My history with Canon EOS 1 Series 35mm cameras began with an EOS 1V, ages ago. I bought it, fell in love with it and then sold it. Later I bought an EOS 1N to augment an EOS 3 that I liked. I sold that quickly too, because the EOS 3 was fine on its own.
The EOS 1 was in production between 1989 and 1994. This means that the nice example in my camera bag is between 25 and 30 years old. It was the first of the pro-spec SLRs in Canon’s then new EOS range. The 1-Series DNA is immediately established. It has the hunched prism and the three-button control system that still adorn the current 1DX Mark II.
My forays with the 1V and 1N have been so close to my day to day use of 5D bodies that they felt very much like work. I tended to shoot them as if I’m were saving to a card rather than exposing film, shooting for someone else rather than myself.
My original justification for owning an EF Body was a decent collection of EF mount lenses. It made sense to have at least one 35mm body to use with them, hardly a heart-stirring desire.
I have a number of cameras in my menagerie, the EF mount has always felt like the poorer cousin of the other illustrious names included. The ’79 Canon F1, my Leica M4P, the Hasselblad 500 series all have claim to greater cache than an EF mount SLR. It does offer me something they do not.
In recent years I’ve been consumed by the idea of freeing my film practice. Neither my Leica or Hasselblad is naturally metered, and my Canon F1 has a meter, it just doesn’t work. After a couple of years of of winging it, of sunny-sixteening it, and of massively over-exposing Portra I’ve found that freer is not necessarily better.
I don’t want to go back to carrying a meter for the kind of in-the-park-with-family photography that I tend to use 35mm for. The EOS 1 meters beautifully, giving me the spontaneity and the fluid experience that I want from this kind of photography.
Having moved backward through the 1 Series production timeline to 1989 I’ve moved from 45 AF Points to one. Paired with a 50mm f/1.8 the EOS 1 is smaller and heavier than my canon EOS-3. The focus tracks my infant son (just about) and that single AF-Point always reminds me that I’m not at work, and that the film will run out.
The selection below were shot on Kodak ProImage 100 and Portra 400, and represent the kind of day-bag stuff this camera is going to be getting up to. I could have taken all of these photos with the more advanced EOS-3 (or even 5d Mk IV) bodies that also live in my house, but I didn’t.
I’ve been searching for a camera to take everywhere all of the time, questions of weight, practicality, quality of results have all raised their heads. For the moment it’s a Canon EOS 1.
I got my EOS 1 from London Camera Exchange in Worcester, it’s a shop I work in from time to time and it has an ever-evolving collection of film cameras and lenses which you can view here
Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience
There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:
Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.
17 thoughts on “5 Frames with a Canon EOS 1 – By James Greenoff”
I picked up a an EOS 1 body after getting fed up with too many out of focus narrow DOF shots on my manual focus Olympus bodies. I had to overcome an irrational sense of guilt that I was somehow cheating by using AF. But the joy of getting accurately focused shots at f1.8 soon knocked that feeling on its head.
Incidentally, my copy had the dreaded “BC” error, which is caused by a stuck magnet inside the body. There are vids that show how to disassemble the body and unstick it, or sometimes whacking it in the right place works. But it happened too much for me to trust the body so I picked up a 1n instead. This body had no battery grip which makes for a far less weighty combo.
Lovely samples, it looks like a great camera!
I bought an EOS 1 when it came out because the Nikon F4 my paper gave me was so dreadful. I later upgraded to the 1N which I still have and use for personal work to this day. In fact, about 2 years ago I bought a second 1N as a backup. They’re incredible cameras, built to last. I know it doesn’t necessarily set the heart racing, but I like their no-nonsense workhorse feel. And with modern EF lenses, you can’t go wrong. Try it with a 40mm STM and I think you might discover some of that charm you thought they’d never have 🙂
Thanks for this write-up, James.
I am tempted to get one myself so I can use my EF lenses, but realised that part of my odd fascination with film cameras is the whole mechanical/manual feel of the process. Like you, I shoot a 5d mk IV and the whole process seemed very similar.
However, after seeing the quality of your results, I am seriously rethinking.
Do you process your own colour film? My home brewed C41 on 35mm is so grainy that it’s almost unusable. I more or less follow the recipe, but my results fall way short of what others are achieving.
I thought it might be my scanner (Canon 9000f II) but I only get marginally better results on other models.
These are through AG Photographic and scanned on their scanner – I tend to tweak curves and stuff, but try not to edit too hard, the scans will have been balanced at the lab
These EOS 1 series cameras are real workhorses, I use my 1N all the time! Lovely images, especially the old tractor got me.
Thanks Christian 🙂
Thanks for a fantastic article about your relationship with your Canon EOS 1 I have owned my EOS 1 since I bought it secondhand in 1992 and despite owning many other EOS film cameras it is till my go to camera. I find it works best with the PB-E1 Power Booster but it does make it a fair bit bulkier. As it stands despite owning a 1V-HS for general photography I still prefer the 1.
I’m convinced that I’m going to own another 1V at some point, I’m not sure why, but know it’s going to happen – the EOS 1 is a keeper regardless. 🙂
I enjoyed reading about your “backward journey” to the original EOS-1.
I upgraded from my original EOS-620 to the EOS-1 in 1989 and have owned it ever since. I did succumb, a few years ago when film SLR prices were depressed, to the allure of a couple more recent upper and high-end EOS cameras – namely the EOS-1N/RS as I’ve always loved the pellicle mirror first experienced in my RT and the EOS-3. I love both of them, but I still enjoy getting back to basics with that original EOS-1. Its auto-focus might not be as sophisticated, but at least I know exactly what’s going to be in sharpest focus by placing that single little square over what I feel is important. And in landscapes and cityscapes, that suffices nicely!
Plus, that camera, with motor drive booster is so rich in travel memories, I doubt I’d ever part with it!
Glad to read you’re enjoying yours!
The photo of your son is wonderful, and will be one to be treasured.
Beautiful photos James. I have a 1V that I bought for exactly the same reason – to let me use my shedload of EF glass on film, and I use mine for the same sort of thing; shooting family around the house and in the park. And yes, it’s so close to using my 5D that I often forget it’s film, which does kinda remove the romance from the process. But I love it. I love the speed and reliability and results. The EOS 1 series are seriously under appreciated, and technically just about as good as 35mm gets. Oh yes, and that ProImage shot is lovely. Great colour. Did you bump the saturation up much in post, or is it naturally that bold?
Thanks – I try not to edit too hard, but will usually mess with curves and contrast. As commercially developed and scanned images there will be parts of the colour balancing process that get done before I see them – (I use AG Photographic in Birmingham).
Really nice pics. The one of your son is just wonderful.
James, I love these images, especially the one of your little boy with the trains and cars. Delicious colours. This shot in particular looks like it could have been tricky to meter manually as there is a mix of light levels throughout the frame. Also kids are not known for staying still while they get photographed so setting up your focus and speed on the move can be a nightmare.
I have finally added an EOS to my collection. The AF is quick and very reliable and easy to get used to. It’s only a 28mm-90mm but for now it’s doing the business. I can’t wait to add more EF glass to the stable.