|Shutter||Four-axis, horizontal-travel focal-plane shutter with cloth curtains. X, B, 30, 15, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000 sec. All speeds controlled electronically. Built-in self-timer (with 2- and 10-sec. delay and blinking LED). Multiple exposures enabled with a lever. Electronic shutter release.|
|Viewfinder||Fixed eye-level pentaprism. Split-image rangefinder encircled by microprism rangefinder at center of fresnel matte screen. Eyepiece shutter provided. Six interchangeable focusing screens optional (installed by service personnel). The standard screen was later replaced by the brighter and sharper Laser Matte screen.|
|Power||One 4G-13 6 V mercury oxide battery or 4LR44 alkaline battery. Battery check with button and blinking LED.|
|Size||141 x 92 x 48 mm|
First of all I like to mention that the A-1 always has to compete with the (New) F-1. Which seems fair on the first look but when you think about it, hardly any of the F-1's advantages really impact your daily use of an anlog camera. You are going to Siberia and the camera mustn't be battery dependant? Go with F-1, no doubt. An A-1 should do the trick for all the other photographers that remain. The F-1's 1/2000s shutter speed is its only real advantage, though. Having used an A-1 for a long time now, I have to say that it is delightfully easy to work around that shutter speed limitation.
The A-1 has been by far the most advanced camera of its time when it was relased in 1978. Featuring program ae mode, shutter speed-priority ae mode, aperture-priority ae mode, preset aperture-priority ae mode and Speedlite ae mode it can do basically everything you could wish for. A bright and easy to focus viewfinder with a 7-segment LED readout that adapts to the brightness is a pleasure to look through. Ergonomics also have been improved with a grip over the battery hatch, the same grip would later also be installed at the AE-1 Program, which inherited many of the technological advancements of the A-1.
Furthermore, the A-1 features a designated multi-exposure lever and two extra buttons around the lens mount housing, one for activating the metering like a half-pressed shutter release button and the other one for saving metered settings for the nextt shot. A high ISO range and the possibility for back-light-compensation are also featured. In case you got four Speedlites you can control all of them with the A-1, if you have the cables to connect them to the camera of course.
In addition to a smooth film advance lever there is also the possibility to have the Power Winder A or A2 for an automatic film advance speed of approx. 2fps or the hefty Motor Drive A (specifically built for the A-1 but can also be used with the AE-1 Program since its basically the same camera internally) which manages a film advance speed of 5 fps and also delivers two additional shutter release buttons.
In the end, there is nothing more to say.
The A-1 remains until today one of the best film cameras and claims undoubtedly the throne of Canon's famous A-Series.
The A-1 was the first slr i owned. It thought me photography and awoke my love for creating images. I took it around the world, it captured my kids growing up and i spend many hours with it trying to make art.
It is still some sexy camera. I love to look at it and sometimes i buy some film and shoot it for fun.
Nowadays using an A7Sii professionally feels like returning to the eightties. With the ability to use my old FD glass the circle is round again. Old optical excellence meets a contemporary hightech body with more or less the same formfactor.
I bought an A1 in 1990 to replace my well used AE1. What a great camera the A1 is! In its day this was a very advanced camera. Accurate exposure meter. Bright viewfinder with led readout. Multiple exposure modes, and of course those classic looks that make it one of the best looking cameras of its day. The A1 is a joy to use. It just feels good in my hands and the controls are easy to use. The A1 is the main reason I cannot to totally digital. I just love shooting with it so much! The only fault I can give it is that it would be nice if it had a faster top shutter speed of at least 2000/sec. Also a mirror lock up would be nice. But even though its not perfect, this is a camera I will continue to use as long as they keep producing film.
Canon A-1 was a ground breaking camera for its day and age. Purchased my first A-1 May of 1979 and I’m still using these bodies today. Sleek and sexy in all black, It was more camera than I knew how to operate but it provided a good base to learn and grow with. A real ground breaker that it was the first SLR to offer electronically-controlled programmed auto exposure. Today this feature is found on virtually every camera in production. Marketed for the photo enthusiast it moved a lot of rank amateurs such as myself up to learning how to take better photos. Not to mention it worked with all of Canon’s FD lens. My favorite set up is still the A-1 with an original breech mount 50mm F 1.4.
Okay... so I know this is a feature packed top of the line SLR that can do just about anything. I know it was a greatly innovative camera in its day. But I just don't like it that much. The program modes are great, and the viewfinder is a thing of beauty: bright, clear and easy to focus. I like the design of the multiple exposure lever. But their are so many features crammed into its tiny body that it feels cluttered and many of those features feel poorly implemented. Especially the depth of field lever, which must be the worst design on any camera ever. There are so many buttons I keep forgetting what they all do. Whenever I want to use the AE lock I have to try no less than three buttons to find the one that works. It's also prone to failures in its electronics, and the famous 'cough', or 'asthma' that effects its shutter and can ruin exposure. Also, its fully electronic shutter is not good for long exposures. It runs the battery down very quickly having the shutter open. There is no mirror lock up. I just find it all a bit gimmicky and awkward to use.
Packed with features and quality built, it offers all an amateur and an advanced amateur would ever need.
It has features encountered in pro cameras, all put in an easy to use camera with a durable body.
It may develop the famous "cough", but that would just mean it needs lubricating. It is not a fault.
The A-1 was the top-of-the-line A-series camera. (The AE-1 was the first in this series.)
It was a sophisticated electronic camera with all-digital control. Besides the shutter speed-priority AE and aperture-priority AE modes, it featured the first fully automatic program AE mode, preset aperture-priority AE, and Speedlite AE mode.
The viewfinder information was also easy to read with a 7-segment red LED readout. The control settings were displayed at the same time which made it very useful.
Besides the Power Winder A, developed at the same time as the AE-1, accessories for the A-1 included the compact Motor Drive MA which attained a maximum shooting speed of 5 fps. This Motor Drive had a convenient vertical-grip shutter button. Also, there was the Speedlite 199A which had bounce flash capability.
CANON A-1 SPECIFICATIONS
Type: 35mm focal-plane shutter SLR camera
Picture Size: 24x36 mm
Lens Mount: FD mount
Flash Sync: X-sync automatic-switching sync contacts with German socket and hot shoe
Shutter: Four-axis, horizontal-travel focal-plane shutter with cloth curtains. X, B, 30, 15, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000 sec. All speeds controlled electronically. Built-in self-timer (with 2- and 10-sec. delay and blinking LED). Multiple exposures enabled with a lever. Electronic shutter release
Viewfinder: Fixed eye-level pentaprism. 0.83x magnification, 93.4% vertical coverage, 95.3% horizontal coverage. Split-image rangefinder encircled by microprism rangefinder at center of fresnel matte screen. Eyepiece shutter provided. Six interchangeable focusing screens optional (installed by service personnel). The standard screen was later replaced by the brighter and sharper Laser Matte screen
Viewfinder Information: Digital readout with 7-segment red LED for shutter speed, aperture, dedicated Speedlite flash-ready, manual settings, and warning displays
Metering and Exposure Control: SPC for TTL full-aperture centerweighted averaging metering or TTL stopped-down metering. Exposure compensation range of 2 EV. AE lock provided. Five AE modes: Shutter speed-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, program AE, preset aperture-priority AE, and Speedlite AE (with dedicated Speedlite). The mode is set with a selector dial. Metering range at ISO 100 and f/1.4: EV -2 - 18. Film speed range from ISO 6 to 12800 in 1/3 steps
Power Source: One 4G-13 6 V mercury oxide battery or 4LR44 alkaline battery. Battery check with button and blinking LED
Film Loading & Advance: Slotted take-up spool. Advances with camera-top lever's 120° stroke (partial strokes enabled). Ready position at 30°
Frame Counter: Counts up. Resets automatically when camera back is opened. Counts down during rewind
Film Rewind: Camera-top crank
Dimensions & Weight: 141 x 92 x 48mm, 620g
I actually got it for a very cheap price at ebay and am loving it since.
Although my work camera is a medium format Bronica SQ-Ai, I have more lenses for my Canon A-1 and most of the times like to take it with me to a photo shoot.
What I am sorry is that I don't have that kind of a feel for 35mm no more but shooting with Canon A-1 is fun and it looks good. It is almost that I am more comfortable with 6x6 format than with the 3:2 format with 35mm.
But coming to the A-1 itself, it is superb, it really is. At first I felt it a little small in my hands without the grip but got used to it because I didn't want the grip for just it to be there with no use. Also it is smaller and take less space in bags for that matter, so it is superb for travel use also.
If you take a Canon A-1 into your hands and go shooting, you will get the feeling of a classic manual camera and I love the Av or Tv mode.
It is said to be the last of the classic cameras age and is worthy of it's name.
This is my everyday camera and it never let me down. I used the AE-1 before and switched to this baby shorty after. It has all a film photography desires. Av and Tv modes, manual override, exposure correction, a wide ISO range, shutter speeds ranging from 30s to 1/1000 and most important a bright and intuitive view finder with LEDs showing all essential informations.
I'd loved to have a 1/2000 to shoot in sunlight with my 50mm 1.4 wide open, but that's what the F-1 with its higher price is for. Only thing that bothers me is the battery cap. It's MADE to be broken. Who came up with this mess?
The A-1 was Canon's top-of-the-line camera in 1978, and for good reason. It was built to last and was packed full of pro-level features, like full manual control, five additional exposure modes, exposure lock, a very intelligent and intuitive LCD display, and more.
Everything is relative. So when I give ten out of ten for features and a 9.5 for built quality, it is not in comparison to the features of today's Nikon F6 or the build quality of a Leica M3. It is in comparison to contemporary 35mm SLR cameras aimed at the high-end consumer market.
This is the best designed manual-focus SLR I've ever used from the point of view of ease of use. It is possible to control the exposure of this camera in the most eminently sensible ways using just one control dial on the camera. It was the norm at the time that in order to take a photograph of any kind you had to have at least a vague idea of what shutter speeds and apertures were. At the time it was introduced this was certainly a camera aimed at the very serious photography enthusiast, so an assumption on the part of the designers of the end user having some technical knowledge of photographic science was very realistic. The fact that the aperture or shutter speed can be set to a manual figure or automatic using the same dial is a stroke of genius in my oppinion. I mean, you're never going to be able to have shutter priority and aperture priority at the same time, so why not have them on one dial? And the fact that you can set the whole camera onto automatic the same way is just great when you are in a situation where you either have fast-changing light values and /or where your aperture or shutter speed are just not that important. I can think of many general situations when this is the best setting to have.
The A-1 is very solidly built. It does not have the all-metal rock-hard feel of the F-1 (what does?), but it has a heavy tight mechanical feel and is a truly dependable workhorse capable of full-scale professional use. These cameras are all decades old now, so do yourself a favour and drop it off at a camera repair shop for a CLA if you're really going to use it full-out.
Apart from the amazingly intelligent design of how to control the camera's functions, the other best thing about this gem is the way it sits in the hand. It falls into the hands with a natural balance and a perfect placement of all the controls and within seconds will for most people feel like a camera they've been using for years. It doesn't take very long for the A-1 to feel like an extension of your mind - a perfectly integrated tool that is as responsive to handy control as the eye is to the notice of the mind. The only other camera I know of that has the same feeling of mind-equipment integration is the Leica M3 - but then you're using full manual control.
From an ergonomic point of view, the A-1 is the equivalent of a Hasselblad: you never have to take it away from your eye.
I bought this camera on Ebay about 6 months ago to have a "real" SLR for use with my growing collection of FD lenses (which I initially bought just for the Panasonic G1). It has been a joy to use. I had to cure its "asthma", a common Canon illness according to sources and replace a few foam strips and it has been working without a hitch ever since. Occasionally it irritates me with blinking "EEEE" and the metering is quite peculiar on back-lit subjects, I guess it will just take its time until I remember to be careful about such issues. Apart from that the mechanical operation is just great to observe in action. I would buy this camera right again just for the satisfying "clunk" it sounds off when I press the shutter button.
I have had mine since 1983 and it let me down only once - the LED needed replacing, It is more rugged that first appears - mine has travelled extensively and has been up hundreds of mountains. It is probably the best A series body and is very flexible in use. It is not really designed for manual exposure use - match needle systems are better for this. The program mode is also best avoided. The camera really shines when used in aperture or shutter priority mode. It is a lower spec than the F series and has a cloth shutter 1/1000 top speed and needs the battery for operation. It's small compact sixe makes it very portable when compared to a new SLR / DSLR
This was my first SLR and I bought it on eBay for around $100. It absolutely fascinated me. The styling, the feel in my hands, nice LED matrix display, spot on meter readings, I could go on forever giving only praises about this camera. Despite the fact that this camera has been introduced 9 years before I was even born, it rivals its Canon DSLRs.
I never found anything to be "missing" from the camera. I am absolutely comfortable shooting with A-1 as I am with my 30D. I mainly (more like only) shot on Av mode. It is absolutely durable, light, and small. My only rant would be it lacking mirror locking mechanism, and a mechanical shutter (for star trails!).
I have used and abused my Canon A-1 for the last seven years, and exclusively for six. It has traveled extensively with me in Europe, the Caribbean, and the United States. It has been wet, dirty, knocked around, tossed into vehicles, and has continued to function without flaw. I have steadily added to my FD collection, largely because of my affinity for this camera.