Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Vintage Canon - The AL-1

As you may have noted over the past four months, I have been acquiring and using a number of vintage (and some not vintage) Canon SLRs. Back in February I purchased a Canon AL-1 QF camera. The QF refers to the "Quick Focus" system on the camera. No, not auto-focus, but a green LED indicator to tell the photographer when the subject at the center of the viewfinder is in focus. Not really as gimmicky as it sounds, since that is what modern AF cameras do. Useful? I believe so, especially for someone that wears glasses. The AL-1 appeared in 1981, and is one of the A-series of Canons that take modern batteries and the FD lens mount.

Canon flavor of the day The battery door was loose, so I used gaffer tape to keep it closed.

The AL-1 features:
focus confirmation
Aperture-priority and manual modes
Takes 2 AAA batteries
1/60th sec flash sync
ability to use a power winder

Overall, a fairly compact and basic SLR with standard features that make it a competent amateur-level camera. I found it a delight to use, and while not a Canon A-1, it would make a good backup camera. Also, for street shooting, it's a winner. You want simplicity and A-P exposure is what I like.

A few images:
Somebody's cousin...

early March

Main Street

female spring cankerworm with 50mm macro

With 50mm 1.4 lens --
200 lbs


Line said...

cool they look great!!

Luc said...

I have one too... also with a loose battery door (I used an old off-camera flash grip to hold it, screwed in the tripod mount and sawed to length. Robust but more annoying than your solution though. Sad they designed such a weak door for this model.

My first SLR was an AE-1 and I recently started collecting all of that series. I'm mostly there now, still missing the AE-1 Program so far though. Another one that seems difficult to find with a decent battery door. I like the A-1 but this AL-1 is a nice shooter despite the battery door issue. I also like the simple AT-1 and even the AV-1 often disregarded because it lacks manual mode, Unfortunately in that whole series only the flagship A-1 has a decent exposure compensation dial AFAIK.

Cammy said...

inspiring! . -Lucia (blogger for digital camera review)-

Trevor David Betts BA (Hons.) said...

My very first camera was a Canon AE 1
(non-programme) silver body. Closely followed by a Canon A1. I still use Canon T90s (I have three) and I have just purchased a Canon EOS 50E.

I really like your blog. Good to see someone with an interest in film photography.


street photographer said...

i've long wanted one of these cameras since first seeing one a few years ago in a second hand shop.

whats the difference between this and the A1?

Luc said...

The Canon A series in a nutshell:

AE-1 has manual exposure + shutter priority AE
AV-1 only has aperture priority AE, I think its the only in the range that has no manual settings
AE-1 Program is an AE-1 with an additional Program mode (both shutter and aperture controlled by AE).
This one (AL-1) is kind of an AV-1 but with some manual shutter settings available, and the QF which is a focusing aid (LEDs in the viewfinder to help your manual focus), kind of unique at that time even though common now on AF (D)SLR bodies.
AT-1 is semi-auto (match needle) and thus has all manual settings available but no AE.
Then there's the A-1 who has all modes of the other ones and some. But no QF like the AL-1 has.
Only the AE-1 and A-1 (the most advanced of these bodies) had features like DOF preview, stopped down metering with older FL lenses, multiple exposures (A-1 only). None had the "Pro" features of the F-1 like mirror lock-up, rugged construction, vertical shutter and some. They were very good but consumer level bodies FWIW. They all seem to fail by either the battery door and/or the mirror assembly failures.
I'm still looking for a working AE-1 Program to complete my collection ;-)