Over this past summer, I took a Black and White photo class at my college. A week before the class I was panicking because I didn’t have a 35mm SLR to use in the class. I work at Starbucks and one of my regular customers, Mike, happened to come in one day and I told him my problem. “I have this old Canon I don’t use any more and I’ve been wanting to sell it. How about I let you borrow it and if you like it, you can buy it?” That sounded awesome to me. So long story short, Mike ended up just giving me the camera and 3 lenses for nothing(50mm f/1.8, 80-200mm Zoom f/4.5, and a 28mm f/2.8). This camera soon became my workhorse, and it never leaves my bag.
The Canon AE-1 is an amateur level 35mm SLR with a TTL (through the lens) light meter and can take any lens in the FD series made by Canon in Japan from 1976 to 1984. Its shutter speeds are 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60 (flash sync), 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 second, 2 seconds and bulb. The camera has a shutter speed priority which means you set the shutter speed you want to use, and the light meter in the viewfinder will tell you what aperture to use. The camera also features an Auto Exposure setting, which basically means when you switch the lens to AE, the lens will automatically open to the aperture setting that your light meter is reading. That function is pretty handy if you’re trying to take some fast photos or in low light situations. The AE-1 was somewhat historically significant because it was the first camera to have an internal CPU to control mechanisms. The camera is made mostly of metal, with a few plastic pieces. It’s not too heavy, but yet has a nice heft in your hands. Several times I’ve dropped it and worried more about the ground then the camera. It’s built like a tank.
This is a great camera for someone just starting out in photography to learn the basics on, like I did. It lets you learn the basics of shutter speeds and aperture while also helping you to understand how to use light and light meters to your advantage.
I use this camera for everything; like I’ve said, it’s my workhorse. I take it everywhere and anywhere. This was the camera I learned everything I know on and it still surprises me for a film camera. One thing I should mention also is the ease of use of the FD lenses. They are bayonet style, so they come off and go on quick, which is good if you need to change lenses in a hurry to catch something. It also has a self timer which is nice to take self portraits with or, a trick I learned, to use it when you are using a lower shutter speed. Say you want to shoot something in 1/8 and you’re using a tripod. Instead of you pressing the shutter release and having potential camera shake, set the self timer.
This camera is just solid and I can’t say enough about it. Again anyone wishing to learn photography and use an SLR camera should consider this one. They are going for pretty cheap these days on Ebay.