Canon A-1 vs Canon AE-1 Program

Discussion in 'Canon FD' started by paul_wheatland, Feb 9, 2013.

  1. When perusing sales of the above two Canon A series cameras, I seem to note that the AE-1 Program model seems to outsell, and at higher prices than the A-1. For the life of me, I do not understand why. Having owned both, I still have the A-1 and find that is better featured than the AE-1 Program model. Any thoughts on this?
     
  2. I agree that the A-1 is the better camera from a capability standpoint, but perhaps reliability plays a role. I have seen many threads on dead A-1's (purely anecdotal I know) but few on dead AE-1's, program or otherwise. My gut feeling (I own both) is that the LED readout in the display and more complex electronics to support it are the slight Achilles heel of the A-1. No doubt a fully working A-1 is a more versatile camera than the AE-1 program. They are just a little more complex to understand too - what with the hideaway shutter/aperture switch and all.
    I love them both. :)
     
  3. I have them both, the A-1 a "Frankencamera" only in the sense that I "re-animated" it.
    I actually bought my AE-1P partly to get the Spiratone winder that was on it (which I think will work on the A-1 too).
    On the whole I think I agree that the A-1 is nicer, but both are very capable examples of the last days of the classic form SLR camera that started with the Contax S.
    In the FD mount, however, I still prefer to shoot with my forward-looking T90 - but, alas, it has fallen prey to the magnet/shutter stick.
     
  4. SCL

    SCL

    Back in the day the AE-1 Program was like a Toyota Camry - everybody had one, and anybody who didn't - wanted one...it was a best seller with the consumer, because you needed to know absolutely nothing about cameras to get good pictures. The A-1, which was produced in much smaller quantities appealed to the pros and wannabes, was more complex, and cost a ton (I remember buying one new right after they came out). Now, of course they both basically worked the same way and had that "infallable" Program mode, but that didn't matter...it was just a detail! Demand was there for the AE-1 and anecdotally still is. The A-1 is still a bit of a mystery to people who instantly recognize the AE-1. Having used the A-1 for 10-12 years, I grew increasingly frustrated with its rather squinty viewfinder (compared to some others I used at the time), and sold it. About 15 years later came back to the Canon FD line with a T90, IMHO a much better camera.
     
  5. The assessment of Patrick is a correct one, in my opinion. I had the AE-1 Program first, and later acquired an A-1 (among other camera's), and I found the AE-1 Program more straightforward to use. I wonder whether the observed market difference between these two models is not just related to the sales difference, i.e. I assume that the A-1 was sold in higher numbers, and nowadays the market is now flooded with A-1's (sort of). The AE-1 Program is much less abundant, while an AL-1 is much harder to find. That's from a collecter's pint of view. As a simple and plain user, I'd prefer the AE-1 Program over the A-1. The latter is a wonderful but sometimes complicated camera.
     
  6. I assume that the A-1 was sold in higher numbers​
    Actually, I think the Canon AE-1 Program was one of the largest production runs in SLR history, at least. At a lower list price, it far outstripped the A-1 in sales.
    I am not sure what the prices really have been on recent sales, but the AE-1 Program is a later model and has a few "improvements" over the A-1, including a user-changeable focus screen.
     
  7. I think we're talking about three distinct cameras here ... the original Canon AE-1 from 1976, which was revolutionary in itself ... followed by the Canon A-1, digital with programs that included TV, AV, or Program, where the camera did all the work which was released in April of 1978. These two cameras were supplanted in 1981 with the Canon AE-1 PROGRAM... which seemed to combine the best of these two cameras and then also added some features. The A-1 was always all black. Kind of sexy to me. Don't dare get it wet however as I think this would just play havoc with the electronics inside. The Canon AE-1 program was also released in silver and black as per the original AE-1 but also in a hard to find all black version which does show up from time to time for auction at high prices or in very used condition at lower prices. This is the camera that is in higher demand and of course commands higher prices. It's been my experience the AE-1 program and the A-1 are still available in plentiful numbers and at good prices. I was able to find two AE-1 programs last year for about 60 USD dollars each and they came equipped with a standard prime FD 1.8 which I promptly sold to help recoop some of my cost (I prefer to use a Canon FD 60mm 1.4 breech mount). One camera needs servicing for the squeal, the other is fine. I love being able to change focus screens in this body. I believe the original AE still had a match needle of some sort inside the viewfinder (could be wrong) but the A-1 and AE-1 program have a totally digital read out. Nice in dark situations. I use them both for macro photos, as a good 50mm FD macro should only set you back about 75-100 dollars tops. While I have embraced the digital world I still get excited when I put the film in one of my AE-1 programs or my A-1s and go out for a shoot. FD glass is cheap, affordable, and still holds a wow factor for me. The AE-1 was produced from 1976 to 1984. Available pretty cheap, a good student "film" camera still. The Canon A-1 was produced from April of 1978 to 1985. The Canon AE-1 program was produced from 1981 to 1987. Canon always put the serial number on these bodies. Canon seemed to milk their "A" series gold mine to death and of course more A body variants but these three I mentioned seem to be the most readily available. I hope this helps.
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  8. It may depend on what you want to do w/ the camera. I like to shoot manual focus lenses from other makers on different camera bodies. If you do that, or use stop down metering w/ Canon FL lenses, the AE1-P is a lot better. Brighter focus screen, and it has a real manual mode and AE lock. I find these features invaluable.
     
  9. I prefer the Canon mechanical SLRs. I don't own any of the T series and my only A series camera is an A-1. I do have two F-1Ns. My complaint about them is that in Aperture Priority mode there is no exposure lock. Thie leads me to use plain F-1s more often. I do not enjoy using the A-1. The operation of the depth of field preview is enough to cause me to dislike it. The A-1 has "factory interchangeable" screens while the AE-1 program has "user interchangeable" screens. I have thought about getting an AE-1 Program for this reason. If you are looking to attach a motor or winder or databack then the A-1 has some advantages. Canon still did not have TTL flash until the T-90. My Minolta X-700s, first released n 1981, use the excellent 360PX and 280PX.
     
  10. I prefer the Canon mechanical SLRs. I don't own any of the T series and my only A series camera is an A-1. I do have two F-1Ns. My complaint about them is that in Aperture Priority mode there is no exposure lock. Thie leads me to use plain F-1s more often. I do not enjoy using the A-1. The operation of the depth of field preview is enough to cause me to dislike it. The A-1 has "factory interchangeable" screens while the AE-1 program has "user interchangeable" screens. I have thought about getting an AE-1 Program for this reason. If you are looking to attach a motor or winder or databack then the A-1 has some advantages. Canon still did not have TTL flash until the T-90. My Minolta X-700s, first released n 1981, use the excellent 360PX and 280PX.
     
  11. It may depend on what you want to do w/ the camera. I like to shoot manual focus lenses from other makers on different camera bodies. If you do that, or use stop down metering w/ Canon FL lenses, the AE1-P is a lot better. Brighter focus screen, and it has a real manual mode and AE lock. I find these features invaluable.​
    The A-1 doesn't have a manual mode and AE lock? News to me.
    My first 35mm camera was an AE-1, followed about six months later by an A-1. I didn't buy my first AE-1 Program until a few years later. Something that's been mentioned here, but not really emphasized, is that, of the three designs mentioned, namely the AE-1, the A-1, and the AE-1P, the AE-1P is the most recent design of them all. Physically, it much more closely resembles the A-1 than the AE-1, especially when you can find an AE-1P in black. Structurally, it does too. The AE-1 is an earlier, more primitive design
    But there's one important area where the AE-1P has it over all other A-series cameras. The AE-1P is the only A-series that was designed to take user-interchangeable focusing screens. From what I've read it is possible for the user to swap out the screens in an A-1, but I wasn't aware of this until recently. Back in the day, I had Canon's tech services install a plain matte screen in my A-1. Contrast that with my AE-1P, where I found a plain matte screen for it and installed it myself.
    I've never found anything mysterious or overwhelming about the A-1. I studied its fat little manual from cover to cover over and over again, until I knew all the A-1's controls by heart. And then, right about when I had gotten comfortable with it, I took a giant step backwards, technologically, when I discovered the elegant simplicity of the FTb and later the original F-1. I had moved firmly into the realm of manual, mechanical photography and wouldn't ever fully exit the realm again. So now, I tend to think of all A-series Canons as toys. They're diminutive, lightweight, and stuffed with gadgets and features that aren't really needed, but they lack other features that really are needed, like a decent metering pattern, a mechanical shutter, and mirror lock-up.
     
  12. I have a spare non-working A-1 which has what looks like a grid type screen in it. At some point I will have that screen put into the working A-1. For both macro work and for using telephoto or slower zoom lenses I prefer either a grid screen or a plain matte screen. For high magnification macro work it's the plain matte screen. Changing them in a Canon F-1 or Nikon F2 is less of a chore.
     
  13. I have both and my A1 was bought slightly used in early 1982 - the first buyer had bought it for the features put a few roles through and and exchanged it back at the dealer as it was too complex for him. This was the camera I sold my first images with and I still have it (it took a while before I could afford an F1N). I still have mine and it still works although I did have the LED display replaced about 5 years ago as it failed. The T90 is the best multi- mode Canon and has user changeable focusing screen but I still like my A1. I have the AE1 P but somehow it never got used like the A1.
     
  14. The user-friendly interchangeable screens in the AE-1 Program make a world of difference to me. When I shoot macro, I tend to use an Autobellows with a 100mm macro lens. I use a "grid" screen for focusing. The "regular" centre/split focus screen would simply go dark making macro work impossible.

    Beautiful viewfinder as well and the LED lit aperture indicators make getting correct exposure in dark settings as easy as could be.
     
  15. I've had both the AE-1p and the A1. My A1 has buggy electronics. I've seen quite a few like this actually.
    I think the AE-1p has much more reliable electronics. It was designed a few years after the A1 and AE-1. It also has a laser-matte screen that is much brighter than the others. Beyond that, there is no great advantage over the A1.
    Perhaps most buyers these days dont really care about manual or multi mode.
     
  16. I just thought of another difference I've found between the AE-1P and the A-1. With very fast lenses, such as the FD 55mm f/1.2 or 85mm f/1.2, the AE-1P's standard focusing screen's microprism collar isn't up to the task. The prisms have lost most of their reflectivity, making it a much bigger chore to focus. Better to install a plain matter screen in the AE-1P and learn how to focus without use of aids. The A-1's standard focusing screen's microprisms definitely have better contrast and glimmer going on with the lens at f/1.2 than the AE-1P's. I remember when I first got my 85mm f/1.2. The first camera I mounted it to was my AE-1P and I found it almost impossible to focus. The images didn't come out so hot, either. I was really frustrated by this, and began trying the lens out on my other FD cameras, one by one. This was where I realized the AE-1P's standard focusing screen was the culprit. There is also a question as to whether it even indexes all the way down to f/1.2.
    After reading through all the posts here on the subject, I think folks have pretty accurately summed up the two cameras very well. Each held an important spot in the evolution of 35mm photography. The A-1 was a quantum leap beyond its predecessor, the AE-1, offering never before seen levels of automation. Canon even coined a term for the A-1: Hexaphotocybernetic. Remember that one? Six modes of exposure automation. The AE-1P was a smartly downsized evolutionary upgrade of the A-1. So it lost the Av mode and stop-down AE, so what? Sort of a return to the basics of the AE-1, but with modern updates that even the A-1 didn't have, plus it had much of the good looks of the A-1 as well, which to me has always been a much more handsome camera than the AE-1 and is one of the nicest looking of all of Canon's SLRs, in my view.
     
  17. Great to read all the postings here. I did not enjoy the merits and pleasure of the AE-1 Program until just about a year ago. Great blending IMHO of the A-1 and the original AE-1. And available too in black like the A-1. Still one of the sexiest cameras, again, MHO. Many days when I need to walk about with our without the dog by my side I carry my A-1. I use either the 35-105 Canon Zoom or the standard 50mm 1.4 SSC, still my favorite piece of Canon glass. The A-1 is still my preferred tool to help me look, see, find an image (or not) and think. This is as it was 30 years ago when I lived in West Virginia and still is today. Digital is great but not quite the same. In the past 3 decades "instant gratification" became even more "instant" and my A-1 helps me to slow it down and savor the sights. Right now I have about 7 rolls of undeveloped film it would be nice to see any fruits of those walks. I'm thinking I'm too old to start developing again but who knows.
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  18. I started on a AE-1P and used it for 15 years before working over to the A-1. I think that the ergonomics of the AE-1P are better. The shutter speed switch is perfectly visible and perfectly placed on the AE-1P. It's large enough that it sticks out just perfectly for your finger to rapidly adjust.
    I also think that the simplified features lend it to learning 35mm photography... You've got your shutter under the right finger, and left hand on the f/stop ring. Your eye is in the viewfinder looking at the light meter. What else do you need to master the relationship between available light and your selection of shutter/fstop?
    The problem with the A-1 is that it's focused too much on the automatic modes. It hides the selection dial, even! It hides it under a clear window and even a slide-up cover on the dial.
    IMO that is why the AE-1P was more popular. Better to learn on, better for the basics. Better for manual shooting.
    I think a perfect blend of features would be to have the open, visible, dial of the AE-1P and the LED readout light meter from the A-1 -- because frankly the ONLY thing I miss on my AE-1P is that the readout doesn't tell me shutter speed and f/stop.
    (That, and I would love to have 30sec shutter speeds on it!)
     
  19. Michael: your evaluation rings true for me as well but the AE-1 Program LED readout doesn't work for me. I am used to seeing both shutter and F/stop. But the interchangeable focus screens for the AE-1P is a good compromise.
     
  20. The A-1 is the far better camera. I disagree with the above reviewer (Mark); the A-1 is extremely easy to configure without removing your eye from the viewfinder. Want to change speeds? Move the dial. Want to change between shutter priority and aperture priority? Move the ring around the dial. Want to use manual mode? Move the aperture ring on the lens.
    As for the "hidden selection dial", i don't understand. The A-1 hides the shutter speeds WHEN IT'S ON APERTURE PRIORITY. Which makes perfect sense, because in that context, the machine will set the shutter speed. When you CAN see the shutter speeds, is because you CAN change them. Extremely easy and extremely well thought.
    And what about the LED viewfinder? It's by far the most beautiful and comfortable-on-your-eyes display i've yet seen in a camera. And for total photographic concentration, you can even disable it so there's nothing that distracts you.
    Seriously, the only superior cameras i can consider are the F-1, the FTb (because of being 100% manual), and the Canon EF (this last one is for the conossieurs.)
     
  21. The A-1 was better except for the screens. The AE-1 Program had laser matte screens, introduced in 1980. Much brighter, although existing A-1 screens can be "bright screened".
     
  22. I hate to bring this back from the dead, but there is so much bad information in this thread that I'm kind of surprised it's in a FD forum. Flavio's post is about as close to correct as I've seen reading through all of this. As for pricing between the A-1 and the AE-1P, pricing has a lot to do with the nostalgia factor, and since more peolple owned the AE-1/AE-1P, it's going to generate more interest on fleabay.
    The A-1 was superior in pretty much every way over the AE-1/AE-1P. The only upgrade that the AE-1P had over its predecessor was that it got a Program mode, which is what the "P" stands for. The Program mode was borrowed directly from the A-1. The A-1 has exposure memory, preview, lock-down preview, the focusing screens are 100% user interchangable (it was Canon marketing hype to say you had to return it to Canon so they could take out 1 screw to change screens... a joke, really) and getting a bright screen for the A-1 is not a problem.
    Insofar as reliability, I've found that the A-1 and the AE-1P are on par and you can expect the same duration of usefulness between C-L-As. I've purchased the A-1 new and the AE-1P new (as a back-up camera) and ditched the AE-1P after about a year since I never used it. The the A-1 has a better interface (all the EOS cameras and pretty much every other manufacturer "borrowed" the program wheel that the A-1 pioneered), the bright digital readout and the wider accessory range made the A-1 a hands-down better camera. I still use it as my go-to FD shooter (the T-90 stays in the bag now).
     
  23. Craig: thank you for your nsight. I have questions however, maybe you can answer. The interchangeable screens for the AE-1 Program do not work with the A-1, or do they ? I found two very clean and well cared for AE-1 Programs for a good price recently, had them all CLA'd and had their screens replaced with the C and D. Can't believe they are 30+ years old. I like to do macro work, so I am thinking a shutter priority body isn't what I need. Now shooting at the rodeo might be fun, since I think of Shutter and think speed. The readout inside is a bit harder to get used to compared to the simple LED read out for the A-1 which for me is much more user friendly. While the D screen helps me in the AE-1 P, the A-1 LED readout is better for my aging eyes.
     

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