Shooting With a Classic 35mm Film Camera: The Canon A-1

The Canon A-1 is one of the most well known classic film cameras, and even to this day, it is an absolute blast to photograph with and one that I totally recommend trying out. This great video review takes a look at the camera and how it holds up in the modern age.

Coming to you from Willem Verbeeck, this fun video review takes a look at the Canon A-1 film camera. The A-1 was made between 1978 and 1985 and employs Canon's FD mount, the predecessor to the EF mount. The A-1 was particularly significant, though, as it was the first SLR camera to come with an electronic programmed autoexposure mode, the first to offer the set of PASM options that are standard nowadays. Personally, the A-1 remains my favorite camera to shoot with from a tactile perspective; it is built like an absolute tank and feels great in the hands, with very satisfying mechanical feedback and controls. Furthermore, you can pick up a nice A-1 kit with a lens or two on the used market for around $100-150, making it a great way to dive into film photography. Check out the video above to hear Verbeeck's full thoughts on this iconic camera. 

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13 Comments

Boy, this article brings back many happy memories!! This is the camera that got me started! I still have mine, although I haven't used it for quite some time. This article makes me want to break it out again!

Alex Cooke's picture

You should! I always enjoy shooting with mine! :)

Spy Black's picture

I feel the same about my old FTN and F2SB cameras when I see things like this. I think I should throw a roll in and trot about, then I think it a bit further and say "fuck it", and just grab the digital...

Chris Sampson's picture

This was my first real camera, I wore it out, wish I still had it and think it was why I am back in photography now with a passion. I was in photo journalism class using this camera and it was a fantastic tool for the work. Thanks, Alex.

Andrew Almeida's picture

I have a mint A1 as part of my collection. The only gripe? The annoying "Canon Squeak" as you advance the film.

Jason Bonello's picture

That squeek tends to mean the shutter is starting to fail.

Not bad news! The squeal is just the shutter and mirror gears whining together because their plastic. If you lubricate them, you'll prevent premature failure and take away the squeal. There are a few different ways but, having tried both, going through the front of the camera with a small bent needle full of sewing machine oil is the easiest way. This will also fix any issues it has with shooting at higher shutter speeds as the slower and squeakier shutter sometimes has trouble going above 1/60th.

Joe Pineapple's picture

The A1 was my first "pro" camera body, because in 1984 it was badass! 5fps sounded like a Duran Duran song. Combined with a 50 1.4, I shot so many formals in college and then weddings. I even used it to turn around slide shows in a weekend by developing E6 in my hotel room. The all black body set it apart from all the other cameras with aluminum tops. I loved this Canon and used it as it was built to be used - rubbed down to its brass and one handed with a drink in the other!

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

I learned in an AE-1. Oh the memories!

Wayne Cunningham's picture

I've loved the Canon A1 since I got one in high school, in 1982. Still have that body, and bought a second body for about $100. Reliable and easy to use, with great flexibility for automated shutter and aperture modes.

If you want AF, you can also buy a used used film EOS body for around $100, and use your current Canon lenses on it (if that's what you shoot). They are heavier and louder (with the motorized film advance), but still a great way to shoot film.

For the love of God take this down I'm trying to get one cheap now and this is gonna change those odds 😭😭😭