Modern Classic SLR Series
The Canon AE-1 - Camera Operation Part IV

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Operation for General Photography The AE-1 is an Automatic Exposure camera with a shutter speed priority system which electronically controls the aperture opening for the given shutter speed to ensure the optimum exposure. Canon's shutter speed priority system has been adopted by this camera in the idea that a photograph is an instant snatched from elapsing time. The shutter speed priority system is ideal for catching fast-moving subjects, especially at the decisive moment. Even most of the models in Canon's EOS System of AF cameras have this shooting mode a standard feature. Furthermore, the shutter speed priority system allows you to control image blur at will emphasize the movement of the subject. For action or other such situations, you can realize all photographic aspirations.

Setting the Shutter Speed The shutter dial controls the length of time that light is allowed to reach the film. On the shutter speed dial, shutter speeds from 1/1000 to "B" are marked in white, while the 2-second speed is marked in orange. Each shutter speed gradation is twice or approximately twice the preceding speed, beginning with 1/1000 sec. (1000).

Shutter Index.jpg (6k)
Thus, the light reaching the film at 1/250 second is half the light reaching it at 1/125. The numbers on the shutter speed scale represent the corresponding fraction of a second (125=1/125), with the exception of 1 and 2 (marked in orange) which stand for 1 and 2 seconds respectively.

The "B" setting is for long exposures. At the "B" setting, the shutter remains open while the shutter button is depressed and closes when it is not depressed. See page 48 for more details concerning long exposures. To set the shutter speed, rotate the dial in either direction until the desired number clicks into place next to the white index mark. An in-between shutter speed cannot be set on the dial.

Rotated between "B" and "1000".


Shutter Speed (Seconds)


1/30 sec to 1/60 sec


1/125 sec to 1/1000 sec

Mid-summer Beach Snow-covered Mountains

1/500 sec to 1/1000

a) Selecting the Shutter Speed Shutter speed is determined in accordance with the brightness of the scene and the speed with which the main subject is moving. You can use the above table as a general guide to help you select an appropriate shutter speed when using a standard 50mm lens. For indoor photography, with no special illumination, choose 1/30 of a second and 1/60 of a second in a brightly lit room.

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For out door photography, select 1/125 second when cloudy and 1/250 second in sunshine. To take pictures in particularly bright sunshine such as at a beach in midsummer or in snow-covered mountains, use shutter speeds of 1/500 sec. or 1/1000 sec.

The above mentioned shutter speeds apply when using a standard 50mm lens, but it is necessary to choose faster shutter speeds when using lenses of longer focal lengths because they are more difficult to hold steady. It is generally said that the shutter speed figure should be greater than 1 divided by the focal length of the lens in order to obtain sharp images. For example, when using a 200mm telephoto lens, shutter speed. should be faster than 1/200 second, therefore the shutter speed in this particular case should be set at 1/250 sec. Image blur can also arise if the camera is not properly held.

b) Reading the Exposure This camera incorporates a magnetic release system using an electromagnetic switch to effectively perform instantaneous light metering. The shutter release button activates light metering and exposure in succession and practically simuttaneously. This is a two-step shutter button. The exposure can be confirmed by the meter needle inside the viewfinder by pressing the shutter button halfway. When the meter needle inside the viewfinder stays within the proper range and the underexposure warning LED lamp below the aperture scale inside the viewfinder does not blink, the exposure is correct.

When the underexposure warning lamp inside the viewfinder blinks, or when the meter needle moves into the upper overexposure warning zone in red, the exposure is incorrect. When this is the case, turn the shutter speed dial until the meter needle inside the viewfinder moves into the proper exposure range. To confirm this, turn the shutter speed dial while looking into the viewfinder and pressing the exposure pre-~ view switch at the same time. It is convenient to turn the shutter speed dial with your forefinger in order to swiftly cope with the speed of fast moving subjects. When using shutter speeds slower than 1/30 second, the camera should be placed on a tripod to avoid the possibility of camera shake.

c) Viewing and Focusing Focusing is performed in the small round area in the center of the viewfinder. The smaller central circle is a split-image focusing screen and around it is the microprism ring. The split-image rangefinder ascertains that the image is "in focus" when the image divided horizontally in half matches and becomes one complete image.


The microprism rangefinder presents a clear and steady image when in focus. The microprism conveys a broken, shimmering image when not accurately in focus.

It is also possible to focus with the matte screen outside the smaller central area. You can focus with either of these focusing aids as you like, depending on the subject condition and your preference.

Dioptric Adjustment Lenses Dioptric adjustment lenses can be attached by inserting them from above into the grooves in the viewfinder eyepiece to compensate for the individual eyesight. With them, near-sighted or far-sighted persons can perform photography without glasses.


The built-in eyepiece lens of the AE-1 has -1 diopter. The following 10 kinds of dioptric adjustment lenses are optional accessories: +3, +2, +1.5, +1, +0.5, 0, - 0.5, -2, - 3, - 4 (diopters).

Accessories such as an eyecup, dioptric adjustment lenses, angle finders, and magnifier can be attached to the viewfinder eyepiece.

One way of selecting the correct dioptric adjustment lens for you is to select the one that is the closest to your glasses in regard to number of diopters. But, we propose that, when you select the most appropriate dioptric adjustment lens, you actually look into the viewfinder through it after placing it over the eyepiece.

Note: Because the camera itself has -1 diopter, the diopters of the lenses are recorded as the real power when attached to the camera, thus reflecting the power of the camera's viewfinder.

Angle Finder A2 and B The angle finder is a magnifying glass which can be attached from above into the grooves of the viewfinder eyepiece. It rotates 90 degrees so that the image on the viewfinder can be viewed directly from the side or above whenever it is inconvenient or impossible to IQok directly through the eyepiece.

This is very helpful in copying, close-ups, macrophotography, and photomicrography. There are two types, the A2 whose image is reversed as in a mirror, and the more advanced Angle Finder B with the normal camera image.

Magnifier S The Canon Magnifier S gives 2.5X magnification of the viewfinder center for precision focusing in close-up work. The strength can be adjusted to your eyesight within the range of +4 to -4 diopters.

The Magnifier S combined with its adapter can be inserted into the grooves of the viewfinder eyepiece. The adapter of the Magnifier S is hinged to allow the magnifier to swing upward from the eyepiece leaving the whole screen image visible after focusing.

Holding the Camera Unlike the mechanical release system, the magnetic release system of the Canon AE-1 electronically controls the shutter. The shutter button moves with a very light touch and its travel is very short. The shutter will be released by lightly depressing the shutter button so as to prevent camera shake. But, unsteady holding of the camera will cause camera shake in spite of the magnetic release system. Therefore, be sure to hold the camera firmly. Rest the camera on your left palm and grasp the lower part of the lens focusing ring between your thumb and forefinger or middle finger. Hold the right end of the camera firmly, with your right thumb behind the tip of the film advance lever and your right forefinger on the shutter button, while the other fingers hold the camera's finger grip.

To reduce camera shake, press your left elbow strongly against your body and look into the viewfinder steadying the camera against the forehead. The right arm should be relaxed while holding the camera. When you use comparatively slow shutter speeds or when you use telephoto lenses, it is advisable to lean against a wall, a tree trunk or some fixed object for a steadier grip.

Adapter A for Tripod

When using a lens of considerable overall length, depending on the tripod being used, it may be difficult to hold the adjustment in the case of accidental bumping of the lens. In such cases, the Canon Adapter A for Tripod with a rubber matte should be placed between the tripod and the camera for easier handling.

Composition Since the AE-1 has automatic exposure control with shutter priority, you can concentrate on the actual picture you are going to take without worrying about exposure differences that may occur with changing subjects. Viewmg is performed through the lens, and there is no difference between the viewfinder image and the image exposed on the film as opposed to the image provided by a separate viewfinder which is affected by the parallax between the viewfinder and the camera lens.

Releasing the Shutter The Canon AE-1's shutter button uses a magnetic release system. The shutter button travel is very short and activated by a very gentle touch. When you press the shutter button, try to squeeze the shutter button gently with your finger.

Avoid hitting or pressing the shutter button suddenly particularly when using slow shutter speeds, otherwise blur may result.

At the moment of shooting, you should hold your breath while the shutter button is being pressed.

Rewinding the Film When the film advance lever cannot travel all the way to the end of its stroke, the frame counter tells you that you have reached the end of the film. You have to rewind the film in its protective cartridge, before you can remove it from the camera.

Rewind Btn.jpg
You must not open the camera before rewinding the film. Since it is not protected, any exposure to light will "fog" the film and cause a drastic color shift and loss of picture image.

To rewind the film, press in the small rewind button on the bottom of the camera, unfold the rewind crank and turn it in the direction of the arrow on top of the rewind knob. When the frame counter has reached the "S" mark, you should stop rewinding. Then pull up the rewind knob to open the camera back and lift the cartridge out.

If you stop rewinding the moment the frame counter has reached the "S" mark, the film will not be completely rewound into the cartridge and the film leader may still be outside the cartridge.

Double-Check Before Shooting If you hurry to release the shutter, you may make an unjexpected error due to carelessness. The following points should be double checked:

1) Is the aperture ring of the lens se to the "A" mark?
Press in the EE lock pin while turning the aperture ring to the "A" mark. This specific setting is a requisite for beautiful color pictures with automatic exposure. If you fail to adjust the aperture ring to this setting when appropriate, the correct automatic exposure will not be obtained. When the aperture ring of the lens is not set to the "A" mark, the manual aperture control "M" signal above the aperture scale in the viewfinder flashhes on and off as a warning that the aperture ring is not setr at the "A" setting.

2) Did you set the film speed properly ?
It is riecessary to set the film speed properly according to the film in use in order to obtain the correct exposure.

3) Is the film properly loaded?
You can use the rewind knob as an indicator that the perforations of the film are properly engaged on the sprocket and the film is actually advancing. Every time you advance the film, the rewind knob should turn.

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