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Nick's Classic Corner - No. 11 - Canon AL-1 QF

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Oct 10, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Back in the early 80s, autofocus was coming. Not really there yet in the SLR world, but definitely on its way. Pentax got in there with the ME-F, a sort-of-autofocus SLR, and Canon's response was twofold - 1981's FD 35-70mm f4 AF, which will be the subject of a future article - this lens gave AF on any FD mount body, and the lens technology formed the basis of the T80 (yes, I will get round to that, too). The following year brought the AL-1 QF, a camera with an electronic focus aid that in some ways was the precursor for the EOS series.

    The AL-1 is an oddity in every way - it doesn't look all that much like the other A series cameras, and it's the only one that has aperture priority and manual exposure only. It also is the only model to run on two AAA batteries, which are housed in a grip on the front of the camera that makes it very comfortable to use. However, the battery door is very dodgy, and mine is held on with tape, which seems far from unusual.

    On the topplate are the windon lever - smooth and inchable - a conjoined shutter button housing with a rather fiddly lock/on/self timer switch and LED to indicate self timer operation, frame counter, and shutter speed dial, speeded 1/15- 1/1000 and an A setting(1 - 1/1000) - this locks in the A position and is unlocked with a central button. On the left is a battery check button and the rewind knob with integrated film speed dial. The back is plain and fixed, and the only control on the front is the backlight button on the throat.

    On the base is the tripod bush, rewind release button, and socket and connectors for the power winder.

    The viewfinder is very simple - on the right is a shutter speed scale with a needle to indicate the chosen speed, in the centre is a ground glass spot with what clearly looks like an elongated AF point - which it pretty much is.
    At the bottom are three LEDs - green for correct focus, red arrows to indicate the direction in which the focus ring needs to be turned to obtain correct focus.

    The whole thing looks and feels initially rather plasticky and horrid, but actually it's quite well designed ergonomically and is much nicer in use than I expected.

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