Canon A1, thinking of buying, any issues?

Discussion in 'Canon FD' started by adam_jones|8, Apr 4, 2010.

  1. Hi, looking to buy a Canon A1. Any problems to look out for? Does the light metering system go out of sync at all, become uncalibrated?
    Thanks for your help
  2. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    All 30 year old cameras benefit from being tuned up and any you buy now should be serviced before being put into regular use.
  3. Thanks, no particular problems to look out for then?
  4. "A" series cameras often suffer from the "squeal" when the shutter is fired. It's really nothing to worry about. It is an easy fix. I would also recommend a CLA on any old camera that you are going to use on a regular basis. The A1 was my first FD camera and I still enjoy using it. Match it with a FDn 50mm/f1.8 and you have a lightweight outfit that can be carried around all day.
  5. CLA? The camera i'm looking at has had the light seals done and the squeak fixed. was worried in case the light metering becomes uncalibrated really. know any issues the A1 has with that?
  6. Forgot to say, welcome to, Adam. No, I haven't heard of any issues with the light meter. It either works or it doesn't. Enjoy using the camera.
  7. I think that more "modern," i.e., electronic, are less prone to meter and shutter inaccuracies than are older, more mechanical bodies like the original F-1.
    If the A-series squeal has been fixed in the body you're looking at, it's likely that the shutter was calibrated at the same time. And the meter is probably fine, too. But the only way to know for sure is to have the A-1 checked out once you receive it.
    Good luck, Adam! The A-1 is a very fine body.
  8. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Was the Shutter Squeal fixed by a repair technician Camera repair shop or was it a DIY repair?
    If it was DIY then I seriously doubt any other service was performed. More and more people are trying to work on their own camera to save money and while there are some simple things that can be addessed this way there are also a number of important things that can not. The shutter and meter calibration for instance.
  9. I've been pretty dedicated to Nikon since the 70's but have also owned many A series Canon as well as EF and FTB. I sold all my Canons years ago, except LTM Canon P which I've had for 15 years. Last fall I bought an original F-1 Canon with 50 and 24 plus Motor Drive Unit. Last week I got another F-1 but the second version called Canon F-1n. I guess I'm back in the Canon court, both terrific pro cameras very capable with high precision and build quality. My recommendation IMHO is forget all models except Canon F-1 original or second version, totally mechanical not dependent on battery save for the meter!
  10. Paul,
    I wouldn't discount the F1N 'electronic' version of the F1 series.Though is is packaged with lots of semiconductors it was built to military specifications and has been proven to be as reliable as the original F1's.I own them all and my first pick would still be the latest version mainly because Canon corrected most of my gripes about the original version when they did the redesign.I would bet it still is one of the most troublefree electronic cameras ever produced.Beats the hell out of anything EOS I've ever owned.
  11. Hi Adam. I love my A-1. Just be aware that it only offers center weighted averaging metering unlike the other top line FD pro cameras. However it's a very accurate meter. It's my go to camera for running a lightweight FD rig. Common sense but always carry a spare battery. The camera is dead without it. If you don't get the A or A2 winder or MA motor drive, be sure you get the small finger grip that fits over the battery door. It makes handling much better. Come back and show us your new cam a a few pics from it will ya.
  12. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    This has to be one of the silliest things guys bring up when discussing Canon FD.
    The A Series and the New F-1 use the little PX-28 Battery that can be found in any drug store pet store or a couple dozen online battery dealers and almost every photo dealer in the world.
    The T series uses AA batteries that can be found EVERY WHERE
    That said if you find some place where the PX-28 size can't be found they only last about two years with normal use and have longer then that in shelf life. So how hard is it to tape one to your camera strap or put on in the bottom of your bag.
    Same with the AA do you avoid electronic flash cause it requires batteries or do you only use magic cubes???
    I'm sorry to do this here but it finally got to me
  13. Louis,
    Now we know which buttons to push in order to get Mark all fired up! :)
  14. That' great, thank to you all for your help. Lens wise, what should i look out for? Camera i'm looking at has 50mm f1.4 which sounds solid but how are the 35-70mm fd lenses?
    Many thanks
  15. I couldn't agree more with Mark's comments on the battery. Like him, I just tape a spare to the strap and then there's nothing to worry about. You might as well say : "If only my car had a magneto rather than a battery, electronic ignition and a starter motor, then hand cranking it to start would be a small price to pay for not having to worry about the battery".
    As far as the 50mm f1.4 goes, it's supposed to be superb. Certainly my f1.8 is very good and the f1.4 is universally agreed to be superior. I did regret buying a 35-70 f3.5 - 4.5 two touch zoom as it's the one Canon lens I really don't like. The optics might be OK, but it does feel very cheap and plasticky compared to all the other Canon lenses. I think there is an earlier model which is much more solid though.
  16. Thanks. Any all round lenses you'd recommend then? Baring in mind i'm on a student budget.
  17. Alan, do a search for "best walkaround lens" and you'll come across a bunch of suggestions. If you're looking for a zoom lens, the best FD zoom is the 80-200 F4 L. I recently bought a very good example on e-bay for $200. Many people also like the Vivitar Series 1 70-210. The Canon 35-105 F3.5 (NOT the 3.5-4.5 which is also 35-105) is also quite well liked. In the prime range, the 85 1.8 is supposedly excellent, I don't own one so can't comment. If you're looking for a macro, the Canon 50mm f3.5 is supposed to be excellent, if you want something with longer reach look out for a Kiron 105mm Macro lens, though be warned they can be relatively expensive.
    Have fun with the A1, and like Louis said, please come back and post some pics.
  18. Will do, spotted a 35-105 f3.5 on ebay, recon i'll put in a bid.
    Many thanks
  19. Adam - if you haven't already, check out They have a couple of examples in BGN and EX condition. I've bought a bunch of stuff from KEH, never once had a problem with it. Plus, you can return the lens and get your money back, no questions asked. Highly recommended site.
  20. KEH is that in the Uk?
  21. What are the benefits of an F1 against an A1? Worth the bigger price tag?
  22. Thanks, very helpful. Going to go with the A1.
    tape one to your camera strap or put on in the bottom of your bag.​
    Mark-I didn't say it was a problem, just common sense to carry a spare. Advice that you echoed in your reply. Similarly, having only a center-weighted, avg meter is not a "problem". Just a couple of operational facts that someone considering this camera might find helpful.
    Stuart- To be fair, I have also heard many times over the years posters dissing these cameras largely because of their electronic nature and/ or lack of any default mechanical functionallity. So I understand the foundation of the issues expressed in Mark's reply.
  24. Adam, I'll second Kayam's endorsement of the 80-200/4 L and 35-105/3.5 zooms. A somewhat lighter and more compact alternative to the 35-105 that is just as good optically (though not as well built) is the 28-85/4. At the wide end, the 20-35/4 L is very good, but rather pricier than the others. As Nick says, you should avoid the later 35-70, though there is an earlier 35-70/2.8-3.5 which is very well built and optically superb for an earlier zoom.
    You really can't go wrong with any of the FD primes. The 50/1.4 is the workhorse of the FD line, and is so good optically that Canon has retained its optical formula with the current EF 50/1.4. I would advise you to pick up the fastest primes you can afford at the focal lengths you want. If you'd like a list of my personal favourites, drop me an e-mail.
  25. If i only buy one lens which should it be? The 50mm f1.4 of the 35-105mm f3.5? May buy the two though, will have to see what they're going for online.
  26. I bought my A1 second hand more than twenty three years ago, and it's been utterly reliable,I just had it CLA'd for the first time because the mirror mechanism had started to squeak, and to have the light seals replaced The metering system because it uses solid state electronics not galvanometers needles and moving parts is very dependable and accurate and is still spot on..
  27. Thanks Ben. I'm currently bidding on an A1 that has had the seals done, the mirror oiled and solenoid and magnets cleaned etc cleaned. Looking forward to getting it if i win the auction.
  28. SCL


    Adam - I had an A1 for about 12-13 years, a true workhorse which always delivered...but as my eyesight grew worse, I grew to really hate its viewfinder. Then I discovered the T90, the last of Canon's FD line of cameras. By way of comparison, the T90 incorporates all of the A1 features and more, including a better viewfinder, built in autowinder, and it uses good old AA batteries, available in almost any store in the nation. The current price for a good used version is pretty attractive as if you haven't yet commited, give it a look. BTW KEH isn't in the UK, it is out on the east coast: Check their used gear. Good luck & welcome in advance to the wonderful world of Canon FD.
  29. Adam - whether you should buy the 50 1.4 or the 35-105 depends entirely on what you are trying to do. If this is for a photography course, you're probably better off buying the 50 1.4. The broader range of f-stops will allow you to play around with depth of field far more. Plus, using a normal prime teaches you framing discipline (IMHO, as someone who is trying to relearn photography). That said, if you are already comfortable with your skills, but the 35-105.
    Or, given the prices at which FD gear sells, buy both.
  30. Thanks Steven, going to go with the A1. Which lenses have you had experience of? Looking to get the 50mm f1.4 and the 35-100mm f3.5. if you had to pick one, which would it be?
  31. Thanks Kayam, will look into the 50mm first then.
  32. What's the difference between the normal lenses, the ssc lenses and the primes?
  33. YOU KNOW WHAT REALLY PISSES ME OFF? It's not the battery issue. :) It's the fact that some of you cannot answer the OP's question. He wanted to know if there are any issues with the A1, specifically with the meter. What is so hard about that? He did not ask, "which FD camera should I buy if money is not an issue"?
    He's interested in purchasing an A1, which is a fine camera. He's on a student budget. Why do some of you have to try and sway him towards an F1 or a T90 that costs far more than an A1? Perhaps it's the fact that it's just too easy to spend someone else's money.
    There, I've said it and I feel a whole lot better. :)
  34. "Normal" lens - refers to a lens that provides a perspective that looks natural to the human eye. For 35mm photography, this is a 50mm lens (note that what is a normal lens differs based on film format / digital sensor size).
    SSC lens - refers to Super Spectra Coating as opposed to just Spectra Coating. SC lenses are generally cheaper. All later Canon FD lenses (distinguished by a bayonet style mount rather than the old breech lock mount) are SSC lenses, with the exception of the 50mm 1.8. Not sure about the 50 1.4. If you have a choice, buy the SSC lens.
    Prime lens - fixed focal length lens (i.e. not a zoom).
  35. Thanks, what's the difference between the mounts? how do i tell the difference?
  36. Hi Adam
    I've got an A1 that I've had for 15 years and although it looks totally knackered I still use it a lot and it never lets me down. I've also got a T90 and an F1 and they all have their plus points but an A1 is a fantastic camera and you will love using one if you buy one.
    As for lenses I prefer the older breech lock lenses with the chrome ring that slides round to lock the lens onto the body but that it purely a personal thing.
    I've got a 50mm F1.4 lens (a really old one with a chrome ring where the filter screws on) and it is a beautiful lens to use. I've also got a 55mm ssc aspherical which I love and a 35mm chrome nose F2 lens with a concave front element which has yellowed over time (all these 35mm concave element lenses have) and that is also a lovely lens to use for black and white photography.
    The Canon FD system is perfect for the use you have (as a student) as the kit is of pro quality but very cheap to buy as it isn't as fashionable as the manual focus Nikons and Olympus cameras and Leica's etc.
    If you're a student shooting work for college don't get too hung up on which lenses to buy as the quality of any of them (even cheap third party zooms) will be fine for projects etc.
    If you're buying from ebay etc be sure to ask the seller if the lenses have any fungus in as this is a pain to clean and all old lenses are prone to it.
    Best of luck and have fun.
    Dave Thrower
  37. Canon A1 doesnt have a centerweight average metering. It has a type of zone meter that take more weight to the bottom corners than a simple centerweight meter. It works very well in landscape orientation but you have to pay special attention when shooting in portrait orientation.
    I have both the A1 and the F1n old. A1 is my favorit for traveling and F1 when I have plenty of time and the extra bulk and weight doesnt matter.
    A 50 mm lens is cheep, sharp and fast but it has quite often too narrow angle of view. A lot of people would prefer a 35 mm lens instead for its wider view, as a one lens (prime) solution.
    Perspective is primary the relation between camera position and objects positions. The angle of view of a lens make the photographer to alter camera position (not always), but it doesnt mean that the perspective then become less natural.
  38. Stuart,
    I think a lot of us FD guys are a little on edge after that '(Lack of) Familiarity Breeds Contempt' post.I know as a F1N user it kind of ticked me off.The A1 is a fine camera but like others have said for the money a T Series does a pretty decent job for about the same cash outlay.F1's are more about long term resale value and brutal abuse (kind of like a real 4 x 4 vs a crossover truck).The A Series are one trick ponies when it comes to metering while the T Series (T90 & T70) and F1N series offered 2 -3 metering options - something to think about if you plan to shoot a lot of slides and less print film.
  39. Bengt, the A-1 does indeed have centerweighted average metering (link). It's the EF that has the partial metering at the bottom of the frame that you describe.
    Gentlemen, let's not let Ken Rockwell get under our skins. He's just a hack with a website. What the f**k does he know about Canon FD gear?
    I've recently acquired an A-1 after letting my first one go a few years ago and regretting it. I erroneously thought that with a pair of T90's, a trio of EF's, a trio of F-1's, and a pair of F-1N's, I didn't need an A-1. But a few weeks ago I picked up a near mint A-1 and a very clean FTb-N, both of which I just had CLA'ed. Each of these bodies has its virtues, and all are a joy to use.
    I'm looking forward to a spring and summer of shooting at least a roll of Ektar 100 in each of my FD bodies.
  40. From all the old Canon FD camera's I've bought, meter accuracy has never been a problem. They've all been good enough for print film at least. Light leaks are pretty common though as the foam seals disintigrate over the course of 20 years. Same for the mirror bumper. 50mm f1.4 is a good lens to start with. I think you have to have at least one normal lens in your kit and as earlier posters pointed out the large aperture will let you achieve a really shallow depth of field and shoot in in fairly dim light. A-1 is a fun camera to shoot and does what it needs to do. My only complaint about the camera, and maybe this is only a problem with two A-1's that I've had, is that if you don't turn the camera 'off' when you're not using it it will drain out the battery.
  41. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Chris that is a problem with your two A-1 and the meter is not engaged until the shutter button is depressed half way so no current draw.
    I have had the same battery in my A-1 four 4 years now I never turn it off. The battery still measures good and the meter is still accurate.
  42. Here are some possible issues. Note that these are not "known" issues in the sense that A-1 is notorious to suffer from these, but these are issues that one should check for any camera that is as old or used.
    1. When you release the shutter at various speeds, check if you get a squeal or squeak. If this has been dealt with successfully, good.
    2. When you wind to next frame, check to see if there is a squeal or a squeak during winding! You should try doing this a number of times rapidly to be sure.
    3. Check the meter is correct by metering a known light source. Checking the sunny 16 rule is an option, another is to verify the camera's meter with a known good meter.
    4. This is a tricky one to check, but many A-series cameras can suffer from current leakage resulting in depletion of the battery prematurely (within weeks or days as opposed to a year or two's time).
    5. Check with a flash that its hot shoe as well as its PC socket work properly and fire the flash.
    6. Open the camera back, unmount the lens, and release the shutter at various speeds against a bright uniform scene (bright wall, open sky, etc.), and check that as the shutter is released, you see an area of constant brightness. Do this for speeds of 1/1000, 1/500 and 1/250 at least. If you do not see a constant brightness (see darkness on either side of the aperture box), the shutter curtains need cleaning and lubrication.
    7. Do Step 6 at 1/60 with a flash mounted. As you release the shutter, you should see the scene (wall, preferably) illuminated by the flash. If the aperture box is not of uniform brightness, the the shutter is needs cleaning and lubrication, or the flash sync is not working properly. If you do not see a bright scene through the aperture box lit by the flash, then flash sync contact is surely off.
    8. With a good lens mounted, verify that at different apertures set on the camera, the lens aperture closes to the correct value. Hard to check, and hardly is a problem though.
    9. With the back open, lens unmounted. try to see through the curtain at a bright scene to notice if there are any holes in the curtain. Wind the frame and similarly check the second curtain as well.
    10. Check that there are no signs of fungus in the viewfinder, on the lens and inside the aperture box (yes, fungus can be present on the aperture box walls as well!).
    11. Check the seals and the mirror damper with a needle or a screw driver. If the foam sticks to the tool (is gooey), then these will need replacing.
    Those are all that I can recall from the top of my head at present. If you have money to spend and are serious about this camera, a professional CLA will help if you find problems. However, if money is tight (or the camera is not worth much) and you are mechanically inclined and competent, most of the above problems can be solved by yourself.
  43. Hi, Adam
    Firstly welcome to this forum. It's full of dedicated FD nuts so a great place for all sorts of info about the system right down to stuff that's so obscure you wouldn't believe it. The flipside is that there are some strong opinions around, but don't let that put you off as people are almost always trying to help.
    The A-1 is a very good camera, not without it's quirks, and a solid introduction to film based SLRs.
    If you are looking for another lens to go with your 50mm you need to think what you want to do. The 35-105 f/3.5 is one of the best lenses for the FD system but there is also a 28-85 f/4 which is equally good but gives a wider short end. You might also just get a 28mm f/2.8 and 135mm if you want to be old school and avoid zooms.
    As you are in the UK you may want to try buying from Mifsuds as they have the 35-105 for £49, and a few other lenses at reasonable prices. You could also try Ffordes as they always have a good range of FD kit, but are possibly slightly pricier.
  44. Thanks for that Barry, have enquired about the lens - very cheap so we'll see what condition it i in. In regards to the 50mm f1.4 which mark is better? The earlier SSC or the later new model?
    Thanks again.
  45. One little fact I forgot to mention (perhaps it's already been mentioned), the A series cameras consume power even when their shutter is open. So if you have it open in B mode for long period, for example, the battery will run out of power in around 2~3 hours. Hopefully, this is not a usual requirement for you but it is nice to keep this in mind to avoid nasty surprises. People who do night photography of the sky for prolonged periods, hence, avoid these cameras.
    Otherwise it is an excellent camera, I love it!
  46. In regards to the 50mm f1.4 which mark is better? The earlier SSC or the later new model?
    Most would say there's no meaningful difference, so buy on condition. If you have a bunch of 55mm filters lying around, buy the SSC. If you have 52mm filters, get FDn. If you think an F-1N may be in your future, FDn has a tiny advantage.
  47. Any difference between the two SSC models? I see they came out within a month or two, but the later was considerably more.
  48. The question is academic, because you're unlikely to see the first version. The optical formula appears to be the same. Early SSC lenses had minor build differences from later ones-- the aperture lever on the back might be locked differently, or the 'A' indicator on the aperture ring might be marked 'o', or the mount might be heavier. Somebody here will know the specific differences for the 50/1.4, but it's probably nothing that's very important.
    Just find a 50/1.4 in good condition with clean glass, no haze, and a springy diaphragm, and burn some film. Worry about the details later if they make a difference to your photography.
  49. Thanks for your help, really appreciate it.
  50. Don't forget to budget a lens hood and a UV filter, maybe a yellow filter if you're shooting B&W. I consider a UV filter a must - it keeps dust away from the front elements, and if you bump the lens against something you're less likely to damage it. The lens hood will be less important on a 50mm lens (I always use one), but it will be a must on the 35-105 if you get it. The correct lens hood for the 35-105 is the BW72B.
  51. I have an A-1 that was sold by a reputable expert in repair and calibration of Canon FD equipment. The camera works perfectly except for a weird quirk which the expert didn't check, calibrate, or know about. I own a Sunpak 433 FD flash which has 3 aperture setting you can choose from. On my AE-1, and AE-1 Program, when I set the flash to f4, the camera is automatically set to f4, when I set the flash to f8, the camera is automatically set to f8. On the A-1 however, when I set the flash to f4, the camera is automatically set to f3.5. When I set the flash to f8, the camera is automatically set to f6.7 (if I recall correctly). This quirk makes little difference in my results, so I haven't bothered to have it looked at.
    What it does point out though, is that even "experts" on these older cameras can skip or forget or not know of a calibration setting. What's worse, the knowledge they do have is being lost as these guys retire. Find me a Canon FD camera tech younger than 40 and I'll eat my hat. :)
  52. If i do use a flash, it'll probably be a canon one. Shouldn't be any issues with that, will there?
  53. Hi Adam,
    I may be the only Canon FD user on Planet Earth who hasn't responded to your question. : ) I think this is the second longest thread in the forum's history.
    Regarding flash, any Canon Speedlite of the A-1's era, such as a 188A or 199A, or the ones with T suffixes, such as the 277T or 299T, will work fine. Earlier units, from the early 70s, aren't the best match. The EOS Speedlites (and the 300TL, dedicated to the T90 camera) won't work in their automatic modes.
    Of the period units, my favorite is the 299T, which allows selection of a specific aperture and has bounce and swivel capabilities.
    Grab any FD lens that strikes your fancy, old or new mount, and have fun. You'll have to make deliberate side-by-side comparisons to see any subtle differences amongst the lenses. If you shoot print film, the printing process will obliterate any differences.
    The A-1 has a lot of neat features, and it has become a sort of love-it/hate-it camera on the forum, probably the most talked-about body in recent months. Most of that polarization centers around tiny little things that you won't even notice. Just have fun shooting! Post some of your work for us once you get some film back.
  54. THis is a remarkably long thread - as someone who bought my A1 in 1983 and has taken it to 20,000 feet and on multi day sea kayak trips I can say that the A1 is very durable. Mine finally suffered a problem when the display failed to illuminate - this was in 2006. the repair cost about $60 and I have had no problems since. As others have said do not worry about the battery issue as it lasts 2-3 years and in easy to find.
  55. Definitely getting an A1 now, but have a query as where to find information on lens serial numbers. Found this site but that's about it. serial number i want to look up is 1515716
    Thanks again for all your help
  56. Adam, the site you've linked to lists date codes of FD (and EF) lenses. A lens's date code is a far more accurate way of dating a lens (if that's what you're trying to do) than is using its serial number. Canon's system of serial numbering is a well-guarded company secret.
  57. Thanks, i'll get on to the seller for the date code.
  58. 1515716 is October 1978. It is a late SSC breechlock. The date of manufacture is totally pointless information-- if the lens is clean and the aperture works well, buy it and get out and shoot.
  59. Thanks again for your help.
  60. i have a canon A1 and 50 1.4. im quickly going away from my digital kit (rebel...) to use this more over the years. it was my mom's before and it sat on the shelf, after she bought it new, up until about 4years ago. I mean im sure it got used for a couple years, but it was shelved for as long as i can remember. It got pretty regular use up until about a year ago when i finally sent it in for a CLA. I shot kodachrome and other slide films with it, without having ever been adjusted, just fine. i sent it in for a CLA because i didnt want to take a chance on destroying a perfectly good camera. Now it runs great. if you dig around my portfolio you'll see that all of the film pictures i have were taken with the A1 (only film camera i have), 50 1.4, 28 2.8, and 400 4.5. the metering setup is a little annoying at first without the needle and bug like many modern cameras but you can get used to that pretty fast.
  61. I would personally (and did) go for the last of the line, so to speak, the camera that helped put Canon over the top as the biggest seller of SLRs -- to wit, the Canon AE-1 Program. It shares the squeek with all of that generation, but it is easily fixed. It's a more "consumer" oriented camera, but very affordable in good working condition.
    It does use a BATTERY. ;)
  62. Hi Adam
    Just a quick note re the 50mm lenses. I picked up a chrome nose 50mm 1.4 which is pre SSC designation and it's one of my favourite lenses so if you see one of those for sale go for it!.
    Best regards

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