Opinions on the old Canon A1?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by snegron, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Anyone have have experience and comments they would like to share regarding the old manual focus Canon A1? They seem to be going for decent prices lately, and while I know that only old Canon FD lenses can be used with it, it still seems like a bargain. Any known problems (sticky shutters, etc.) or quirks?
     
  2. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Member

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    Make sure that you get one without "shutter squeak". When the lubricant wears out in the shutter mechanism, they start to make a wheezing/squeaking sound, and if that's not remedied with a lubrication, the mirror/shutter mechanism will slow down and eventually seize up. In the early stages, it's repairable with a lubrication, but once they seize up, it's not - without major expense that's much greater than the camera is worth.
     
  3. DTC

    DTC Member

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    Having had considerable exposure to the A-1 camera, I am not a fan. While comfortable to hold, the shutter release requires a distinct push, the red LEDs in the viewfinder are distracting, and the shutter is noisy and prone to the infamous squeak even without heavy usage. While capable of taking fine images, the camera comes across as pretty gimmicky, with a priority placed on offering the most exposure modes instead of emphasizing simpler, but more important features like a smooth, soft shutter release, non-distracting viewfinder, etc.
     
  4. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I have a Canon A-1. I really like it. I had it for years and it is durable, wouldn't trade it for anything!

    Jeff
     
  5. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! I had heard about the shutter sqeak problems with the AE1 models but did not know the A1 also had the same issues. I have heard that the F1 (latest model) is supposed to be a fantastic, reliable camera but they are still rather pricey on the used market.

    Thanks to the price drop in film SLR bodies, I have been thinking about buying a model or two from different manufacturers in order to try out them out. I have never owned a Canon SLR and would like to purchase one, but the newer EOS system is still too pricey compared to the older FD system. I currently have several Nikon film bodies (as I have been using Nikons for many years), Pentax, and Minolta maxxum bodies. So, next on my list are Canon, Olympus, Contax, and Leica R. The idea is to try out these different systems and have fun taking pictures with them!
     
  6. randyB

    randyB Member

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    I used a pair of A1's during the 80's for pro work. They never failed me even after 1000's and 1000's of exposures. The metering was spot on. I had the A2 winder on each which made them easier to hold. Even though I like my Nikons I still regret trading my FD system. You are right about the cheap prices for film cameras, I've fleshed out systems by Olympus, Nikon FM's and Canon F1N's so much so that it is hard to choose a system to go shoot with.
     
  7. 3 Olives

    3 Olives Member

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    I bought an A1 with a 50 F1.8 FD lens from KEH several years ago and it is a winner in my book. It is easy to operate, built like a tank, and produces quality photos. My 14 yr. old son took it over a year and a half ago, and has produced some really nice photos. At the recommendation of APUG members I bought a 35-105mm f3.5 lens and it is an incredible lens.
     
  8. Fotoguy20d

    Fotoguy20d Subscriber

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    I bought my A-1 in 1989 - it was probably around 10 years old at that point. Thousands of photos later, it's got a bit of shutter squeek, some brassing on the corners by the strap lugs, but it's still a wonderful camera (and solid enough to use as a hammer should the need arise - kidding, sort of). I almost never use it though, having made the switch to EF around 5 years ago.

    Dan
     
  9. flatulent1

    flatulent1 Subscriber

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    The A-1 is a good camera, but not a great camera, and I hesitate to recommend it. Build-wise, I don't think there's any difference amongst the A series cameras. The red LED readout in the A-1 viewfinder is a tad annoying, and it doesn't do metered manual without stopping down first. I have one, and don't use it.

    HERE is a site that can tell you all you want to know about the A series.

    My favorite FD body is the T90, followed by the F1N.
     
  10. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Member

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    FYI, my favorite FD-mount camera is the lowly TX. Simple, cheap, and totally bulletproof. VASTLY superior in quality to the Pentax K1000 which had a similar feature set - except the TX, unlike just about every really low end SLR from it's day, had depth of field preview.
     
  11. Paul Goutiere

    Paul Goutiere Subscriber

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    I had a A1 and a F1 as a kit with a few lenses. During a rather cool cross country skiing trip the A1 froze up whereas the F1 seemed to enjoy the outing.
    The A1 was sold a week later.
     
  12. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    *******
    My wife's developed an electrical problem that made it go through batteries. Cost about 120 bucks for the repair--late 1970s. I preferred my F1, having used both.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 22, 2009
  13. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    I have 2 A-1 with Winders. After thousands of shots they are still doing great. In spite of having many other cameras; I like the A-1
     
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  15. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I picked one up his year and so far like it. Had it cla'd for $45 and it's like new. If you get one find a manual. It has it's quirky side about some things like in DOF preview needing to have the lens set at aperture and outside of the AUTO lens setting, but nothings perfect (from that era compared to todays cameras) and for the small size and abilities I think it's a nice user for shooting. I took a full kit to AZ in April and got some nice shots well exposed in auto. The squeak is no big deal; Just get it lubed and have the body cla'd for seals. The meter is sensitive down to EV -2 which I think is a big plus. The lenses are cheap and top notch.
     
  16. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I've had an A-1 since 1981 and I like it. And I've found the auto-exposure to be pretty reliable (or maybe all my favorite subjects are ideal for center weighted metering).

    DaveT
     
  17. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    I have a beater A1.. I just replaced the seals and cleaned it up a bit. Looks much better now.
    Mine has a bit of shutter squeak which is common among all the A series.

    The A1 has just about every feature you could want. You can switch modes easily and both AE modes can ba contorlled with one finger without taking the eye from the finder. I personally like the LED lit numbers, they are easy to read.

    The shutter is a bit noisy and so is the advance.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2009
  18. funkpilz

    funkpilz Member

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    I've used my dad's, it's a great camera. But I think it has the squeal.
     
  19. rosey

    rosey Member

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    I have two A-1 cameras with winders on them. Also, lots of great FD glass. My 70-210 f4 zoom, 85mm f1.8, 50mm f1.4, 35mm f2 and 200mm f2.8 are the equal of anything I have by Nikon, and I have plenty. And I rather enjoy the solid ker-chunk of the A-1 when I fire it. I also have the AE-1 Program and T-70 for a change of pace. The metering on all of them is superb. I don't like the Canon flash system as well as my Nikon, Pentax or Minolta, but the A-1 camera is something special.
     
  20. Robert Liebermann

    Robert Liebermann Member

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    It was my first good camera. I still think the ergonomics are better than any of my Nikons or others. Real soild. Cloth shutter so of course look out for that (probably mentioned elsewhere already). Mine's in storage on the otjer end of the continent, but soon a s I see one cheap used around here will probably fetch it. I really miss that camera. Oh, also by far the easiest to read viewfinder display ever! LEDs - compare that to that ridiculous tiny dim lcd display (with that stupid 'light' button) in the Nikon f3 (which is a camera i also like, by the way)...
     
  21. andrewc

    andrewc Member

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    I had an A-1 but sold it after a few years...I'm not a fan. I also find it to be a bit gimmicky with more focus on the feature set rather than the handling. I much prefer my original F-1 which happens to be one of my favorite cameras of all time. It feels much more solid and rugged and would probably outlast me in most difficult situations. It has what's necessary for getting the best shot and not much else. With prices being as low as they are you might consider looking at an F-1.
     
  22. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    Have 2 F-1. Probably best Canons I have. Solid tanks. You need the AE Finder FN and then you have the A-1; only better.
     
  23. sionnac

    sionnac Subscriber

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    Never had the F-1; my A-1 developed an electrical problem a few years ago and after a repair and CLA, no squeak and going strong. I carry it often.
     
  24. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    The red LCDs in the view finder can be turn off.

    Jeff
     
  25. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    You can turn the red LCDs off, though, with a simple switch. I don't understand what the big deal is, because being able to see the red LEDs can be a great boon in low light. Coupled with the fact that the meter is adjustable to high ISOs unlike most of my cameras that stop at 1600, would make this my go-to low-light camera if I had more faster lenses for it.
     
  26. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Member

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    Personally, I never liked the A-1's ergonomics at all. I have owned a couple of A-1s on different occassions, and I always sold them. I just think that the body is pretty quirky and non-intuitive to use. And the shutter lube issue is also the achilles heel. I think any number of Canon FD-mount bodies are superior to actually use. Certainly, at the high end, the F-1n and the T90 are more well thought-out in terms of ergonomics. And at the lower mid range, I also would rather use an FTbn or TX, or when looking for automation, a T70.

    Compared to, say, the Minolta XD-11, which was the other multi-mode automatic SLR from the same era, ease of use is no contest in favor of the Minolta.