Canon A-1 : An Upgrade

Seems like August is the month of new cameras! If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that I typically shoot with a Canon AE-1. You’ll also know that I’ve been having issues with the ISO dial having a mind of its own, a Napoleon complex if you will, of pushing itself to 1600 (sometimes even 3200) when it needs to stay at 400.

Needless to say, I haven’t really shot in awhile to save myself the headache. Gaffer’s tape can only hold things so well for so long. Last week a present came in the mail, and lo and behold it was a new film SLR, a Canon A-1! Andrew bought it off of eBay with a Macro 35-105 lens and a flash as a surprise. How I missed shooting film. eBay is a great place to find older cameras, especially if they’ve been CLA’ed.

Canon A-1 purchased from eBay for $40 with lens and flash.

Canon A-1 purchased from eBay for $40 with lens and flash.

Macro 35mm-105mm

Macro 35mm-105mm

So what exactly is the big difference?

Let’s list what the A-1 has that the AE-1 doesn’t have:

  • Both Aperture and Shutter Priority Modes.
  • Full Automatic Mode.
  • Greater Shutter Speed range on the low end, down to 30 seconds. I do a lot of night shooting and that is nice.
  • Two Self-Timer settings.
  • Digital Meter Reading with more info in the viewfinder (the AE-1 has a needle reader which I loved.)
  • The Action Grip that fits over the battery door.
  • The ability to use the Motor Drive MA.

This camera was a huge deal when it first came out in 1978. It retailed at $625 with a lens. Andrew bought at Rolleicord at Service Photo a few days ago so we took both cameras out for a spin yesterday. It’s very important to test out any antique camera you purchase right away.

Andrew focusing the Rolleicord. In a TLR, you look down into what is called a waist-level finder to see what the lens sees in front of you.

Andrew focusing the Rolleicord. In a TLR, you look down into what is called a waist-level finder to see what the lens sees in front of you.

Water

Water

The top flips up to see into the screen.

The top flips up to see into the screen.

Our friend Chris, he never minds tagging a long with us when we "act like photographers".

Our friend Chris, he never minds tagging a long with us when we “act like photographers”.

Rolleicord

Rolleicord

Close up using the Macro lens that came bundled with my new A-1. Table carving.

Close up using the Macro lens that came bundled with my new A-1. Table carving.

Macro shot of some potted plants.

Macro shot of some potted plants.

Andrew, focusing.

Andrew, focusing.

Your's truly, playing around with this neat little camera.

Your’s truly, playing around with this neat little camera.

Pagoda.

Pagoda.

First roll, so good! I was afraid there would be light leaks but it proved me wrong. No camera operations or surgery for this one. Look out for the next post in which Andrew will be guest writing about his experience with the Rolleicord pictured here and some photos from his roll that is waiting to be picked up tonight. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Canon A-1 : An Upgrade

  1. Great to see another blogger who writes about photography on film/classic cameras rather than just posting pix (though I like those too). I too like the simplicity of the exposure needle and much as I appreciate the greater amount of info in the Olympus OM4, the OM2n is a delight and just centring the needle so much faster when I don’t have time to think about the shot (I’m an Olympus fan rather than Canon).

    • I’ve never worked Olympus before, not counting the digital point and shoot I used in high school. I’ve been meaning to give it a try. The digital meter in the A-1 is nifty but I really do miss the needle one, just registered quicker in my brain. A friend is going to try to fix my AE-1, so hopefully I won’t have to give up that simplicity just yet.

      And I love to write almost as much as I love to shoot. Posts wouldn’t seem complete without some type of explanation behind the photos.

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