The Camera That I Always Wanted (OK, One Of Them): The Canon AE-1

Anyone who grew up in the 1970’s and Big 80’s remembers these ads-

John Newcombe, Canon Shooter, And Tennis Legend

John Newcombe, Canon Shooter, And Tennis Legend

Last weekend, I bought a Canon AE-1. Canon sold millions of them. The first 35mm SLR with a CPU, and a quartz timed electronic shutter. When I was a kid, the camera was on TV, in print ads, like the one above, promoted at sporting events. A shutter-priority camera, the key selling feature of the camera was that you could set your chosen shutter speed, and the camera, using a Canon FD lens, would automatically select your aperture. Competitors such as Nikon were taken back by this camera, not only because of its electronic integrated circuit-based innovations, but its light weight (mostly plastic parts!), and low price (retailing for about $260 US. The Nikon FE and FE-2 followed, choosing aperture priority. Set the aperture, and the camera chose a stepless shutter speed.

Tracy Austin

Tennis Players Loved The AE-1- Tracy Austin

I love, love, love the camera. Not only because of its simplicity and retro charm, but because of the amazingly accurate light meter. The gorgeous FD glass is maybe even better than the Minolta glass I got into last year, and, yes, maybe better than any Nikkor/Nikon glass in my collection. Easily the best 35mm glass I’ve ever used. Not sure if it is the coatings that Canon used, the sharpness, the contrast. these lenses have it all. I have the 50mm f/1.8, and the 135mm f/2.8. The camera came with the 50. I bought the 135 off of eBay.

My Canon AE-1

My Canon AE-1

Here are a few samples from my 1st roll. The film used was Kodak Portra 160.:


Window Of The Owl Shop





This camera is absolutely mind-blowing, as is the Canon FD mount glass. It is not without its quirks. For instance, it suffers from the well-known “Canon Squeal”, which, contrary to popular belief, is not from the shutter, but from the mirror assembly. I am going to pop the bottom plate, and spray some oil up into the gear, to remedy the noise. Also, it has a very odd manual exposure mode, which displays only the suggested aperture, and not the chosen shutter speed. The 6 volt battery is in a panel on the front of the camera, which doubles as a finger grip. Notorious for breaking, mine is not broken. The plate that covers the hot shoe doubles as a tool to open the compartment. I mentioned plastic parts earlier. Believe it or not, while the AE-1 looks and feels like a tank of a camera, the top and bottom plates are indeed metal plated plastic!

This one is going to be a lot of fun to shoot with. An awful lot of fun.