Databack MA for Canon A Series SLRs
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Data Back A

Another accessory developed especially for Canon's A series cameras is the Data Back A. Great for amateur and professional alike, but it is different from other LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) used by competition like the Nikon
MF-12. Instead, it has dials for letters, Roman numerals and dates. Advantage of the dial system is being, it can be used either for dating, or classifying photographs. Attachable right onto the back of the camera, it uses the camera's electronic circuitry to imprint this information on the film in perfect synchronization with exposure.

The Databack A requires a cable to plug into the PC terminal on the camera body to function. Well, it is standard for the camera back on virtually all A-series cameras (except AL-1) (and T-70, T-80 and T-90 cameras but not the T-50 and T-60) to be removable so that accessory backs can be added. On the AE-1, AT-1, AE-1 Program and A-1, fitting an accessory back is a simple matter by sliding the hinge pin downward. The data backs for these cameras can be used to record the data directly onto the film at the time of exposure at the bottom right hand corner, of cause it can be turned off should you think it is not required to imprint any data onto film frames.

Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Claudio®. who is a collector for Canon photo gear, he also has an Ebay Section as well as maintaining a website on his own where occasionally trading some photo equipment. Image(s) copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Exposure is made by a battery powered lamp in the data back, it is triggered by a cord connection to the flash socket on the camera. This exposes each frame as the camera is operated - either manually or with a power winder at 2 frames per second. A red lamp on the Data Back flashes each time data settings are exposed onto film. The Canon's Data Back A's main function is to imprint data which can be selected by rotating three dials marked YEAR, MONTH and DAY. They can be used for dating the frame, but the dials also have letters and other symbols. print dates or number sequences (depends on model and manufacturer) onto the film during exposure. The Data Back A featured here, is designed to use exclusively with A-series cameras (see above), it imprints information directly onto the film by using a switch on the lower right, the brightness of the internal light can be adjusted according to the film speed of the film type in use (refer to the specification section below for more info), so as to maintain an optimum contrast of the imprinted data on each exposure.

However, as commented earlier, although the Databack A was designed with more flexible application in mind than Databacks of other makes, unfortunately, it has its drawback with the dial system used - the reliability of the A-series models was really under-estimated by Canon engineers and designers, when the databack was introduced no one would expect we would still be using the A-series cameras some 25 years later today, so the range of years on the first control wheel only goes up to 1987 !

Strangely, the
Databack FN designed for the New F-1 in 1981 was still using Databack A's three wheels input design. It was not until the dedicated DataBack 70 designed for the Canon T-70, we saw the 'problem' eventually being resolved with the usage of LCD in all subsequent Databacks designs Canon SLR models that followed.

Since there are Roman numerals which started from I to X, to solve the problem, you can use the Roman numeral for the second digit for current year. 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 last wheel on the right has numbers from 0 to 31. You can use the three wheels to encode other data as long as it fits and relates.

In this case, to rush out and buy a used Databack A to supplement your A series camera doesn't seem very logical. It is strange to see the A-1 or even the AE-1 Program in 1981 has not incorporated with any databack contacts and replaced the Databack A with a cableless-revised model for the A series model as with the Nikon MF-12 and MF-16. The cable-required MF-12 can be used on all Nikon compatible bodies that has a PC terminal and it works even with current FM2n !

Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Claudio®. who is a collector for Canon photo gear, he also has an Ebay Section as well as maintaining a website on his own where occasionally trading some photo equipment. Image(s) copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

As of those SLRs made during the '70, many of them still have not designed with databack terminal at the back of the camera body, thus, you will need to plug a short cable from the left-hand side of the Data Back into the PC socket at the front of the camera for proper operation. 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. Eventually, this designing flaw was patched by most manufacturers in the late seventies and early part of eighties and most mid range SLR models have data terminals for more sophisticated Data/Command Backs to come. In the case of Canon, other than the T-50 (Also T-60) in the T series, all T series models has a dedicated command back.


Usable SLR Models: Canon A-1, AE-1, AT-1, AV-1, AE-1 Program
Attachment: In place of the camera's back cover.
Data Setting Dials:
Data Setting: Done by three rotating dials.
Right Dial:
32 figures and blank (0 to 31 and two blanks).
Center Dial:
39 figures and blank (0 to 31, A to G and a blank).
Left Dial:
39 figures and blank (0 to 9, 76 to 87, Roman numerals I to X, a to g and a blank).


Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Claudio®. Image(s) copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.

Data Imprinting: Special synchronization cord connection. The built-in lamp imprints the necessary data on the film from the back. Manual imprinting of the data with the manual imprint button.
Exposure Adjustment: Three different positions to choose from according to the film type and its ASA sensitivity
. Black and white and 2 color positions. Color 1: ASA 64 to 160 color films. Color 2: ASA 25 to 10 color films.
Indicator Lamp: An LED indicates data imprinting.
Power Source: One 6V silver oxide battery (Eveready or UCAR No. 544 or Mallory PX28) or alkaline battery (Eveready or UCAR No. 537) which is good for more than 8,000 exposures.
Size: 144mm (W) x 33mm (D) x 54mm (H).
Weight: 110g including battery.
Accessories: Special synchronization cord and case.

1) Manual Button
2) Data Setting Dial (Year)
3) Data Setting Dial (Month)
4) Data Setting Dial (Day)
5) Synchronization Cord
6) Indicator Lamp
7) Main Switch
8) Film Type Selection Dial

Instruction Manual for Data Back MA

Courtesy of Mr Christian Rolliner

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