Canon AE-1

35mm MF film SLR camera


Production details
Announced:April 1976
System: Canon FD (1971)
Imaging plane
Maximum format:35mm full frame
Mount and Flange focal distance:Canon FD [42mm]
Imaging plane:36 × 24mm film
Model:Electronically controlled
Speeds:2 - 1/1000 + B
Exposure metering:Through-the-lens (TTL)
Exposure modes:Shutter-priority Auto
Physical characteristics

Manufacturer description #1

Introduced in April 1976, the AE-1 was a very successful camera worldwide.

When the AE-1 came out, TTL manual-metering models (including the Canon FTb and FTb-N) were still the mainstream in the 35mm SLR market. Autoexposure models were still at the very top end of the SLR market. They were expensive and produced in small numbers.

The AE-1, however, was designed from the ground up with five major units and twenty-five minor units. They were centrally controlled by a microcomputer. By incorporating electronics, the parts count could be reduced by 300. The manufacturing of the camera was also highly automated. This made it possible to produce a low-cost camera having high-end features.

Manufacturer description #2


a. Even someone who's never used a fine camera will take perfect pictures with the automatic AE-1. To get excellent results, just select the proper ASA setting, pick a convenient shutter speed, focus and shoot. The AE-1 picks the right aperture every time.

b. Most experienced photographers prefer shutter-priority automation, since they always know that the shutter speed will be high enough to prevent unwanted camera motion or subject blur.

c. Because of the extremely high reaction speed of the AE-1's silicon photocell, the user is virtually certain to get exposures that are exact, even with rapidly changing lighting situations.

d. A miniaturized "computer" Central Processing Unit (CPU) in the AE-1 handles all signal information in the camera, and makes it respond instantly.


a. One button controls all the camera's automatic functions. When it's depressed partway, it activates the exposure meter whose information is immediately shown in the finder. Full depression "locks in" the AE setting selected by the meter, and triggers the electromagnetic shutter. Because it's an electromagnetic release, it requires significantly less pressure than previous designs of this type. And, because its operation is sequential, it preserves energy from the battery.


a. In backlit situations, or in the snow or at the beach, a button on the AE-1 conveniently gives an increase of +1.5f-stops when pressed.

b. A special preview lever is also provided for checking depth-of-field.


a. The AE aperture setting is clearly displayed in the viewfinder when the shutter button is initially depressed. The aperture scale includes two red warning zones indicating the automatic coupling range limit when using lenses with f/16 or f/22 minimum apertures.

b. A flashing red LED indicator also shows when the lens in use has a slower maximum aperture than that indicated on the scale, so the user must select another shutter speed for proper exposure.


a. Thanks to unique construction, sequential electronic functioning (not all circuits are "on" at the same time) and special electromagnet design, the AE-1 gives outstanding power cell life - approximately one year with its 6V silver oxide battery.


a. Solid-state circuitry replaces a conventional mechanical self-timer in the AE-1. When a lever at the shutter button is cocked, the release of the shutter causes a ten-second delay before the shutter is fired. During the delay, a red LED signal flashes to indicate the self-timer's operation.

b. A special cancellation button (which also serves as the battery check button) is provided which will stop the self-timer and cancel all AE functions of the camera - the "locked in" exposure reading taken when the self-timer is started will be "erased".

c. The self-timer can be overriden at any time by returning the lever to the "rest" position, firing the shutter.


a. Red flashing LED's (Light-Emitting Diodes) are used extensively in the AE-1 as indicators for self-timer operation, manual ("M") aperture operation and underexposure warning.


a. The condition of the battery can be easily checked by pressing a button. When it has sufficient power, the meter needle in the aperture scale will fall below the indicator, or f/5.6.


a. Because of its extensively electronic construction (20% fewer mechanical parts than conventional SLR's) the AE-1 is consequently much smaller and lighter in weight than other 35mm AE cameras.

b. All controls are designed for superb ease in handling, with control buttons falling perfectly into place, and all key controls being ideally Iocated. Even the battery chamber cover has a ridge which serves as a comfortable grip for the fingers of the right hand during shooting.

c. All numbers (shutter speeds, ASA settings and frame numbers) are extremely legible, compared with conventional SLR's.


a. The shutter-speed dial is concentric with the film winding lever, and particularly large so that it can be operated with the right index finger without taking the eye from the viewfinder window. A protective guard prevents unintentional movement of the dial, and the ASA ring in green is located underneath.


a. The AE-1 's winding lever has a short, 120 degrees throw and may be ratcheted. It features a molded plastic tip for extra comfort .

b. For extra-fast operation, when the Power Winder A is not used, the winding lever will fire the shutter at the end of its stroke, when the shutter button is held in its depressed position .


a. The AE-1 is especially well sealed against dust, sand and water. The battery chamber door is baffled to resist penetration, and the contacts between the AE-1 and Power Winder A are protected by a small rubber gasket .


a. The Power Winder A is a small electric motor which can be used with the AE-1 either for single shot operation or continuous operation at a rate of up to 2 frame-per-second. It attaches to the AE-1 with a simple screw, and is quite Iight in weight and compact, because much of the signalling information comes from the camera itself.

b. When the shutter is locked (via cable release) and selftimer activated with the Power Winder A in place, the AE-1 will automatically make one exposure every ten seconds.

c. An LED indicator on the Power Winder A indicates when battery power is insufficient, as well as indicating the end of the roll of film in use.


a. A wide variety of Canon Dedicated Speedlites are available for use with the Canon AE-1. Each contains special circuitry designed to mate with the exposure control system of the AE-1 to automatically select the proper aperture for flash photography when they are turned on and the ready-light is activated, indicating a fully charged condition. In addition, attaching a Canon Speedlite to the AE-1 automatically sets the camera's shutter speed to 1/60th second for proper flash synchronization regardless of the setting on the AE-1's shutter speed dial! Should the shutter be released before the ready-light comes on, the AE-1 will revert to AE operation for proper available light exposure.

b. Canon Speedlites are the energy-saving, thyristor-type and they are particularly well suited for use with the Power Winder A when close to the subject. The more powerful units, like the 177A and 199A will allow continuous shooting at 2 fps. with the Power Winder A.

c. The 155A and 177A Speedlites offer a choice of two working apertures, while the 199A, 533G and 577G models offer a choice of three different apertures. Choosing an aperture on the color-coded controls of these Speedlites automatically sets the proper aperture on the AE-1 when the ready-lights indicate a fully charged condition.


a, The AE-1 's back is removable, to accept the exclusive Data Back A which will imprint on the film information such as the year , month and day or other information. Three dials permit entering a maximum of 6 digits in the lower right corner of the frame, imprinted by a built-in neon lamp when the shutter is released.

b. Three light-intensity settings allow perfect imprinting according to the type of film in use.

c. More than 8,000 exposures are possible with data using the Data Back A and one mercury battery.


a. Nearly fifty superb Canon FD lenses are available for use with the AE-1. Each is critically sharp, contrasty and free from color and other aberrations.

b. Exclusive Canon Super Spectra multi-layer Coating insures maximum freedom from flare, top color correction and improved contrast. All Canon lenses are as compact as possible, for added convenience in traveling and handling.


a. Like all Canon SLR's, the AE-1 accepts accessories for any type of photography, from macro work to astronomical photography.

Manufacturer description #3


Why is the AE-1 so different from all the other AE SLR's?

The AE-1 is substantially different from conventional AE and TTL SLR's because of the technology involved in its production and design.

Until very recently, no technology existed that could further reduce the size of the electronic components used in an all-electronic AE camera like the AE-1. But thanks to recent breakthroughs in making integrated circuits for computers, special IC's are incorporated in the AE-1 which offer ten times the functional capability for the same area as a conventional IC. The result is a camera that has outstanding performance with fewer mechanical parts and smaller size than almost anything else available.

How can the AE-1 be so good when it is so relatively inexpensive?

The same technological breakthroughs that make it smaller and more compact also serve to reduce the production price of the AE-1 and this savings is passed directly on to you. Because the AE-1 is composed of only five major and twenty-five sub-assemblies, it can be assembled automatically. And, a special machine at Canon has the capability of performing 230 quality control checks in 7 seconds on the camera. Therefore cost is reduced and quality is uniformly excellent.

Isn't the AE-1 less rugged than other SLR's because it's more complicated?

Not in the least. It is because many of the mechanical parts (which often wear and malfunction in some conventional cameras) have been eliminated from the AE-1 that it is even more rugged and dependable than other SLR's. In fact, should the camera ever need repair, it is quite easy and simple to do so, thanks to its "layered" and modular construction. Because it has fewer moving parts, it is especially resistant to problems caused by shock and rough handling.

Hasn't the 6V silver oxide cell used in the AE-1 been known for its lack of long life?

In the past, yes - but that's because of the type of cameras it's been used in. The AE-1 has several ingenious energy saving features that will prolong the life of its silver oxide cell to a duration comparable with regular mercury button cells - a year or more.

In operation, the circuits in the AE-1 go through sequential rather than concurrent operation. In other words, from the time the shutter button is pressed until the exposure is completed, different circuits are activated, while others are shut off. This is an excellent way to preserve energy. In addition, the main electromagnet is connected to a permanent iron magnet. When current passed through the electro- magnet, it releases the permanent magnet, setting the AE functions to work. Other camera designs are such that when the electromagnet is turned on, it must exert enough force to attract a piece of iron or steel. This required considerably more power than the system in the AE-1.

Can I trust an AE camera? Is automatic operation really worthwhile? Creative?

Yes. Yes. Yes. The metering system in the AE-1 has been designed through exhaustive testing of actual exposure situations. Its center-weighted sensitivity (and extremely wide metering range, thanks to the silicon photo cell) is ideal for getting outstanding exposures under almost any lighting conditions. When difficult lighting is encountered, a +1.5 f/stop increase was found to give just about perfect compensation for backlighting and snow or beach scenes.

Automatic operation is definitely worthwhile and it is definitely the direction all SLR design is headed. Why? Because it makes sense. No one says you have to be technician to be a great photographer. It combines the ease of operation of box cameras with sophistication of the most highly-regarded SLR's, with a complete line of fine lenses for all the flexibility you'll ever need.

The AE-1 is made precisely for creativity. When you're really involved with your subject, most photographers agree that the less a camera demands from them, the better - because they can concentrate on the content, composition and action. It's the nearest thing to not using a camera at all.

What's the difference between the AE-1 and the other Canon SLR's?

All Canon SLR's share the same lenses and accessories. And, they share the same excellent quality that has made Canon famous . Because of its unique new technology, the AE-1 has some operational features not found on other Canon SLR's - and lacks some features, too. The best Canon is the Canon that's best for you and fits your shooting habits.

Why is the Power Winder A so small?

Unlike conventional motorized winders, the signalling circuitry for the Power Winder A is not in the winder, but in the camera body of the AE-1 itself. The Power Winder A is therefore a very simple - and inexpensive - piece of equipment. It contains a motor, gears and power supply.

Are Canon Dedicated Speedlites really superior to other auto flash units on the market?

Yes, indeed. Canon Dedicated Speedlites were specially-designed for use with Canon "A" Series cameras, like the AE-1. To get perfect flash exposures, attach a unit like the 177A to the camera, turn it on, focus and shoot. That's it! Shutter speed and lens aperture are both automatically set for proper exposures when Canon Speedlites are used. Should the AE-1 's shutter be released before the Speedlite is ready to fire, the camera will be switched back to standard AE operation automatically. It's almost impossible to get a bad picture when a Canon Speedlite is used!

What are the differences between the conventional mechanical shutter and the AE-1 's electronic shutter?

In a conventional mechanical shutter, shutter speed is regulated through the mechanical operation of gears, cams and springs that control the duration of exposure before the second shutter curtain closes. However, with the AE-1's electronic shutter, the duration of exposure is controlled by an electronic circuit. With an electrical signal transmitted from the mirror mechanism, the first curtain is released from its starting position and travels across while the second curtain is still retained by an electromagnet. After the preset time, the second curtain closes upon receiving the signal from the second curtain electromagnetic release.

What makes the AE-1 's viewfinder so bright?

Two things. First, it is a newly-designed screen, specially molded from acrylic. It combines the best of both worlds - brightness and focusing accuracy. If a screen is too bright, it offers focusing problems. Second, the AE-1 uses an exceptionally large mirror. There is no mirror cutoff in the finder, even with lenses as long as the FD 400mm f/4.5 S.S.C. With longer lenses, or at apertures smaller than f/5.6 (with lenses from 300mm up) there is only slight cutoff - quite an accomplishment in a camera this compact.

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Copyright © 2012-2022 Evgenii Artemov. All rights reserved. Translation and/or reproduction of website materials in any form, including the Internet, is prohibited without the express written permission of the website owner.

35mm full frame

43.27 24 36
  • Dimensions: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm
  • Area: 864mm2

Travellers' choice


Among autofocus lenses designed for 35mm full-frame mirrorless cameras only. Speed of standard and telephoto lenses is taken into account.

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Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.


Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),


CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.


A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance can also be different.

The flange focal distance (FFD) is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.


The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Electronic manual focus override is performed in the following way: half-press the shutter button, wait until the camera has finished the autofocusing and then focus manually without releasing the shutter button using the focusing ring.

Electromagnetic diaphragm control system

Provides highly accurate diaphragm control and stable auto exposure performance during continuous shooting.

Manual diaphragm

The diaphragm must be stopped down manually by rotating the detent aperture ring.

Preset diaphragm

The lens has two rings, one is for pre-setting, while the other is for normal diaphragm adjustment. The first ring must be set at the desired aperture, the second ring then should be fully opened for focusing, and turned back for stop down to the pre-set value.

Semi-automatic diaphragm

The lens features spring mechanism in the diaphragm, triggered by the shutter release, which stops down the diaphragm to the pre-set value. The spring needs to be reset manually after each exposure to re-open diaphragm to its maximum value.

Automatic diaphragm

The camera automatically closes the diaphragm down during the shutter operation. On completion of the exposure, the diaphragm re-opens to its maximum value.

Fixed diaphragm

The aperture setting is fixed at F/ on this lens, and cannot be adjusted.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.


Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front and/or rear lens elements over multi-coatings.


Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.


Teleconverters increase the effective focal length of lenses. They also usually maintain the closest focusing distance of lenses, thus increasing the magnification significantly. A lens combined with a teleconverter is normally smaller, lighter and cheaper than a "direct" telephoto lens of the same focal length and speed.

Teleconverters are a convenient way of enhancing telephoto capability, but it comes at a cost − reduced maximum aperture. Also, since teleconverters magnify every detail in the image, they logically also magnify residual aberrations of the lens.

Lens caps

Scratched lens surfaces can spoil the definition and contrast of even the finest lenses. Lens covers are the best and most inexpensive protection available against dust, moisture and abrasion. Safeguard lens elements - both front and rear - whenever the lens is not in use.