Canon A-1 (1978-1985)

Canon Mount (FD/FL/EF) SLRs:

Canon A-1

by Karen Nakamura

Overview and Personal Comments

The Canon A-1 is an advanced manual focus SLR produced by Canon, Inc. between 1978 and 1985. It featured through the the lens (TTL) full aperture metering, automatic exposure, and aperture and shutter priority metering.The A-1 was designed as a professional level camera, complementing the consumer AE-1 which Canon had released two years earlier.

At the time of its release, the A-1 was revolutionary with an integrated CPU and a full range of automatic exposure modes. It could take the entire Canon FD series of bayonet mount lenses (which can now be bought very inexpensively on ebay at a fraction of the EOS equivalents) as well as most FL and non-FD lenses. It had AE-lock, exposure compensation, multiple exposure ability, and depth of field preview features. It was a generation ahead of any of its Nikon counterparts at the time. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

My Canon A-1 (serial #15001xx) was in almost mint condition when I bought it in late 2008 at an antique mall. The A-1 was built as late as 1985. There is almost no wear visible anywhere on the camera. I tested the camera fully and it works perfectly. The camera takes a 6V PX28A alkaline battery, but I put in 4 LR44 batteries with a wad of aluminium foil instead. This worked just fine.

This is an excellent camera for a student or as the second body of a professional who uses the FD system (which includes the excellent F-1). It was is perhaps the lightest of the metal-clad Canon FD body (ie, before Canon moved fully to polycarbonates in the T-series). Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law and your ebay terms of service.


Interesting quirks

The A-1 has a lot of buttons for all of its features, as befits a professional level camera. You should download the manual to get a better sense of what all of the buttons do. I think that given that this was in an era before informational LCD menu systems, that Canon did a very good job of keeping the clutter to a minimum. Even in the heat of shooting, you can easily figure out which mode you are in -- or which mode you would like to switch to.

Some of the incredible features of the A-1:

  • Shutter blind on the eyepiece. This professional feature allows you to close steel shutters over the rear eyepiece with a single switch. This prevents stray light from travelling back through the eyepiece and through the pentaprism and causing problems with the exposure.
  • Multiple exposure switch
  • Selectable 2 and 10 second self-timer
  • Built-in battery check.
  • Selectable finder LED read-out shutoff.
  • Automatic LED brightness dimming.
  • Stop-down automatic exposure (aperture-priority) mode, great for non-FD lenses
  • Metering lock

About the only negatives that I can think about the A-1 are:

  • You can't do aperture-priority exposure using the lenses' aperture ring, instead you have to dial in the aperture using the multi-function dial. Boo.
  • The maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 is lame, even for 1978. It should have been at least 1/2000. Similarly, the flash speed of 1/60 is slow, they could've managed 1/125 at least. My guess is that the shutter was detuned in order to make it more reliable.
  • The PX28A battery isn't widely available anymore. Replace with four LR44 or SR44 batteries; or two CR1/3N or one  2CR1/3N.


Canon offered a variety of optional accessories which are often listed on ebay. They include the Canon Speedlite flashes which offer full automatic exposure as well as the power winder unit which turns the camera into a motor driven powerhorse. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law and your ebay terms of service.

Technical Details

Camera Name
Canon, Inc.
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture
Focusing System

Single-lens reflex with pentaprism eye-level viewfinder

Fixed eye-level pentaprism. 0.83x magnification (EX 50mm), 93.4% vertical coverage, 95.3% horizontal coverage. Split-image rangefinder encircled by microprism rangefinder at center with a fresnel matte screen. Digital LED readout with 7 segment for shutter speed, aperture, flash-ready, manual settings and warnings.

Viewfinder blind. Optional rubber cap.

Lens Mount
Canon FD bayonet mount

Focal plane shutter 30 sec.- 1/1000
X-flash sync at 1/60
Selectable 2 and 10 second self-timer.

Metering System

SPC through the lens (TTL) metering

Five automatic exposure modes:

  1. Shutter priority automatic exposure
  2. Aperture priority automatic exposure
  3. Program automatic exposure
  4. Manual exposure
  5. Stop-down aperture priority exposure mode

EV -2 to 18


External hot-shoe and PC connection

Hotshoe has extra pins for dedicated Canon Speedlite flashes

Film type / speeds

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

ASA 6 to 12800

Battery type
6v PX28 alkaline (still available in some specialty stores)
Dimensions and weight

141 x 92 x 48 mm, 620 g

Retail Price in 1978

¥114,000 yen (w/FD 50mm f/1.4SSC)

Note: Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place. This may result in your account being cancelled. I also reserve the right to file claim for civil penalties.


About Canon

Canon started out its life as Seiki Kohgaku Kenkyuujo (Precision Optical Research Company). Its first goal was to produce domestic inexpensive Leica clones, and it released the Kwanon, its first camera in 1934. Interestingly, they used Nikon lenses since Nikon was already established as an optical lens manufacturer and was not making any of its own camera bodies at that time. Canon soon gained the ability to make their own lenses and never looked back. Nikon also went on to produce some reasonably popular cameras of its own as well.

The name 'Canon' comes from the Buddhist deity Kwanon and early Canon cameras were actually spelled 'Kwanon' and the lenses were named 'Kyasapa' after another deity.

Side note: Canon is my favorite Japanese company along with Honda. I actually interned for Canon Japan (ok, Canon Sales Japan, a part of the Canon keiretsu) during a summer in college and loved my coworkers to death. They keep coming out with innovations that take your breath away.


On the Net



Hi Karen and thank you for your reply.

I have managed to purchase an ENERGIZER A544BP A544 6 VOLT PHOTO ALKALINE battery tonight and that should save me the bother of the tin-foil trick with the button batteries.

I have taken a lot of detail from this very helpful site and I will use that to carry out the tests.

I have not powered up an older camera for a very long time, so used to the Digital 40D.. its like starting to ride a bike all over again. I intend to view the A1 this Sunday and I will have a deal if its running properly. I like that camera, a mate had one for years and he swears by it.

Regards from Ireland


Hey Karen

This link to the A544 battery... presume this is the one I need..


Hi Karen

I hope this is not a silly question..:

Is there just the one battery in the A1..?

I have seen a photo of the base of the camera and there is a large screw that looks like you open with a coin..? is that also a Battery compartment.

I have not physically seen thjs camera and I am a little in the dark about its power supplies


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