Modern Classic SLR Series
The Canon AE-1 - Part II

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Shutter Priority Automatic exposure (AE) System Canon's earlier screw mount models, the EX EE (1969) and EX AUTO (1972) have already offered Shutter-priority AE in their exposure control system while the FD lenses, which also used the famed breech-lock mount (but with auto-diaphram) as found in the FL-type lenses, were introduced along with the Canon F-1 in 1971. It was still too early to see an SLR model exploring the potential benefits of what the 'new' and sophisticated breech lock mount system these FD lenses can offer.

The AE-1, which has a Shutter-priority AE system that can automatically decides the correct diaphragm opening of the lens you are using according to the light the subject is reflecting, based on the shutter speed that has been previously set. This is the meaning of shutter speed priority. The pins and structures of all FD lenses allows the AE-1 to couple with the functions of the Shutter speed priority AE.
Therefore, as you compose the picture, you can freely choose the shutter speed that corresponded to the speed at which the subject is moving. This is perhaps a 'proprietary' and a fore sighted vision, as Canon and Minolta were the only two manufacturers that have their lenses capable of providing Shutter priority AE before1979 (
Minolta XD-7 in 1977 was the first to offer both Aperture and Shutter priority AE in a SLR, followed by the Canon A-1 a year later in 1978, Nikon has their first shutter priority AE model only in 1983 with the Nikon FA). Thus, it is not exaggerating to say that Canon is indeed the pioneer in this field.
Camera Illus.jpg (13k) Lens Illus.jpg (10k)

A Gentle Touch Activates the Shutter Button This unique shutter button activates a complex of electronically controlled functions, a technological feat since such a design has never been realized previously by the other manufacturers. (For instance, the first electro touch meter activated shutter release button was only seen in the compact
Nikon EM in 1979). As opposed to the conventional mechanical systems, it serves as a switch to turn the electronic circuitry on or off, and operates magnetically, in order to make the shutter release extremly fast and smooth.

The design of the shutter release button also uses the sequential electric supply ON and OFF. Power is sequentially switched on-off only when the shutter button is depressed and this minimized power consumption. Furthermore, it decreased harmful electric noises.

Immediate Response Metering From light metering to exposure setting, all the functions are electronically controlled. With this astounding, revolutionary system, the very instant the shutter button is pressed, the electronic brain (CPU) immediately computes the photographic information and produces the- operating command. Light metering takes place at a speed impossible to attain with other cameras. In EV 1 lighting conditions, light metering takes but only 0.04 sec. With other features like exposure compensation button for an even more precise control of AE photography, there were plenty of ways that can be used to handle automatic exposures without the need to worry about inaccuracies in metering and exposure timing. The shutter button activates light metering and shutter release in succession and practically simultaneously.
Instantaneous response. 0.001 sec. at EV 12 (1/125 sec., f/5.6)
0.04 sec. at EV 1 (1 sec., f/1.4)

An Electronic Brain for Instantaneous Control For the first time in the world, this camera adopts a system based on (lntegrated Injection Logic) technology, the most advanced electronic development applicable to photography during that time. The electronic brain (CPU) controls all functions something no other similar class of camera offered during that period.

Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Claudio®. Image(s) copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.
Silicon Photocell and Logarithmic Amplifier In A Single IC The SPC (silicon photocell) is well known for its outstanding photo-sensitive characteristics which yields greater responsiveness with greater linearity (straight line characteristic) and a wider metering range.

The SPC cell, housed near the eyepiece, has a logarithmic amplifier and a special, immediate response circuit, integrated into a single IC in order to obtain the speediest responsiveness while at the same time ensuring remarkable overall durability.

Power-Saving Circuit The main parts were designed so as to require the minimum of energy while a sequential command controls energy cut-off and supply. Thus, there is no unnecessary battery consumption. A battery lasts the equivalent of 20,000 shutter releases (almost 556 rolls of 36-exposure film) in continuous photography, or one year under normal use.

Compact, Light weight Design for Great Handling Ease Although still consider bulkier when compared with compact SLR cameras such as the Olympus OM-1, but within the Canon line, the body dimensions have been reduced as compared with other models such as
Canon F-1, and the lightweight structure, with a special finger grip and rounded back contours, provides great handling ease.

Automatic Film Winding with the Canon Power winder A

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There is no doubt that AE-1 has helped Canon shoot to the top as a major 35mm SLR camera manufacturer, with some original ideas such as automatic film advance devices using a power winder, a convenient and economical accessory in photography. The Power Winder A, extremely easy to attach, enables the AE-1 to photograph continuously at up to 2 frames per second. This feature is enhanced by the fact that actual handling of the AE-1 is very much the same with or without this accessory attached.

* More info on the Winder A and Winder A2

Canon Speedlite 155A, the World's First AE Computer Flash Benefiting with the
CAT system used in the professional F-1 model, a new automatic flash system was refined from the earlier technology used, in which a dedicated flash unit, like the Speedlite 155A is used with the AE-1, flash photography can be performed with the aperture ring set at the "A" mark for automatic exposure. When the pilot lamp lights to indicate the proper charging level has been reached, the shutter speed is automatically set (1/60 sec) and the aperture automatically determined. After the flash, the camera returns to its original AE setting. (More info on the 155A).

Data Imprinting Mechanism The film back of the AE-1 is a removable part.
The Data Back A, an optional accessory when attached in place of the AE-1's normal back cover, can directly imprint the date and other information on the negative or slide film at the very moment the picture is taken. This information is imprinted in the lower right hand corner of the picture and is most convenient for keeping track of the dates of your photographs or classifying them in general. However, there was a little mistake made when the design was adopted, nothing relative to mechanical or electronic flaws - but an oversight which Canon didn't expect that the databack will be so 'lasting' - the input numerals for the 'year' on the first control wheel was provided until the year of 1987 only.

However, if compared with the Databack produced by competing manufacturers like Nikon's
MF-12 for the FE, where the LCD version has digits that lasts until the year 2019, the Canon has some advantages by way of its Roman numerals from I to X, some used it to solve the problem, of which current years could be indicated by the Roman numeral for the second digit. The second wheel can be used for months, but also has numbers from 1 up to 31 as well as letters from A to G. The third wheel has numbers from 0 to 31. As with the othe earlier databacks, you need to plug a short cable which came from the left-hand side of the Data Back A into the PC terminal socket on the AE-1 camera for proper operation. Well, if you wish to use the Data Back A and a non-hot shoe flash at the same time, you must plug the PC cord from the flash into the PC socket on the Data Back A.

speedlite300TL8mdm.jpg Speedlite277T1mdm.jpg 199Aflashbmdm.jpg

Various Canon
Speeedlite models.

The advantage of having an interchangeable lens ability is the large collection of used FD Lenses The theoretically long lasting and wearless breech-locked mount FD lenses are one of the key outcome of the application in first rated electronics technology in the field of optics. Their image sharpness and color reproduction abilities are of extremely high standard. Canon offered a full array of interchangeable lenses ranging from the 7.5mm fisheye to the 1200mm super telephoto, totaling as many as 55 lenses including the special purpose lenses up to the time when the whole line-up was slated for discontinuation. That was another reason why the AE-1 was so successful commercially, as the general public was able to experience the thrill and excitement of lens interchangeability in SLR photography. But as a new user to SLR photography, if you have little intention to upgrade, the 'abandoned' FD lens-based SLR camera like the AE-1, with the huge pool of resources available in the used market presents a really attractive alternative if your budget is tight. But if you intend to grow with the system and migrated to autofocus or action related photography in the furure, I do have a little reservation to invest into the manual focus FD system. But as I said, photography is not all about autofocus and the medium is not as economical and regarded as an cheap 'hobby' as compared with the early days of manual focus photography, the AE-1 still posseses some charm that can be considered as a good and logical entry.

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Highly suggestive useful external links/resources created by Mr.Christian Rollinger:

Essentials: - Canon A1 Repair/Service Guide | Determine Years of Made of your Canon
Canon Flash models:- Canon 300TL flash(1.5MB); Macrolite ML-1(HTML); Macrolite ML-2; Macrolite ML-3; Speedlite 133a; Speedlite 155a(HTML); Speedlite 177a; Speedlite 188a(HTML); Speedlite 199a; Speedlite 244t; Speedlite 277t (HTML); Speedlite 533; Speedlite 577

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