There are a lot of great deals when it comes to picking up 35mm film cameras, but there are almost none that beat the value of late 90s or early 2000s-era 35mm film SLRs. Cameras like the Canon EOS Rebel 2000 are loaded with features, work with modern lenses, and are sold for a song. Even better, they take the same quality pictures as exorbitantly expensive 35mm SLRs like the legendary Nikon F6.
They aren’t sought out by fashionable Instagram celebrities and are worthless to collectors that drool over vintage gear, but cameras like the Rebel 2000 are damn fine cameras for shooting. Often you can get one of the same cost as the price of purchasing and developing a single roll of film.
So how does the Canon EOS Rebel 2000 stack up to other cameras out there? Is it worth paying a bit more for something more robust like a Nikon F100?
The Rebel 2000 is excellent lightweight travel camera perfect for those who already own Canon lenses. If you’ve invested in the Nikon system, there are plenty of cheaper F mount cameras that fit the same niche as the Rebel 2000. If you’re starting from scratch, the Rebel 2000 is an excellent place to start, as it often comes bundled with a kit lens.
(Note for those of you outside the US: this camera was also sold under other names as well, including the EOS 300 and the EOS Kiss III)
The Canon EOS Rebel 2000 is a basic, lightweight SLR that does everything an automatic SLR should do. It has an autofocus system that covers a few spots across the center of frame, it can read DX code on 35mm cartridges, and it has full auto-exposure settings and capability. If you’ve used any Canon SLR or DSLR, the settings will be pretty familiar.
Unlike newer DSLR, there is no on/off button. Rather, the camera has a red L setting (no idea what the L stands for) that indicates the camera is off, and you switch the dial to P/Tv/Av/M etc to turn the camera on. There’s a bunch of other modes for different situations that can all be ignored by most photographers.
There is a small LCD on the top of the camera that has its own rudimentary settings. Thankfully, it’s far, far easier to use than the insane numerical ‘custom settings’ on the Nikon F100. Hit the function button to switch between a list of things like red-eye, remote control, bracketing, etc, with a little arrow, and the screen will show you appropriate icons. It’s pretty easy to use, intuitive, and doesn’t require carrying around a little laminated guide like my Nikon 35mm cameras.
This all-plastic camera is light. Like, probably one of the lightest SLR cameras ever made. It’s wonderful. It’s about the same weight (with lens!) as 35mm pocket cameras like the Nikon One Touch.
I paired the camera with the kit 35-80 zoom lens, which is also all plastic. You can find plenty of better midrange zooms than this thing, but I like how light it is. However, if I used this as my main camera, I’d invest in something that went a bit wider than 35mm.
If you do put a huge, heavy lens on this thing, it can be a bit awkward. The camera is so light that you end up running a bit front heavy. Also the mount itself is plastic, so be very, very careful if you’re using a giant metal lens.
The viewfinder uses a pentamirror system instead of a pentaprisim, which just means that it’s a whole lot smaller than a lot of 35mm SLRs out there. The viewfinder is small, but still very usable. If you’ve shot with APS-C DSLRs like the Canon 90D, you’ll be right at home here.
While not luxurious, I had no problem using this viewfinder. The rubber eyecap was missing on my particular unit, but it didn’t get in the way of anything. A small SLR viewfinder is going to beat the best rangefinder viewfinder any day.
Unlike digital cameras, there is no difference in image quality between the cheapest and most expensive film cameras in a system. The Rebel 2000 can use all the same film and lenses as its big brothers. The primary differences between film SLRs are features, toughness, and speed. These days, no sane person is shooting sports with film, so speed doesn’t matter, and even the cheaper SLRs like the Canon 2000 are plenty tough.
The real determinant of your picture quality is going to be skill and lenses, which brings us to…
The Canon EOS lens system is one of the most robust out there. Until the recent advent of Canon’s mirrorless system, all of Canon’s flagship lenses were EOS. There are several decades’ worth of lenses for this camera.
Unlike Nikon’s complex F mount, all EOS mount lenses are compatible with all EOS mount cameras, end of story. If you want, you can slap the most expensive brand new L series glass on this old plastic SLR and it’ll work great. The only feature that you may miss is vibration reduction/image stabilization, as I doubt the camera will be able to power it. Also, avoid lenses that were made for APS-C sized sensors, as they’ll mount, but may cause extreme vignetting.
One final note on lenses: Canon had an earlier interchangeable lens system that used the ‘FD mount.’ For over two decades Canon made lenses for this system, then scraped it entirely in the early 1990s. The FD mount and EOS mount are not compatible, and you can’t use any FD lenses on the Rebel 2000.
The Canon Rebel 2000 is powered by two CR2 3V batteries. While not nearly as common as AA, you can still get these easily enough online. They also have the added benefit of being lighter than their AA counterparts. My trusty F100 uses four AA batteries, which is far heavier than two tiny CR2 3V batteries.
I don’t have enough funds to shoot countless rolls of film to test the limits of how long the Rebel 2000 will last on a pair of CR2s, but I’ve used the same batteries for almost two years through several rolls of film and it shows no sign of dying. There is a battery icon in the LCD on the top of the camera, but it can only tell you if the battery is full, almost dead, or dead. Once you see anything other than a full battery icon, it’s timeto change the battery.
Remember, if you’re storing the camera and not planning on using it anytime soon, it’s always a good idea to take the batteries out. There’s nothing worse than digging up an old camera and finding battery acid all over everything. Not only is it dangerous, but it’s a pain to clean out.
When film is loaded, the Rebel 2000 immediately unspools the entire roll, then reloads it back into the cartridge one frame at a time as it is shot. This is different than a lot of other 35mm cameras that pull out one frame at a time, then rewind everything back into the film cartridge when the roll is complete. The benefit of the Rebel 2000’s approach is that if the back of the camera is opened and everything is exposed to light, all the photos you’ve already shot are safely hidden away in the cartridge. I imagine this was probably done for consumer photographers who were more likely to make this kind of mistake. In practice, I haven’t noticed any difference between the two approaches.
It’s easy to add a shoulder strap to this camera and use it like any other SLR camera. I wouldn’t hang a heavy L lens off of this camera when carried by a strap though, as this thing has a plastic mount that might not be able to handle the strain.
The plastic kit lens that I used with this camera had a bit too limited a range for my taste. Personally, I’d either get something that got a bit wider or slap a lightweight 50mm f1.8 on it and call it a day. There are tons of great options on the secondhand market.
The Rebel 2000 is an excellent lightweight film SLR that has the added advantage of a seemingly endless library of excellent EOS system lenses. Paired with an equally light lens, this makes for a great travel camera. It’s also a great place to start if you’re curious about just dipping your toe into the 35mm waters.
For those who need something a bit more robust, Canon made a ton of heavier, bigger 35mm EOS SLRs that are also excellent. However, no matter how expensive they get, they won’t take any different pictures than the entry-level Rebel 2000. That’s the beauty of film.
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