The Canon AE-1 was originally released in 1976 and the updated AE-1 Program was released 5 years later in 1981. Both are a 35mm SLR that used FD mount lenses. The main difference between the two cameras was that the updated AE-1 Program had a feature called the Program AE mode which was first seen in the A-1 camera. This new mode allowed the photographer to set the aperture and shutter speed to automatic exposure.
If you are still deciding which camera to get between the two, pick the AE-1 Program. There isn’t much of a price difference and you have the ability to shoot on Program mode.
The camera comes standard with the new split focusing screen. To focus on a subject, you must manually align the subject that is split through a horizontal line within the circle.
The AE-1 Program has the ability to be fully manual, shutter priority AE, and program AE. By pressing half-way on the shutter button, the meter within the viewfinder will point to the aperture that is either recommended to properly expose for or the pre-selected aperture if you were to take the shot under one of the AE (autoexposure) modes. It’s important to note that the camera light meter is center-weighted average metering, meaning that it reads the entire viewing area with a higher emphasis in the center area. It might be worth purchasing or downloading a light meter to have more creative control.
The Canon AE-1 Program is relatively inexpensive for a 35mm SLR. in 2020, you can find a good condition camera with a lens for around $100-150 second hand. However, I have seen the camera being sold in shops for nearly $200.
The Canon AE-1 Program is the perfect 35mm film camera for beginners or those who want to explore film without spending too much. Although I dislike manually focusing the camera because I find it difficult to see the split screen line, my wife doesn’t and enjoys shooting with it more than rangefinders.
What do you think about the AE-1? Do you own one and do you still shoot with it? Or do you prefer shooting with something else?