Canon A-1 + 50mm f1.8 lens
The A-1 caused a sensation when it was released in early 1978. Most photographers were amazed at its advanced features, years ahead of the competition, but in the face of changing technology, not all comments were positive. Professional photographers worried about the long term reliability of its consumer-level mechanical and electronic components under heavy daily use, the relatively slow flash sync and top shutter speeds. Traditionalist photographers complained about an “excess” of automation ruining the art of photography, a criticism that was leveled at all of the newly automated cameras released in the 1980s. However, automation turned out to be the right way to entice many new amateur photographers on a budget, and paid off very well for Canon.
The Canon A-1 was a runaway best seller, as it offered new SLR buyers considerable features and value for the price. It was reliable for its day in amateur usage. But as competitors brought out their own programmed SLRs, the A-1 began to show its age. This is especially true for its horizontal cloth-curtain shutter, viewfinder information display and autoflash control. The A-1 was due for replacement when the Canon T90 came out in 1985. Canon’s abandonment of the FD lens mount for the EOS design also had a significant effect on demand for the A-1 on the used market. But it is still regarded as one of the most fascinating SLRs of its generation and many are still in regular use.
The A-1 is a battery-powered (one 4LR44 or PX-28) microprocessor-controlled manual-focus SLR with manual exposure control or shutter priority, aperture priority or programmed autoexposure. A fifth mode is “stopped down AE”, in which the aperture is closed and alterable by the photographer and the camera selects the shutter speed based on the actual light reading. This differs from aperture priority in which the aperture is not closed until a photograph is taken and the shutter speed is calculated based on the light measured through the fully open aperture. Stopped down AE is therefore useful if there are concerns about depth of field and focus or accuracy of exposure. It is the first SLR to have all four of the now standard PASM exposure modes. It has a viewfinder exposure information system using a six-digit, seven-segment per digit, red alphanumeric LED display on the bottom of the viewfinder to indicate the readings of the built-in centerweighted, silicon photocell light meter. The focusing screen also has Canon’s standard split image rangefinder and microprism collar focusing help.