genuine replacement, unless you don’t mind buy a cheap exploding battery from the far east!

    I have seen EOS 600 bodies going for as little as £15, back in 1991 I recall paying £500 for a new body and 50mm f/1.8 lens. I was young, stupid back then and wanting autofocus, I part exchanged to get the EOS my Minolta X300 with its 28mm, 50mm and 135mm Rokkors which should have stuck with… Hindsight, such a wonderful thing.

    I take it you couldn’t find a mark one version of Canon EF 50mm lens which was a far superior to lens to that new mark two EF lens you have?

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    • Thanks Martin!

      Yes I heard the first EF 50mm was better… but I got this one quite cheaply, just to test the camera. Anyways, EF lenses are too expensive for y meagre budget, so I stay with my three FD lenses.

      And about those batteries… pure stupidity I guess. Or some deal with battery manufacturers. Why can a T90 function on 4 AAs and an EOS needs some super rare expensive ones? Anyways, if you get an EOS 1 for example, it takes the 2CR5 battery but if you chose to use the battery grip, illico presto you can go back to AAs! Wonder why???

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      • And too bad you traded in your X300 and lenses…

        Autofocus is not a thing for me. I never understood why you had to jiggle your focus point around on a digital SLR. Well, you meter, focus and recompose…. isn’t that the way of life?

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      • Thankfully you can get rechargeable versions of these batteries today. Lucky I can use my Nikon F80 with a power grip which takes AA batteries and was very cheap off Flea – Bay.

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  5. Good review but I must add a little comment about Nikon; you are right about some of their cameras being incompatible with certain lenses but taking just two cameras:
    The F4 will take just about every lens Nikon has ever made, including the new G lenses, although limited to Program & Shutter priority, they still give all three meter modes.
    The newer Nikon Df digital is the same but with the added ability to function fully with the G lenses.

    FD lenses work really well on my Fuji Xpro 1 and are cheap which is a great bonus.

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  6. Right, I heard the F4 was the last Nikon camera that was fully compatible with all the Nikon lenses. The F5 was more limited. The Df certainly too as you say, but it was a deception for me.

    Nikon promised something special, back to the roots, a real photographer’s camera… and Fuji did it! Hehe!

    I wonder about the X-Pro 1 for the moment. I have an X-E1 (yep, I admit, digital…) I use with FD and Leica M39 glass though the EVF disappoints me a lot… focus peaking is weak, the magnification feature works but it’s cumbersome to me.

    What are your experiences?

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  7. Frank, I mostly use the magnification by just pressing the back command dial and as long as the camera is in MF with ‘no lens’ selection made, it’s quick and easy.
    Very critical focus when on a tripod, I use the back screen.
    I did get the correct dioptre lens fitted & that made a big difference with how I was able to use manual lenses.
    The Df is like Marmite, you either love or hate it 🙂 for me it is the best digital I have ever used.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Awesome and informative post! The T90 is one of my all time favorites and the EOS 650 is a classic by virtue of being the first EOS slr camera. I’ll be back when I can “like” the postings!!

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