Using the Canon AE-1: One of the Greatest Film Cameras Ever Made

25 thoughts on Using the Canon AE-1: One of the Greatest Film Cameras Ever Made

  1. Some perspective here:
    Success in a camera is a combination of price and performance. This was a very affordable, and fully automatic camera, that was reasonably reliable and a joy to shoot with. As a very active high school journalist, auto exposure was a godsend. I also had the auto thyristor Vivitar 283 flash, and you can see on my old contact prints where I would often take a pair of shots, 1 natural light and 1 flash–that was a good compromise between the cost of film and the need to get the picture. Compared to the clunky Hanimex Praktica I had before, this was a jewel of a camera.

    The OM1 was available at the same time, for a lot more money. The K1000 had no autoexposure, which is fine for purists, but in journalism, you don’t get a second chance. Nikons and F1s were a lot more expensive.

    The original AE-1 (which is not what’s in the photo) was a great amateur camera, and I shot thousands of images on mine in the late 70s. I had the 50mm 1.8, the 135/3.5, Vivitar 35mm, Vivitar 2x, Vivitar 283, and my senior year, the sexy electric thumb, which is nice for left-eyed photographers.

    I’ve still got my negatives, many in much worse shape than the camera, and I’ve scanned and posted them on my web site. Here’s a trip to 1977:

    http://photos.heiserhollow.net/index.php?album=That%2070s%20Show/BHS1978/

  2. I had an A-1 from that series. I remember taking it to the testing booth at the 1979 Tampa Bay Photo Expo at the old Curtis Hixon hall and the measurements were all over the place. I stood around there for a couple of hours watching other cameras being tested and about the most consistent cameras they tested were the Olympus OM stuff. I went out and got an OM-2n shortly after that and never looked back.

  3. All of the A series cameras had shutter squeel. But it is an easy repair if you get it done early. The A series of cameras covered from beginner to semi-pro. I sold hundreds of them. I owned 3 A-1s with motor drives. Put thousands of frames through all of them. Routinely sent them into Canon for basic maintenance. Never had a moments trouble with any of them.

    I had T-90s too. Those were the first EOS like cameras. All of mine modified for 11 frames per sec.

    I shot NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL with them. Weddings were the worst. Lol

  4. This was my first SLR camera. I paired it with 50 f/1.4, 35-70 f/3.5 (?)and 200 f/4. Price $ 5.5. The cloth shutter travels horizontally. Previously I used to use Canon FTb, another awesome camera by Canon.

  5. The primary problem with the design of this camera is that it’s very easy to inadvertently change the shutter speed when advancing the film. The AE-1 program, which is what’s pictured here, fixed this problem. My advice is to skip the AE-1 and look at an AE-1 program, an A-1, an EF, an F-1, or an F-1N.

  6. In other related news…horse and carriages to be available at your Chevy dealership later this week and push lawnmowers are now in stock at your local SEARS and Ace Hardware stores – get ’em while they’re hot!

  7. Analog enthusiasts could now start online petitions for Canon to start an AE-1 assembly line, and also one for manufacturing a EF to FD converter. For people who want to be even more retro, there’s always the option of starting a new movement “Back to stopped down metering days of the Canon FT and its FL lenses”.

  8. A great camera for sure. I almost bought one back in the day, but ended up with a Nikon FE instead. Both, along with the Olympus OM2 were brilliant in their own right.

  9. I would say it’s more accurate to say one of the best selling cameras….It never claimed to be the best. Canon itself would argue its flagship F1 which is the top of the line contemporary of the ae-1. Had all the bells and whistles available at the time. The ae-1 is notorious for the famous lubrication squeak, which is a sign of imminent shutter failure btw, the battery door failure, and it’s cheap plastic chromed top cover. I’ll take a used magnesium F1 and an ssc50mm F1.4 any day over a mountain of mint in the box AE-1’s

  10. My father got one these cameras when they first came out and also a great upgraded lens from the stock lens. When my sister was a baby she picked it up one day (still freshly new) and threw it in our pool. RIP 🙁

  11. I never had the AE-1. I started with and still have my A-1 from the 70’s. I also have a T-50 I picked up a couple of years ago on ebay. Love both of them. Just hard to find places to develop the film. Hopefully now, there will be more places .

  12. When the AE-1 came out it was an instant hit, I had one then upgraded to the AE-1 Program when it was released, I used that camera for 20+ years, put 2 shutters into it… loved it…. one of the most popular film cameras ever. I burnt out a power winder then eventually got the MA motor drive, it was awesome and reliable.

  13. Bought my AE-1 in 1979. Had it for over 30 years, taking pictures all over the North West, and on the North Slope Alaska. (It would not work in -20 F, but that was the only time it malfunctioned). I sure miss that camera.

  14. I was 10 years old in 1976. We lived in England, and my Dad was a photographer in the Air Force. He owned the Canon AE1 personally and professionally. I learned to use it, but I didn’t like very much. Today, I own the EOS5. It works with all of my lenses, and it has fast and accurate AF. I use it for 35mm film photography, but I found that I prefer medium format photography better. With only 12 to 15 shots, I find that I slow down even further than with 35mm film. The negatives are larger and give more detail.

  15. I have an original F1 I purchased in the late 70’s that is still going strong! Shot lots of slide film in this camera including Kodachrome and Ektachrome. I have used an AE-1 as well – a very good camera.

  16. Not the greatest, but good. These work with batteries… But i like the fully mechanical model canon FT. Its build quality and performance is great…. Nice body. I remember those good old times.. Shooting with canon ft and a fd 1:1. 4 Lens

  17. Ummm it’s not “one of the greatest film cameras ever made”. It’s pretty nice but I’ve had at least 6 and I always sell them to fund more Nikon gear. It’s a good beginner camera but it feels very cheap compared to my Nikon f3.

  18. …this is so much like my first Canon SLR Joe Borg Xuereb, which I had bought from VanDyke shop in South Street, next door to ABC Stationery. I was so proud with it at that time. The recent photo you posted, with Dad at table, smoking a cigarette, was shot with it, as the never-forgotten photos of Miriam with a flower in her hand at Rabat. I have still some slides but turning yellow and brown with age now.

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