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  1. #1
    gnashings's Avatar
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    Canon AE-1 Idiosynchracy?

    Hi all,

    I have a Canon AE-1 which replaced my old Zenit as a carry-around, always-there kind of camera. When I bought it, it seemed in excellent shape, and came with the instruction manual. I did the entirely un-manly thing and read the manual, front to back before shooting anything.

    Here is the funny part -

    Roll after roll of film, colour or B&W, any speed, in any conditions, had blank (completely not-exposed) frames smattered at random through the roll.

    The first roll I thought my lack of familiarity with the camera, maybe being too excited to see the results, etc - my carelessness or omission were to blame.

    But as with each roll of film I took more and more care, so far as to note shutter speed and aperture settings, I begun to think it must be something else.

    I went back to the manual, remembering that in the stopped down metering section there was a mention of "the metering will only work if initiated after the film has been advanced" (not that the SDM is useful with FD lenses on an AE1 anyway, but I digress). This got me thinking, maybe its primitive little 1970's computer brain had some quirk to it - so back to the manual I went.

    Ah hah! It seems that in all my arrogance, even though I read the manual, there were parts that I did not read as thoroughly as I thought I did (or, for that matter, should). In the "changing lenses" section it again mentions, that "a lens should not be mounted onto the camera unless the film has been advanced". I know I have a habit of leaving my cameras with the shutters released for their longevity's sake, and I am sure that a few times, I clipped on a new lens without the film being advanced.

    Well then - with that tucked under my hat, I went and shot some more film, making sure that if a lense was changed, the film was advanced.

    Lo and BEHOLD! ....well... much fewer blanks - but still one or two here or there. This was annoying!!! I was sure that after humbling myself in front of the manual this many times I was going to solve my issue. I scoured the manual for more info to no avail. I posted on forums, asking about this (millions of AE1's sold, I thought hey - someone must know) but, again, to no avail. I was even called crazy and accused of these results being fabricated to match my delusions...

    With no help there or anywhere, I thought about it and thought about it. And days went by...etc.

    Finally, I had a thought - what if ALL adjustments made to the camera must be made on advanced film? It was a logical enough extrapolation.
    So I tried it and... VOILA! No more blank frames!

    It is my conclusion that the Canon AE1 requires the following:

    The film MUST BE ADVANCED (cocked if you will) in order for any of these to take effect:

    Lens change
    Stopped down metering

    as per the manual, BUT ALSO:

    SHUTTER SPEED AND APPERTURE!!!

    And then it occured to me - I am being arrogant again, so I wrote this to either a) save some poor soul my trials and tribulations OR b) find out if this is somehting that only MY AE1 does, and should therefore be treated with excorcism rather than logic... Does anyone know about this or had this kind of experience?

    Cheers (edited for spelling)

  2. #2
    BWGirl's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info!
    Never had this problem with our AE-1, but it's good to know that if we ever did, we'd know the cause!

    My husband loves his AE-1, so I will pass this on to him.

    BTW... I guess the way I look at it is when you make the camera ready to take a picture (focus, aperture, etc) you should be prepared to 'take the picture'... ie...not having to advance the film first.
    Jeanette
    .................................................. ................
    Isaiah 25:1

  3. #3

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    gnashings,
    I've dealt with AE1's over a number of years & never seen one that required being cocked to change lenses/speeds etc. And having dealt with camera operators of every skill level I think I can safely say there's a lot of fumbling around out there.
    The blank frames you're experiencing is a failure of the closing curtain latch which is an electronicly controled timing mechanism. Could be dirty, have a film on oil on the magnets surface, bad solder connection. Or, it could be the circuit itself.
    If you decide to have someone service the camera, send some negs with it so the tech can see whats going on. It's a not uncommon problem with that camera.

  4. #4
    gnashings's Avatar
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    BW Girl - you are absolutely right - its just that I was always instructed by some "old school" types to never leave the shutter cocked unless I am ready to shoot to prevent wear on all the shutter mechanicals. As a result I have never had wonky shutters BUT I have looked like an idiot pushing the shutter release on a not-ready camera more than once, hehehehehe.

    Shaggy - Believe me, I took the "this must be my fault or a malfunction" approach first - I really did, and a lot of the advice I got was very much along the lines of what you wrote - and some of it not as kind to my percieved mental health . However, the changing of lenses is something clearly written in the camera manual (as well as the SDM instructions).

    While my "research and diagnostics" cannot be termed "scientific" by any means, my approach has been as systematic and methodical (if you will) as I could get within my abilities... and the problem is now totally absent. I know that the camera may not have been used for a while (prior to my purchase of it) and perhaps needed to shed some "rust" which I definitely made it do (it gets used A LOT!)...BUT, having said that, the disappearance of these symptoms seems to coincide with the "steps" I took waaaaay to closely to be coincidental... but perhaps they are. Please keep in mind, I am just sharing my experiences and do not claim to be an expert in this area by any stretch. If nothig else, perhaps it will spark some interesting discussion

  5. #5
    gnashings's Avatar
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    I might have to swallow my pride...after several rolls of perfectly exposed (at least by the camera ) film... the blank rolls started again... Got me thinking:

    Does temperature affect this camera adversly? I know the manual goes on about how it works in cold and warm, etc... but it is old now, and the recent cold snap is the only thing that was a variable...

    Is there anything I can do maintenance wise myself ( I am fairly skilled with small mashinery, being a model builder - but not experienced with cameras)?
    I've seen lube kits on the web - I know they heal the shutter squeek - but my camera is very much devoid of that ailment...

  6. #6
    SchwinnParamount's Avatar
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    I would never use a lube in a camera. What I've always done is mixed a quantity of graphite powder with alcohol and lubed the squeak that way. The alcohol evaporates leaving the graphite behind to lube the squeak. An oil based lube will eventually fatally screw up the camera when the oil ages and turns to grease.

  7. #7
    gnashings's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input - is the graphite hard to come by, or is it just pencil lead? (sorry if that is a dumb question). Also, I do NOT have the squeek... Do you think that there might still be a sticking, lube related issue? Or is it more likely the electromagnet?
    I was actually considering buying some camera repair books, but I don't know which one would be a good starting point. I alway enjoy the mechanical sideof my hobbies, just am a little afraid of touching somehting as delicate as a camera without really building up some knowledge. One site where I bought some seal foam seems to exalt Ed Romney - is he well respected in this area?

  8. #8
    SchwinnParamount's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gnashings
    Thanks for the input - is the graphite hard to come by, or is it just pencil lead? (sorry if that is a dumb question). Also, I do NOT have the squeek... Do you think that there might still be a sticking, lube related issue? Or is it more likely the electromagnet?
    I was actually considering buying some camera repair books, but I don't know which one would be a good starting point. I alway enjoy the mechanical sideof my hobbies, just am a little afraid of touching somehting as delicate as a camera without really building up some knowledge. One site where I bought some seal foam seems to exalt Ed Romney - is he well respected in this area?
    Ed Romney has a couple of books out on camera repair. I have one of them but have misplaced it. In the book, he talks about the kind of graphite to use. It isn't pencil lead. You can buy the powder which is milled specifically for lubricant applications. Ed is pretty well respected for his camera repair knowledge

  9. #9

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    gnashings,
    I'd recommend you stay away from pouring lube into the camera. I realize your intentions are pure but graphite can get all over the place.
    If you remove the bottom cover, you should be able to see two magnets. The larger one is the release magnet,(towards one end) smaller one(near center) is closing curtain magnet. if you can get to the suface the armature contacts try cleaning it with a strip cut from a $1 bill soaked in alcohol(strip should be 1-2mm wide) if you're well of you could use a $100 bill.
    Place the wetted strip between the armature & mg. hold the arm to the mg with a tweezers or dental probe & pull the strip out.(repeat 2-3 times)
    If you can access the solder points you can also resolder them. Sometimes the contact just goes bad.
    You can test your fix be "exercising" the camera with the back open & observing the shutter operation.(lens off will make this easier) Use a speed slow enough that you can see if the shutter fails to time out. 1/30-1/125 if it works you'll see light through the shutter aperture. If it fails you'll see nothing but black.
    ***Important***If you resolder the connections. REMOVE THE BATTERY FIRST!!! If the batt. is left in there is a possibility to ZOTZ the main board.
    Disclaimer-- I'm working from old recollections there's a possibility I'm misremembering exact layout.

  10. #10
    gnashings's Avatar
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    Holy crap! I'm in Canada... so I tried to use the $1 coin and even though it was soaked in rubbing alcohol I think I broke the camera!

    Just kidding!

    Wow, thank you for all the input! I take it removing the bottom plate is something I can do, and if it looks too "scary" in there, replace without anything getting mis-aligned, etc? I would like my first attempts at camera fixing to be fairly fool proof! So far the extent of my experience has been cleaning the rangefinder windows on a Canonet 19 and taking apart the whole focusing assembly (top lens and mirror, ground glass, etc) on my Lubitel (and did it ever make a difference!). I know that neither are SLR's, and one not even 35mm - I just put them in to give an idea of my limited experience!

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