Whether you're an old school film user who has not converted to digital, or you just want a backup to your DSLR, there are many reasons why you might want an EOS film SLR in your camera bag. This guide will try to give an overview of the Canon film camera bodies out there so that you can roughly compare them and determine which ones warrant further investigation. I can't list features for all bodies because a review is not really the best format for that, and if I did, reading it would bore even the most die-hard camera junkies to tears.
Some general notes on the EOS cameras: All the EOS cameras offer automatic film transport (camera advances the film after you shoot and rewinds the roll when you're done). Virtually all offer program, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual setting of aperture and shutter speeds - the few models which don't are noted below. In general, autofocus steadily improved as time went on, so the newer bodies will focus more quickly and in darker lighting than their predecessors. Remember, though, that much of autofocus speed depends on the lens - the camera body "tells" the lens to zoom out or in, but the lens focusing speed limits how fast the lens gets there. The following list contains all the Canon EOS autofocus camera bodies ever made, listed under their US naming scheme and by date of issue.
EOS 650 ('87) Canon's first AF SLR - it has a basic feature set including a 30-1/2000 sec shutter, 1/125 sync speed, A-TTL flash, and program/aperture priority/shutter priority/auto-depth of field/and manual metering modes. It is probably the cheapest EOS body which has those features and can often be purchased in working condition for under $20. Additionally, the camera offers DOF preview, which is a nice plus. Note that it has no built-in flash.
EOS 620 ('87) An upgrade from the 650 adding a 1/4000 sec shutter, 1/250 flash sync, shiftable program exposure and a few other features.
EOS 750 ('88) Similar to the 650, but lost DOF preview, only had program and auto-depth of field metering.
It did add a built in flash, though.
EOS 850 ('88) The same as the 750 but without the built in flash.
EOS 630 (88) The replacement to the 620 which had a 30-1/2000 sec shutter, 1/125 flash sync, and 5 fps shooting.
EOS 1 (89) (pro) By most accounts, Canon's first true professional AF camera. Offered better build quality, 30-1/8000 sec. shutter, 1/250 flash sync, and more advanced metering features.
EOS RT (89) Similar specs to the 630, but the camera was designed to have a .008 second shutter lag once auto-focused.
EOS 10s (90) Similar specs to the 630, but added switchable AF points and predictive AF (for moving subjects) and a 1/4000 sec shutter speed.
EOS 700 (90) Similar specs to the 750, but added the "icon" shooting modes (landscape, portrait, macro, etc.) that most photographers hate, and via removing and reattaching the mode dial, added shutter priority.
EOS Rebel (S) (90) The first in the Rebel series. The S has a flash; the undesignated Rebel does not. Offered 30-1/1000 sec exposure, 1/90 flash sync, and the standard metering modes (P, A, S, A-dep, and M)
EOS EF-M (91) A manual focus camera (no autofocusing capabilities) with a split image focusing screen which takes Canon EOS lenses. Otherwise it is essentially the same as the Rebel.
EOS Elan (91) (advanced amature) - An advanced amature camera that added a LOT of features, including AE lock, auto bracketing, an in-focus indicator and the command dial on the back of the camera. Relatively common and very cheap today, it is also very quick to use once you learn all of its buttons. No DOF preview though.
EOS Rebel S II (91) - Improved the AF over the original Rebel S
EOS A2E (92) (advanced amature/pro) - This camera was revolutionary in '92. It is an advanced amature/pro body with 1/8000 sec max shutter speed and 1/200 flash sync. This camera has even more features than the Elan, and it can take some time to figure out. This is one camera you'll need the manual (or Magic Lantern book) to get full usage of. It also offered eye controlled focusing, whereby whichever of the 7 autofocusing points you are looking at, the camera uses as the active focusing point.
EOS A2 (92) (advanced amature/pro)- The A2E except with a diopter correction knob instead of eye-controlled focusing.
EOS Rebel XS (93) - Very similar to the S and SII.
EOS Rebel X (93) - Similar to the XS but lacking built in flash and metered manual mode.
EOS 1N (94) (pro) - Canon's flagship camera at the time. Lots of features and top of the line build quality. The 1N RS variant additionally offers 10 fps shooting.
EOS Elan II, Elan IIE (95) (advanced amature) - An update of the original Elan. An advanced amature camera offering eye controlled focus (IIE only) with slightly lower specs than the A2/A2E.
EOS Rebel G (96) - Similar to the S, SII, and XS, except offering slightly advanced autofocusing and metering.
EOS 3 (98) (Pro/advanced amature) - This camera offers lots of customizable metering and AF options, eye controlled focusing, and a professional feature set.
Rebel 2000 (99) - Similar to the consumer S, SII, XS and G series, but also offering more advanced metering and DOF preview.
EOS 1V (00) (Pro) - Probably the best film camera Canon ever made, incorporating the most durable shutter and weatherproofing of any of their bodies, an advanced metering and focusing system, and a professional package of customizable functions and controls.
Rebel Ti (02) - Similar to the Rebel 2000, offering the general set of consumer features plus DOF preview.
Rebel K2 (03) - A lower end model to the Ti which removes DOF preview.
Elan 7 (03) (advanced amature)- Canon's last and most advanced advanced amature camera, which updated the earlier Elan II/IIE.
Rebel T2 - Canon's last and most advanced consumer level film SLR. It offers E-TTL II flash metering, which improves through the lens flash output over previous systems. Other features are similar to the Ti.
So which one should you get?
For most users who want a moderate degree of control over their images, convenience in taking them, and who are willing to do a little bit of reading to master their camera, I would recommend the Elan series or the A2. The Elan 7 is the most modern and still sells for only around $60 They are significantly cheaper than the professional models and offer a good degree of control over the imaging process. These are obviously film cameras, with less advanced LCD displays, and thus they can at times be less intuitive than digitals. The Elan/A2's have a set of numbered custom functions to set stuff like front vs. rear curtain flash sync, buttons for exposure-lock, etc, so you really need your manual in front of you to figure them out.
For better cameras than these, you'll have to look to the EOS 1N ($150-250), EOS 3 ($200-300), or EOS 1V ($500-800).
If you want a more intuitive photographing experience and want to do away with the custom functions, the Rebel series bodies have a good basic feature set (though I'd avoid the original Rebel). Look especially to the Rebel G and 2000 as cheap options. The newer T2 and K2 are the most modern, but sell for a premium - even more than the Elan series in some cases.
Why bother? A couple good reasons come to mind:
Super-Wide angle shooting One big advantage to the film system is that it allows super wide angle shooting with a sub-$400 lens! Hopefully the digital wide angle situation will improve, as currently even the cheapest Sigma and Tokina super-wide angle digital-only lenses sell for over $400 and the Canon is about $600. Shooting film will allow you to use the more common 3rd party 19-35mm zooms at about $100 or any number of other lenses to get those interesting wide angle shots. Alternately, you can spring for the full frame Sigma 12-24mm lens ($500-600) and get a really wide perspective on film or a more typical super-wide 19-38mm equivalent perspective on your 1.6x crop digital body.
Special projects You may want to shoot some infrared film, or shoot and project some Velvia slides, or capture some action at 1/8000 sec. I'm sure you can come up with others. You can throw some (more expensive) digital technology at these projects to get the same results, but the film route would perhaps be easier and cheaper.Cheap backup body I know I personally would rather blow a couple hundred bucks on a new lens rather than a backup body that I would only use in a pinch.