If you’ve read any of my previous contributions to this website, you may recall that I started my photographic journey with a pair of Praktica’s. My first was a Praktica MTL3 and then a Praktica LLC. As much as I loved those camera’s I was searching for something smaller and inconspicuous shooting for people on the streets of Sydney, so I purchased an Olympus OM10 which I have reviewed on 35mmc before here.
Well we all know what GAS is like, and after acquiring my Olympus and loving it, I wanted to find a Canon camera. I didn’t know which one but I felt like a Canon camera was right for me. Good old Mr Google showed me some examples, one of which was a Canon AE1 looking sexy in black. 8 or so years ago the amount of Canon AE1’s on eBay was plentiful, but out of my price range. They were around $200 even back then. So I had to hold off on that purchase.
Roughly 6 months later a gentlemen from the church I was attending mentioned that he had an old film camera he brought over from South Africa when he moved to Australia, and I was welcome to buy it off him for a cheap price. I’m sure everyone in the camera community knows what “for a cheap price” means. No, not that… It means hardly any discount! I agree’d to visit him at his house and have a look anyway. To my surprise it was a black paint Canon AE1, Canon FD 50mm f2.0 and a Canon FD 80-300mm plus the leather case and a tripod. The best part? He wanted $80. Sold.
Fast forward to 2018 and I’d been enjoying using my AE1 when a good friend of mine messaged me saying that had he stumbled across some old cameras at his work, and did I want them. The first thing he showed me was a Pentax Auto 110 in the full retail box, lenses and all in immaculate condition. He wanted to give it away for free, but I told him that he could get a couple hundred for it if he sold it, so I let him have that one. A few weeks later he messages me again. He had found a Canon AT1 with a Sears 28mm f2.8 lens, and he was sending it to me. I had never seen the AT1! I knew of the A1, AV1, AE1 and the AE1 Program but never the AT1. So patiently I waited for the post man…
The Canon AT1 is like the unpopular sibling in a gifted family. All the Canon A brothers are talked about online all the time, and hyped up about their abilities and how fantastic they are, but not the poor old AT1. But it’s a damn good camera, and I even went so far to sell my beloved black AE1 and the 28mm lens because I just don’t need it! (I could have used the 28mm but it sweetened the sale). I loved my AE1 a lot but moaned about the fact that it wasn’t manual.
If you’re not familiar with the A series of cameras from Canon they can be described as follows. Obviously there is more to the differing models, but this is a quick guide:
A1 = Fully manual and auto features
AE1 = Shutter Priority
AE1 Program – Shutter Priority and you guessed it, program mode
AV1 = Aperture Priority
AT1 = Fully manual
So suffice to say, I was smitten with this new camera. The on/off switch as well as the shutter lock found on the other models is a godsend. The shutter sound is also very satisfying. There’s a story floating around on the internet that Apple recorded the sound of a Canon AE1 firing and altered it slightly for the iPhone camera sound, but I can’t tell you if that’s true or not. The viewfinder is no frills with a simple dual needle meter and that’s all. The one thing I can probably fault the AT1 on…? It’s the silver variant and not the black one!
I generally shoot rangefinders these days, but I’m on a bit of an SLR kick at the moment so I shot a roll of HP5 in the Canon around town. Although it’s louder, the image results are just superb from the 50mm lens.
The below images I developed these at home in Ilfosol 3 and scanned them on an Epson scanner.
These images were developed at Hillvale Photo in Melbourne, in whatever they use and scanned on whatever they use. I’ve always loved my scans from Hillvale so I’ve never had to question what they use.
If you’re chasing any of the A family from Canon and want to be different, grab an AT1! They have gone up in price, like everything film related, but they’re a lovely camera!