Autofocus Film SLRs – Are They Worth it?

Every film photographer has that camera that got them to fall in love with film. To some, it’s their parent’s Pentax K1000 that’s been in the family for years. To others, it’s the Leica M6 they saved up to buy, which became their “one and done” camera. For me, it’s a cheap autofocus SLR that taught me everything.

The Canon Rebel G.

Quick backstory on me as a photographer; I grew up “borrowing” my parent’s family DSLR, the Canon Rebel T2i, and essentially used that camera as my everyday carry up until I upgraded to Fujifilm. With my high school income consisting solely on prom photos, I invested heavily into affordable Canon EF glass, like the Canon “nifty fifty,” the Canon 85 F1.8, and the Sigma 35 F1.4. These lenses became my bread and butter, and I would constantly rave about them to my friends, hoping they would purchase them too (you could say that me working in a camera store was destiny 😉)

While in grade 12, a photographer friend of mine invited me over to his place because he wanted to give me a camera. He told me he bought 10 bodies for a very cheap price (think 2014 film camera prices,) and wanted to get me into shooting film. Now me, as a Gen Z who grew up with no photographers in the family, I barely knew anything about film. All  knew was that:

  • Film needed to be developed
  • Different film stocks had different colours
  • ..

That was it. I only knew about the first point because as a kid, my family would stop by one-hour photo labs after vacations, and the second part I knew because of VSCO Lightroom presets.

When I went over to his place, I was essentially given a film 101 course on how analog photography worked. Of course, due to me only being 17, all the info I gained essentially went in one ear and out the other (which proved detrimental after I excitingly opened up the back of my camera to show my parents that I was shooting film.) After the introduction to film photography, my friend gave me my first film camera, the Canon Rebel G.

To give a brief introduction to this camera, the Canon EOS Rebel G (or EOS Kiss XS in Asian markets) has an electronically powered shutter with speeds ranging from 30 to 1/2000 seconds. The viewfinder has 0.7x magnification and shows shutter speed, aperture settings, and other relevant information. The camera’s autofocus, while not as fast as the mirrorless cameras of today, is surprisingly fast and accurate considering the year it was manufactured. It has 3 AF points, which are displayed in the viewfinder. The camera’s internal meter comes with various AE modes and exposure compensation. The built-in flash supports TTL autoflash, red-eye reduction, and fill-flash, while also having a hot shoe mount for speedlite flashes.

Realistically speaking… it’s not too different from any of the other autofocus SLRs made back then. Compared to the other Canon EOS Rebels, or pretty much any of the other consumer autofocus film SLRs, they essentially are all very similar specs-wise.


As a beginner photographer, this camera was an amazing entry point into film photography. Around this time, I was just learning how to shoot fully manual on my DSLR, so I was already overwhelmed with making sure my exposure was correct. Transitioning from relying on fixing my photography faults by editing my raw files to needing to consider every photo before I took it was a great change.

The main reason why I loved using it is because of the EF mount. Whether you use the kit 28-80 zoom that it came with, a nifty fifty, or an EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 L IS II USM that we have in rentals, this camera is able to take on the majority of the EF lenses. Due to the nature of modern glass compared to FD lenses, although they may not have the same character as FD lenses, they are incredibly sharp all around.

This camera also taught me how to become a better photographer. Around this time, I was just learning how to shoot fully manual on my DSLR, so I was already overwhelmed with making sure my exposure was correct. Adding a whole new medium of film photography into the mix was scary at first, but it ultimately changed the way I saw light and composition. I also had a habit of “chimping” after each shot (the habit of checking every photo on the camera LCD immediately after capture), and taking away the LCD taught me patience in ways that digital photography couldn’t. This camera became my gateway camera to my love towards film cameras, and is still a camera I use on rotation whenever I want to shoot with EF glass.

Now, to answer the question “are they worth it,” we’d have to compare these cameras to more mechanical film cameras, like the Canon AE-1. For starters, they don’t look vintage. This might sound superficial, but for quite a few people, the experience of cranking a winder on an aluminum body is an experience people do look for in film cameras, which is something that the Canon Rebel G and other autofocus film cameras will not give you. The build quality isn’t the best on them either. In Nicole’s words, “90’s electronics suck.” These cameras were not build as robust as most fully mechanical cameras, since it does have 90’s electronics built within them. This does mean that repairing these is close to impossible. Even if a repair centre can repair it, most of the time it’s more worth it to buy another one.

However, also in Nicole’s words, “autofocus SLR’s are the best cameras to learn film photography on.” An analogy I use a lot when people ask about what their first film camera should be is to think of learning photography like learning how to drive. Learning how to drive on a stick shift is fun, and for some it’s the better driving experience, but learning on something automatic allows you to focus more on the rules of the road, how to properly park, etc. Plus, you can always learn how to drive stick after you learn how to fully drive.

Similar to cars, fully mechanical cameras are great. My next film camera after the Canon Rebel G was a Canon A-1 that I bought from Beau Photo back in 2018, and it strengthened my love for film photography even more. But since I learned how to properly expose my photos manually by using the Rebel G, shooting with the Canon A-1 was quite a bit easier vs if I were to jump head first into a camera more mechanical than what I’m used to. Sure, back then cameras, cameras like the Rebel G didn’t exist, so the only option was to use a fully mechanical camera.

But if it wasn’t for the Canon Rebel G, I wouldn’t be where I am now as a photographer.

Autofocus SLR’s are worth it.

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Beau Photo Supplies Inc.
Beau Photo Supplies Inc.