Sunday, October 15, 2023

Spotlight: Canon EOS RT


Last October I tried out the Canon Pellix, a Canon SLR from 1965 that utilized a pellicle mirror (you can read that article here). This year I decided to try out Canon's more recent pellicle mirror offering, the EOS RT from 1989. Like the Pellix from nearly 25 years earlier, the EOS RT (stands for "Real-Time") has a fixed, semi-translucent mirror that does not flip up during the moment of exposure like on a standard SLR. Instead, 2/3 of the light passes through the mirror to the film, while 1/3 of the light goes into the pentaprism viewfinder. This means that you never lose sight of your subject -- there is never any "blackout" like on just about every other SLR. This makes the RT a handy tool for sports or street photography, as you can see the decisive moment as you click the shutter. 

The tradeoff, like with the original Pellix, is a slightly dimmer focusing screen, since the majority of the light is passing through the mirror to the film. However, with a fast lens like the 50mm f/1.8 that I used with the camera, this dimness is hardly noticeable, especially outdoors. Another tradeoff is image quality, if dust or fingerprints manage to get on the mirror. With a clean mirror, the RT should produce images just as sharp as a non-pellicle camera. 

Unlike the Pellix, the RT boasts autofocus, as well as a built-in 5fps motor drive. In my tests, the AF worked well in decent light, but struggled indoors (pretty typical of an AF system from its era). There is only one autofocus point, right in the center of the focusing screen. I will say, shooting at 5 frames per second with full view of my subject was an absolute thrill! It felt like I was... cheating. 

The RT with the back open and shutter open, showing how light passes through the mirror

Besides the pellicle mirror and 5fps shooting, the RT is very similar to the EOS 650. Other than the "RT" badge, the body design is practically identical to the 650. This is not a bad thing, as the form factor of the camera is extremely comfortable. However, I do dislike how many of the controls are hidden behind a flap on the rear of the camera, and not immediately accessible. For things like ISO, rewind, and battery check, that's fine, but having to open up the flap to change my AF and drive mode is a pain. 

The damned flap

I love the soothing blue light...

Below are some photos I made with my Canon EOS RT, a Canon 50mm f/1.8 EF lens, and Ilford HP5+ film. I'm pleased with the results, and would recommend this camera to anyone, as it's pretty cheap (I got mine for $30 with a flash!). Thanks for reading!