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Nick's Classic Corner - No. 1 - Canon A series - an overview

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Oct 6, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Back in the late 70s/early 80s, a typical camera maker's SLR range covered some or all of a number of different types at different price points*. Canon's A series is a particularly good example, as it covers pretty much every possible angle:

    £150 - an aperture-priority only model, as popularised by the Pentax ME, Nikon EM, Yashica FR-II and Olympus OM10 - Canon's effort was the AV-1
    £180 - manual exposure only model with reasonable system support - the Canon entry being the AT-1 - similar to, but inferior to in some ways cameras such as the Pentax MX, Nikon FM, Yashica FR and Olympus OM1.
    £200 - a model with aperture priority and manual exposure, or in the case of Canon, shutter priority and manual - the AE-1, up against a real multitude of competition.
    £300 - a "multi-mode" SLR with aperture priority, shutter priority, manual exposure, automatic flash, and in some cases, programmed exposure - Canon's A-1 being one of the best, really only competing with the Minolta XD-7 for some time.
    Additionally, there might be a full system manual exposure pro level SLR, in Canon's case the F-1, their answer to Nikon's F and F2 - the F-1 models will be considered separately.

    The two later models in the series don't fit quite so comfortably into these niches - the AE-1 Program being something like a cross between an AE-1 and a cut-down A-1 with the extra Program exposure mode, and the AL-1 QF being a fairly odd cheap aperture priority/manual body with electronic focus confirmation.

    In terms of system accessories, all models could accept an autowinder, either the Power Winder A or A II; the A-1 and AE-1 also took the Motor Drive MA. The same models had interchangeable screens.
    A databack was available, as were a full range of dedicated flashguns (or "Speedlites", as Canon insists on calling them).

    *Based on my memory of AP ads in 1979...
  2. PeteE

    PeteE Well-Known Member

    You didn't mention the famous 'Canon SQUEAK' that all the 'A' series are prone to.
  3. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    No, I didn't in this one; have you (or anyone else) any idea at what point the squeak became apparent? I don't remember it being a common phenomenon back at the time, so I wonder at what age/usage it became such?
    I'll try to get more info on the subject and include it in here.
  4. PentaxManiac

    PentaxManiac Well-Known Member

    The AV1 is a useful little camera that often crops up for next to nothing. As Nick says, and as its name implies, it's an oddity for Canon at the time in so far as it uses an aperture priority exposure set up. The FD lenses are thus used in a way that seems more traditional to anyone new to Canon gear: just set the aperture you want on the lens and away you go. What I also like is the use of a needle in the viewfinder rather than flashing lights, because in this case it's a very big needle which can be seen clearly in situations where a light telling you the shutter speed cannot.

    I like the A seies: as well as the AV1 I have two A1s and an AE1P. One thing that bothers some people, although I've become used to it, is the way manual exposure works (excepting the AV1 which doesn't have it). Until you get to know the cameras, it's difficult to work out what settings you've made and what settings the camera is suggesting. In fact, Canon carried on like that with the T series: I had the same problem at first with the T70 and even the T90.

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