The Canon AL-1 Quick Focus (QF) was introduced in March, 1982. Even though Canon is the largest camera manufacturer in the world, but rivals such as Pentax, had beaten Canon in introducing an autofocus model, with the ME-F. Canon reacted to the threat posed by that model with the AL-1, which was generally regarded as a 'warm-up' model in respond to the competition.
The AL-1 featured here is not an autofocus camera, but rather an SLR with an electronic rangefinder to provide focus assistance. The first AF camera from Canon was the short-lived FD mount Canon T-80 introduced in April, 1985 ('Short-lived' because it was discontinued slightly over a year later in June, 1986).
You can regard the AL-1 as a soul searching camera model from Canon to bridge a gap before they eventually found a perfect theory of how autofocus should work in a SLR camera with the EOS concept. The Pentax ME-F of 1982 drew the first blood with its AF SMC 35-70mm f2.8 autofocus lens that also provides an electronic rangefinder assistance for non-AF SMC lenses. This model fired the first salvo toward the era of autofocus SLRs. However, the ME-F, like all the earlier autofocus cameras, was not that popular among photo enthusiasts and it wasn't until three years later (1985) when Minolta brought out the Maxxum (Dynax in Europe and Asian markets) series of autofocus 35mm SLR bodies. The Maxxum 7000 was the world's first body-integrated AF SLR system. Nikon, on the other hand, made a variation of its 1980s top-of-the-line pro model, Nikon F3, as a 'prototype' model, the F3AF (below), two years before Minolta's Maxxum series made its debut
The main selling point for the AL-1 was its Quick Focus feature, designed to equalize some of the doubtful problems regarding focusing in SLR cameras among beginners. Canon, as the world's largest camera manufacturer, the debut of the AL-1 was a further testimony of what it is capable of producing as a result of its huge investment in the R & D of camera technology. The focus assistance feature of the Al-1 seemed more like to fill-in the gap of the A-series models and fencing off the threats from Pentax and other rivals which may also have models of similar feature. The AL-1's in-focus indicator was quite appealing to the consumers who have eyesight problems or need further assurances regarding in-focus confirmation. The QF feature provides an electronic rangefinder system which has easy-to-see arrows that points the direction og the focusing ring of the mounted FD lens. A green spot lights up when the subject is in sharpest focus. And because the Quick Focus employed a TTL (through-the-lens) system using three CCD line sensors, virtually all of Canon's interchangeable FD lenses can take advantage of the focus assist feature found in this model.
Main features of Canon AL-1 Quick Focus SLR camera
- Quite accurate Quick Focus System for focus assist
- QF indicators inside the viewfinder eliminate guesswork
- A fairly bright viewfinder - using clear laser matte focusing screen
- It functions with any of the FD Lenses - wide-angle, telephoto, zooms, or macro lenses
- Aperture-priority AE + manual mode
- Simple to use, easy to command - light weight and compact in size.
(1) Focus frame (2) Overexposure warning mark (3) Meter needle (4) Battery check/camera shake warning index (5) Shutter speed scale (6) Under exposure warning mark
Follow the Arrows for Spot-on Focusing
(7) Out-of-focus indicator
(8) In-focus indicator
(9) Out-of-focus indicator
Other significant features of the AL-1 was its bright viewfinder which used an improved overall laser-matte focusing screen with a convenient focus frame. The focus detection system command by a microcomputer "brains" take care of ranging detection and control exposure decisions. Surprisingly, unlike the other Canon A-series SLR cameras, which were 'Shutter priority AE' based, the AL-1, like the entry-level AV-1, was an Aperture-priority AE camera, which means you select the aperture and the camera sets the correct shutter speed. However, it has a manual override feature which the AV-1 does not have.
The AL-1 was the only model within the A series models that had offered a function similar to an AF SLR camera. The Canon T-80, one of the T-series model, was the only AF 35mm SLR that utilized the breech lock FD mount. During its debut, Canon also made three AF lenses to complement it. The AF lenses carried the AC designation and were based on the FDn 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5, FDn 50mm f/1.8 and FDn 75-200mm f/4.5.
Unless you are already an owner of an extensive manual focus Canon SLR system, I don't actually recommend to buy either of these models - unless for some specific reasons like failing eyesight or you manage to find one which is very cheap - because they are not worth it since an entry EOS model will be more logical if the price difference is minimal. See Relative Canon T80 AF camera system
But if you have been offered such a system and need some help, maybe the facts presented in this site can be of some good use to help you master the camera better.
Specification | Main Reference Map and other useful features
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Shared Resources: Winder A, Winder A2, Focusing Screens, Motor Drive MA, Databack A, Speedlites & Macro photography.
Canon FD Resources
A Series: AE-1 | AT-1 | A-1 | AV-1 | AE-1 Program | AL-1
T- Series: T50 | T60 | T70 | T80 | T90
F-1 | New F-1
Canon FL Resources Pellix | FTQL
FL | Canon FDn lenses. | Early versions of FD lenses
Canon EOS SLRs | Canon EF lens Resources
Highly suggestive useful external links/resources created by Mr.Christian Rollinger:
Essentials: - Canon AL-1 Instruction Manual | 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
Others:- Canon Auto Bellow Unit Manual; Canon Macro Photography Guide, Canon Slide Duplicator Manual, Canon Angle Finder User's Manual
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Maintenance Team: Kaipin, Terry Carraway & Dr Strangelove; Pawel Nabe for his image on the Data Memory Back. EEwyn Foo, my nephew, who has spent quite a number of nights converting the original manual in HTML format. Mr. Richard Yeow, General Manager -Optical Division of Canon Marketing for granting special permission to reproduce this manual into HTML format in his site as a form of obligation to all Canon FD mount users worldwide. * Canon, FD, FL Lenses, are registered trade names or trademarks of Canon Inc. Japan.