Canon Ae


In this Canon AE-1 Program review, I’ll go over everything you need khổng lồ know about what makes this camera so special và why it makes such a great film camera to start off with.

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The camera was launched in 1981 as the new & improved version of the Canon AE-1 & came with a fully automatic program mode that made photography easy for everyone.

Since the camera was so popular, you can easily find a body toàn thân and lens full bộ in good condition on eBay for under $200. I bought my body toàn thân and lens bộ combo for around $120, but I wish I spent a little more money on a film tested version as mine had light leak issues.

Prices have been increasing, so if you find one in your price range, get it now!

Things to Consider Before Buying a Film Camera

Film photography is slightly different from digital photography và there are a few things you should consider before getting your first film camera.

I’ve learned these lessons after countless hours of research so hopefully, this information will help you get started as quickly as possible và save you some money too!

Most importantly, you will have to find a Canon AE-1 Program that is in working condition. The Canon AE-1 Program is notorious for its foam seals deteriorating over time causing light leak problems, so it’s important lớn be extra diligent when buying this camera.You will have to lớn consider how you’re going khổng lồ develop and scan your film. You can either vì it yourself or send it lớn a lab. I’ll get into the pros and cons of each below.Lastly, you’ll need khổng lồ find a local lab or online store where you can buy film. It’s always good to support your local lab whenever possible, but sometimes it’s more convenient và cheaper to buy through online stores.

Camera Condition and Light Leaks


The light seals on the Canon AE-1 Program are known khổng lồ deteriorate over time, which will cause light leak issues.

I ran into this issue first hand and actually didn’t know my Canon had a light leak issue until I shot và developed two rolls of film, so don’t be like me.

Learning from my own experience, there are a few things you can bởi to make sure you get a camera in good working condition:

Buy from a reputable film photography store whether that’s your local lab or an online store. Cameras sold from these retailers are usually the most expensive, but they will likely have replaced the back light seals and have tested it to lớn make sure it’s in working condition.If buying from eBay, ask the seller if the camera has been film tested or if it has had it’s light seals replaced.

If your camera has a light leak issue, here is what the pictures may look like.




When you’re first starting out, my recommendation is khổng lồ send your film khổng lồ a professional lab to develop & scan. You will save a lot of time, get the best results, & can figure out if film photography is right for you.

The price for professional development and scanning is usually around $15 – $20 per roll of 35mm or 120 films. Some labs will also charge extra if you need lớn push or pull your film.

If you don’t have a professional lab who will develop và scan film around where you live, here are my favorite places to lớn go khổng lồ who take mail-in orders:

Eventually, you should definitely try lớn develop và scan your own film! There is an initial upfront cost for all the developing và scanning equipment, but after you have everything set-up, you can save a lot of money in the long run. It’s also much easier than I ever thought possible & if I can do it, you can definitely vày it too.

Buying Film

Buying film và trying khổng lồ figure out which film stocks fit best with your photography style is one of the most fun parts of film photography. If you can, try lớn shoot with as many different film stocks as you can as each one has its own chất lượng characteristics and màu sắc profile.

After many many hours of research, here are my favorite places to shop for film stocks và why:

The Canon AE-1 Program

It’s easy to lớn see why the Canon AE-1 Program is still one of the most popular 35mm film cameras. The camera is jam-packed with features, it’s very easy to lớn use & you get access khổng lồ Canon’s incredible line of FD lenses.

There are some slight differences between the other popular Canon A-series cameras, so let’s go over those first, & then we’ll get into the features.

Canon AE-1 Program vs Canon AE-1 vs Canon A-1

It’s good to lớn know the differences between the other more popular Canon A-series cameras because you’ll probably come across them when you’re researching for your Canon AE-1 Program.

The Canon AE-1 is the predecessor of the Canon AE-1 Program so it shares the most similarities. The Canon A-1 is geared more towards the professional photographer so it has some advanced features not found on the Canon AE-1 Program or Canon AE-1.

Here are the main differences between these cameras that you should consider:

The built-in light meter on both the Canon AE-1 Program & Canon A-1 is a LED readout versus the match-needle indicator on the Canon AE-1.You get the kích hoạt grip battery cover on both the Canon AE-1 Program & Canon A-1.Both the Canon AE-1 Program và Canon A-1 feature a fully automatic mode và shutter tốc độ priority mode while the Canon AE-1 only has shutter priority.The Canon A-1 also features aperture priority while the Canon AE-1 Program does not have aperture priority.The Canon A-1 shutter speed range is from 30 seconds khổng lồ 1/1000 of a second versus 2 seconds lớn 1/1000 of a second on the Canon AE-1 Program & Canon AE-1The ISO/ASA adjustment on the Canon A-1 can go all the way up to 12,800. The max ISO/ASA on the Canon AE-1 Program & Canon AE-1 is 3200.

Camera Features

Automatic Modes

One of the most innovative features of this camera, especially when it was first introduced is its automatic shooting modes when used with Canon FD lenses. The camera features a fully automatic program mode và shutter speed priority mode.

In fully automatic mode, the camera will choose both the shutter speed và aperture settings based on the exposure reading. To use the camera in automatic mode, all you have to do is phối your lens aperture to lớn “A” và your shutter speed khổng lồ “Program”.

In shutter tốc độ priority mode, the camera will select the best aperture based on the shutter speed you have selected. To use your camera is shutter tốc độ priority mode, all you have to vì chưng is mix your lens aperture lớn “A” và select your shutter speed.

Built-In Light Meter


The camera has a built-in through the lens (TTL) center-weighted light meter that is very easy khổng lồ use. The camera và the light meter run off of a common 6V battery like this one and you initiate the light meter reading by half-pressing the shutter.

In manual mode, the camera’s light meter works off of shutter speed priority. So, when you half-press the shutter khổng lồ get the light meter reading, the camera will indicate what aperture it believes will give you the proper exposure based on the shutter tốc độ you have chosen.

I have found the light meter to be very accurate, but it could also depend on the condition of the Canon AE-1 Program that you pick up. An easy way lớn double-check the light meter reading is through a phone light meter app lượt thích this one.

Battery check Indicator


There is a nice little battery kiểm tra indicator next to lớn the rewind lever on this camera which will let you know when your battery nguồn is getting low.

When you push down on the battery check indicator button, it will beep 6 or more times per second if you have a good amount of battery life left and will beep about 3 times or less if your battery is running low.

According to lớn the instruction manual, your battery should last about 1 year with normal use.

Bright và Clear Viewfinder with Split Microprism


To help you nail focus, the camera features an extremely easy to use split micro prism inside its bright viewfinder. When your subject is out of focus you will clearly see it split into two.

As you turn your focusing ring, you will see the split micro prism coming together. Your subject is in focus once the top và bottom levels of the split micro prism match up.

You bởi vì also have the option to lớn change to lớn one of the 7 different focusing screens Canon has made for this camera if you don’t lượt thích the split micro prism it comes with.

The next section covers each focusing screen in more detail.

Interchangeble Focusing Screens

source: canon ae-1 program manual

There are 7 different focusing screens you can customize your camera with, but you will have lớn check on eBay to see what is available.

You will need a special tool, but most focusing screens that you buy should include the tool:

A. Microprism: matte/fresnel field with microprism rangefinder in the center of the screen. Best for general photography when using F/5.6 or larger.B. New Split: matte/fresnel field with split-image rangefinder spot in the center of the screen. Best for all-around general photography.C. All Matte: matte/fresnel field with a clear matte center spot. Best for macro or telephoto photographyD. Matte/Section: same as C with the addition of horizontal & vertical reference lines. Best for architectural photography.H. Matte/Scale: matte/fresnel field with a fine matte center và horizontal and vertical scales in millimeters. Best for close-ups, macro photography, or any type of photography where you need lớn know the form size of the subject.I. Double Cross-hair Reticle: matte/fresnel field with a 5mm clear center spot with a double cross-hair reticle. Best for astrophotography.L. Cross Split Image: matte/fresnel field with a cross split image in the center of the screen. Good for general photography.

Access to Canon FD Lenses

One of the best parts about this camera is that it uses Canon FD lenses, so there is a huge variety of high quality, well-priced lenses that work with this camera.

You will usually see two different Canon FD Lenses on the market. The older Canon FD lenses with a silver breech-lock mount & the newer Canon FD lenses with a bayonet-style mount that is labeled as “nFD”

The seller will usually put this information in the listing, but if they don’t, the easiest way to lớn tell the two apart is by the silver breech-lock on the older Canon FD lenses.

Here are some of my favorite lenses for the Canon AE-1 Program.

Shutter speed Range

The shutter speed range is from 2 seconds to 1/1000 of a second & the flash sync tốc độ is 1/60 of a second.

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The shutter speed range is not as wide as the Canon A-1 which has a range of 30 seconds khổng lồ 1/1000 of a second, but it does have bulb mode for any situation where you want khổng lồ extend the shutter tốc độ past 2 seconds.

The max shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second is pretty common for 35mm film cameras in this price range.

ISO (ASA) Range

The ISO range is from 12 lớn 3,200 which is a good enough range if you ever want lớn push or overexpose most standard film stocks by at least 3 stops.

If you ever want to go past ISO 3,200, you can always use a phone ứng dụng or external light meter to get your light meter readings.

Built-In Self-Timer

The camera includes a 10-second self-timer which is nice if you’re taking a long exposure or if you want to bởi vì self-portraits. All you have to vị to use the self-timer is flip the main camera switch to lớn “S” and hit the shutter button.

When you press the shutter button, you will hear the camera start to lớn beep. When the timer gets close lớn firing the shutter, the beeps will get faster.

Just remember that to use it, you will have khổng lồ have advanced the film first.

Camera Lock Mode

The main camera switch also features a camera lock mode. When in camera lock mode, the shutter will not fire & the meter is turned off. It’s definitely a nice feature lớn have after you’re done shooting & you want khổng lồ make sure the camera doesn’t accidentally go off.

You can still advance the film when you have locked the camera, but you won’t be able to fire the shutter button.

Depth of Field (DOF) Preview

This is another very cool feature khổng lồ have. The depth of field preview allows you to see what your depth of field in your composition looks lượt thích depending on the aperture you have selected.

The reason this is useful is that what you see in your viewfinder is typically not what the photo is going to lớn look like.

With an optical viewfinder lượt thích the one in this camera, the viewfinder image that you see is with a wide-open aperture. The aperture only stops down khổng lồ the aperture you have selected when you take the photo.

The depth of field (DOF) preview button is on the right side of the lens when you’re facing the camera. To use it, you flip the latch up và then push it towards your lens. This will stop down your aperture.

In order for the depth of field (DOF) preview lớn work with the current aperture you have set, you need to advance your film first. If you don’t advance your film, the depth of field (DOF) preview will show your previous aperture.

Auto Exposure Lock Button


The auto-exposure lock is a useful feature if you will ever be shooting in one of the automatic modes as it will allow you lớn set exposure on a specific part of your composition.

It is located on the right side of the camera above the depth of field (DOF) preview button. It is the black button without the silver ring.

To use the auto-exposure lock, you point your camera at the area of the image that you want khổng lồ expose for, press the tự động exposure lock button to store the exposure information into your camera, recompose your image while keeping the button pressed, and take the photo.

Exposure Preview Button


The exposure preview button sits below the tự động exposure lock button and is the đen button with the silver ring. The exposure preview will show you what aperture the camera thinks will give you the best exposure.

It functions in the same way as half-pressing your shutter, but it is nice khổng lồ have another button lớn preview exposure with.

Memo Holder

There is a memo holder on the back of the camera where you can write down và store information.

One of my favorite ways khổng lồ use it is lớn tear off the flap of the film box & keep it in the memo holder as a reminder of the film that is in the camera.

Action Grip Battery Cover

The kích hoạt grip battery cover comes standard on the Canon AE-1 Program, so make sure the one you’re looking at has one before buying it.

The action grip covers the battery compartment and creates a much more ergonomic fit when you’re handling the camera.

Biggest Negative – Plastic Build Quality

This is one of the biggest downsides of the camera.

Many of the components on this camera are made of plastic which gives it a more plasticky feel than other cameras like the Pentax K1000 (Made in Japan).

Another Negative – Fully Battery Operated

Another downside of this camera is that all the camera functions are battery-powered. Once you’re out of battery, you cannot advance the film, take photos, or use the light meter.

Some cameras like the Pentax K1000 are fully mechanical, so you can take photos và advance the film without battery power.

Additional Accessories Available

Source: Canon AE-1 Program Manual

There is a huge ecosystem of additional Canon made accessories for this camera if you want khổng lồ customize your phối up even more.

Here are just some of the accessories that were made for this camera. If you want lớn see what’s available now, the best place to check is eBay.

Canon power nguồn Winder A2: allows you lớn shoot at 2 frames per second.Canon Motor Drive MA: allows you to shoot at up to lớn 4 frames per second.Canon Wireless Controller LC-1: allows you to lớn fire the camera remotely.Canon Data Back A: records the date in the lower right-hand corner of the photo.

Film Suggestions


Any film stock that you put through this camera will look great! However, after trying a bunch of film stocks out, these are my favorites for the Canon AE-1 Program so far.

If you want more information about each of these film stocks and to see some sample photos, make sure to kiểm tra out my Best Film for the Canon AE-1 article.

Canon AE-1 Program Summar – 5/5 Score

Overall, the Canon AE-1 Program is a great film camera lớn start out with especially if you want a camera that is more feature-rich.

For usually under $200 (for a body and lens in good condition), you get a camera that has all the automatic functions that you might need, helpful extra features like the battery kiểm tra indicator & depth of field (DOF) preview, và a huge selection of high-quality Canon FD lenses lớn choose from.

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Of course, the downside is that the camera build is more plasticy & it’s light seals are prone khổng lồ deterioration. However, if you can get one at a good price which has just been serviced or one that has been film tested, you really can’t go wrong.


Built-in automatic modes such as full program automatic & shutter speed priority.A huge selection of high unique reasonably priced Canon FD lenses to lớn choose from.Additional features such as the built-in self-timer, depth of field (DOF) preview, battery check indicator, and full camera lock mode.Very customizable with a large ecosystem of Canon accessories and interchangeable focus screens.


The light meter isn’t as intuitive as a match-needle light meter, but once you get used lớn it, it’s very easy to use.Most of the camera components are made of plastic giving it a very plasticy feel. This is even more obvious when you compare it to the full metal build of a camera lượt thích the Pentax K1000 (made in japan version).The light seals on this camera are known to lớn deteriorate over time causing light leak issues if it has not been serviced recently.Battery operated so you will not be able khổng lồ use the camera without a battery.