Canon AE-1

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Canon Mount (FD/FL/EF) SLRs:

Canon AE-1

by Karen Nakamura

Overview and Personal Comments

The Canon AE-1 is an advanced manual focus SLR produced by Canon, Inc. between 1976 and 1985. It featured through the the lens (TTL) full aperture metering and aperture priority metering. At the time of its release, it was revolutionary with an integrated CPU. It can take the entire Canon FD series of bayonet mount lenses (which can be bought very inexpensively on ebay at a fraction of the EOS equivalents) as well as most FL and non-FD lenses. It has AE-lock, exposure compensation, multiple exposure ability, and depth of field preview features. It was leaps 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.

If you don't believe me, read's Classic SLR Series report on the AE-1. This page also has a full manual on how to use the AE-1. KJSL calls it one of the most popular amateur cameras of all time. You also have to check out the Canon Museum's AE-1 page. It features a cool 3D rotating display of the camera as well as advertisements of the time

The AE-1 pictured (serial #29791x; since sold) was in pristine mint condition when I bought it. The AE-1 was built as late as 1985. I have the feeling this was a late-model because it is so clean. It even still has the black plastic cover on the flash mount and PC connections. It uses a 6V PX28A alkaline battery that you can get at any major drugstore, Radio Shack, or camera store.

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

Canon chose to make this camera shutter speed priority rather than aperture priority. Fortunately, Canon was intelligent enough to put the shutter speed on a large dial right by the front right corner of the camera. This lets you dial in the shutter speed without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. This makes the camera as easy to use as if it was program full automatic, but allows for the flexibility that professionals and students of photography need.

The aperture needle in the viewfinder is great. It reacts in real time, allowing you to "visualize" the light quantity over the scene. If you're working with the zone system, it's great. Even though it uses center-weighted metering, the AE-1 received rave reviews for its accurate and flexible metering abilities.

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. 0.86x magnification (EX 50mm), 93.5% vertical coverage, 96% horizontal coverage. Split-image rangefinder encircled by microprism rangefinder at center with a fresnel matte screen. Exposure meter needle, aperture scale, overexposure warning, stopped-down aperture metering needle and battery check indicator, and underexposure warning LED provided.

Lens Mount
Canon FD bayonet mount

Focal planeshutter 2 sec.- 1/1000
X-flash sync at 1/60

Metering System

CdS through the lens (TTL) metering
Shutter priority automatic exposure
Needle in viewfinder gives current aperture

Full manual (shutter speed/aperture) control possible with stopped down metering

EV 1-18


External hot-shoe and PC connection

Hotshoe has extra pins for dedicated Canon Speedlite flashes

Film type / speeds

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

ASA 25 to 3200

Battery type
6v PX28 alkaline (readily available)
Dimensions and weight

141 x 87 x 48 mm, 590 g

Retail Price in 1976

81,000 yen (w/FD 50mm f/1.4SSC) [about US$630]

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.


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