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Nick's Classic Corner - No 21 - Canon A-1

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    The Canon A-1 wasn't the world's first multimode SLR (i.e. featuring more than one autoexposure mode) - that was 1977's Minolta XD7. However, it was the first to include Programmed exposure, and was a logical development of the use of the microprocessor in the AE-1. It also introduced body-based control of aperture, now an almost universal feature, and a little grip - unusual then, now ubiquitous.

    So, to the camera. On the left around the rewind crank/back release is the ASA and exposure compensation dial, with a locking button next to it. At the front is a metering button. The hotshoe has two contacts for dedicated flash. Next to the prism on the right is a window showing manually selected shutter speed or aperture (according to mode) or a P for programmed exposure. Next is the shutter button, with a mode selector around it which chooses shutter priority or aperture priority. On the front is a wheel that selects the appropriate value. All this supposed that the lens is set to P; if not, you're in manual exposure mode. There's also a cover that can be used to protect settings from change. Behind the window is the framecounter. On the right is the winder, with the on/off and self timer switch. Under the lever is a multiple exposure lever.
    On the front is a metering button and an exposure memory button, and a depth of field lever, and a flash sync socket. On the other side, under the grip, is the battery door protecting the PX28 battery.
    The base has a tripod socket, rewind release button and connections for a winder - it takes an autowinder and also a 5fps motordrive.
    Next to the viewfinder is a blind operation lever.
    The viewfinder itself is bright and clear. Screens were interchangeable, but not by the user - it required intervention by a Canon service centre. Mine is a standard spilt image/microprism model. Aperture and shutter speed are shown by red LEDs underneath the image.

    All in all, the specification was incrediblle for the time, but better is the way it was delivered - it really is a very nice camera to use and handles extremely well. The camera was extremely popular in its time, and was adopted by many professionals as well as the intended amateur audience - particularly well-known was AP's Vic Blackman.

    Back in the day, I was one of the ones who thought the camera was way too automated and unnecessary, but I have to say that having used it, I consider it one of the best cameras of the era, and a true classic in every way.
  2. PeteE

    PeteE Well-Known Member

    About 5 years ago there was a photo of my Boy and I in the 'Yellow Advertiser' newspaper and a story about our photography -- well, I had a phone call from the Chief Photographer asking me to contact a gent in Romford who had seen the story- I called and he said he had a 'camera outfit' from his deceased Brother which had been in the loft for 7 years and he wanted it to go to a 'Good Home' where someone would appreciate it -- so we went and he showed us a metal case in which was a MINT CONDITION A1 with 28, 50, 70-150 zoom, Winder A, eyepiece magnifier, filters and NO FUNGUS !! He was so pleased to have found us -- well I USE it and it had the infamous ' Canon Squeak' but after a lot of research on Forums I managed to take off the base plate and oil it with just a 'touch' of Three-in-One oil and now it works OK !!
    This is the photo in the 'Yellow Advertiser' the gent saw

    Father-and-Son by pentaxpete, on Flickr
    This is the lovely A1 set I got free
    Canon A1 Group by pentaxpete, on Flickr
  3. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    When this model was current in Canon's offerings, I was well entrenched in Minolta land, and took very little notice. Now several decades later, I'd like to try film with some of the FD lenses that have come my way. Most were from my late mother's collection (50, 28 & 135), but I also have a 50 F/1.4 and 3 different FD 35 F/2 - two with the concave front element. My shutter repaired T90 has failed again, so I found my AT-1. The battery is OK, the meter checks out OK, but I can't operate the shutter, and can't load film. So, time for me to get myself an A-1.

    I found an immaculately looking example with 6 months warranty on the LCE website, but by the time I picked up the phone, it had gone. Found another in West Wales on the web, so clicked away, only to get an email yesterday saying that it had failed on checks prior to posting. I've now got a bid in on ebay on a well brassed copy, and wondering whether I'll be outbid.

    Whilst checking out the AT-1, I certainly noticed what a large viewfinder it has! - if I fail with the ebay bid for the A-1, I might try getting it repaired.
  4. Skyehammer

    Skyehammer Well-Known Member

    I have TWO of them .

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