Canon AE Series 35mm Film SLRs

Canon A-Series 35mm Film SLR Cameras
Developed through the years of 1976 to 1986 under the auspices of the Model X Development Plan, Canon's AE (Automatic Exposure Control) cameras not only plays a large part in revolutionizing the entire camera design concept and also the manufacturing process of modern 35mm SLR cameras as we know it today, they were also the world's first camera to have all its functions to be controlled fully by a built-in micro CPU (Central Processing Unit). The A-Series cameras also held the record as the world's best-selling 35mm SLR camera, with more than five million units sold worldwide!


Canon AE-1 (1976)
Canon A-Series 35mm Film SLR Cameras, Canon AE-1
The AE-1 was the first of Canon's new line of SLRs that was introduced in 1976. A historically significant model, the AE-1 was the first battery-powered (one 4 LR44 or 4 SR44) microprocessor-equipped SLR and was also the first to enjoy a sale of over million units, an achievement that was never met before in the SLR market. The AE-1 supported both manual exposure control or shutter priority auto exposure with an exposure control system consisting of a needle pointing along a vertical f-stop scale on the right side of the viewfinder. The reading of the built-in light meter is center-weighted and is powered by a silicon photocell). The AE-1 viewfinder is Canon’s standard split image rangefinder with microprism collar focusing aids.


Canon AT-1 (1976)
Canon A-Series 35mm Film SLR Cameras, Canon AT-1
The Canon AT-1 is a less costly version of the AE-1, which came without the shutter-speed priority auto-exposure mode that came with the AE-1. The AT-1 features only a manual exposure mode to meet the request of customers who do not want the autoexposure capability of the AE-1. The camera does include a light meter which features TTL center-weighted average metering with a CdS photocell and a match needle in the viewfinder. The AT-1 supports all accessories produced for the AE-1, including the motor drives.


Canon A-1 (1978)
Canon A-Series 35mm Film SLR Cameras, Canon A-1

The A-1 is the flagship model of the enthusiast level A-series 35mm film SLRs constructed with the same compact aluminum alloy chassis, a horizontal cloth-curtain shutter system, and outer cosmetic acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) plastic panels, but with feature levels specific to each model. Besides the shutter speed-priority AE and aperture-priority AE modes, the A-1 features the first fully automatic program AE mode, preset aperture-priority AE, and Speedlite AE mode. The viewfinder information is now an easy to read 7-segment red LED showing the exposure control setting. Shutter speed and the aperture could be easily set with the dials on the camera.

Accessories for the A-1 included the compact Motor Drive MA with a maximum shooting speed of 5 fps and a convenient vertical-grip shutter button. This is in addition to the Power Winder A which was developed at the same time as the AE-1. The Speedlite 199A with a bounce flash capability was also introduced. The A-1 is only available in black.


Canon AV-1 (1979)
Canon A-Series 35mm Film SLR Cameras, Canon AV-1
The AV-1 was very similar to the AE-1 but is only provided with aperture priority autoexposure as opposed to the AE-1's shutter speed priority AE. The camera is not capable of fully manual exposure. The AV in the name referred to the type of autoexposure; Av (Aperture Value) is a common abbreviation for aperture priority. When this camera appeared, a new type of FD lenses featuring instant mounting/demounting was also introduced. A low-cost FD 50mm f/2 lens was made available for the AV-1.


Canon AE-1 Program (1981)
Canon A-Series 35mm Film SLR Cameras, Canon AE-1 Program
The most popular model in the series, the AE-1 Program It was introduced in 1981 as the successor to the Canon AE-1. New for this model was the addition of the Program AE mode which was introduced with the A-1 model. The camera now had both shutter speed-priority AE and program AE modes. The Program AE mode sets both the shutter speed and aperture automatically, with a slight bias towards the shutter speed setting, and all the user has to do is focus, and shoot. For enthusiasts who desire more control, shutter priority auto-exposure and full manual modes are still available. The camera also sports the palm grip as seen on the A-1. The viewfinder featured LEDs, and the Power Winder A2 was also introduced.


Canon AL-1 (1982)
Canon A-Series 35mm Film SLR Cameras, Canon AL-1
The main feature of the AL-1 was the "Quick Focus" focus-assist system, with arrows at the bottom of the viewfinder display indicating the direction to turn the focusing ring to achieve focus. When focus is achieved, the in-focus mark between the two arrows lights. Exposure is controlled by a TTL silicon photocell and aperture-priority AE with centerweighted averaging metering. Shutter speeds are electronically controlled and stepless. The camera is also compatible with all FD lenses.


Resource Links:
Classic Cameras: the Canon AE-1 35mm SLR Film Camera
The Canon AE-1 and Canon A-1: Game-changing SLRs

Popular on ImagingPixel