Search ImagingPixel for Images by Camera or Lens

Film Camera Reviews, Canon A-Series 35mm MF SLR Film Cameras

Canon A-Series 35mm MF SLR Cameras

A look at the development timeline of Canon A series AE (Automatic Exposure Control) 35mm manual focus SLR film cameras.

Developed through the years 1976 to 1986 under the auspices of the Model X Development Plan, Canon's AE (Automatic Exposure Control) cameras not only play a large part in revolutionizing the entire camera design concept but also the manufacturing process of modern 35mm SLR cameras as we know it today.

The cameras were also the world's first cameras to have all their 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!

The common denominator of the Canon A-series cameras is the use of the electromagnet-controlled cloth-curtain shutter which limits the camera's top shutter speed to 1/1000 second and a slow flash sync speed of 1/60 second.

The Cameras

Canon AE-1 (1976)

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 a million units, an achievement that was never met before in the SLR market.

The AE-1 supported both manual exposure control and 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 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 requests of customers who do not want the autoexposure capability of the AE-1.

The camera does include a light meter that 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-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.

Viewfinder information is now 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.


    Since making my previous video about the Canon A1 film camera I have discovered through comments that a lot of people have inherited these cameras and may not necessarily know anything about cameras or photography.

Canon AV-1 (1979)

Canon AV-1

The AV-1 was very similar to the AE-1 but was 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 refers to the type of autoexposure; Av (Aperture Value) is a common abbreviation for aperture priority.

When this camera appeared, a new type of FD lens 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 AE-1 Program

The most popular model in the series, the AE-1 Program 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.

    Introduction to the Canon AE-1 Program, Video 1 of 3

    Canon's early-1980s AE-1 follow-up, the AE-1 Program, provided many hundreds of thousands of new SLR users their first opportunity to comfortably use a interchangeable-lens camera. The easy interface and programmed automatic mode combined to make the camera appealing to an entry-level market.

Canon AL-1 (1982)

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 the image subject is in focus is achieved, the in-focus mark between the two arrows lights up.

Exposure is controlled by a TTL silicon photocell and aperture-priority AE with center-weighted averaging metering. Shutter speeds are electronically controlled and are stepless. The camera is also compatible with all FD lenses.

Vintage Camera Marketplace by ImagingPixel

Malaysia's Online Marketplace for Vintage Film and Digital Cameras, Lenses,
and Camera Accessories.
Follow ImagingPixel on Facebook, Pinterest, and X.

Popular on ImagingPixel