Featured Camera: The Canon AE-1 Program

An incredibly popular camera with people new to film and photographers, the Canon AE-1 Program remains one of the best 35mm film cameras. And it holds a special place in my heart, too.

Person holding Canon AE-1 Program
Photo by Ekrulila​​

What is the Canon AE-1 Program?

The Canon AE-1 Program is a mid-range 35mm SLR camera. It was the successor to the Canon AE-1 and was introduced in 1981. 

Whilst the Canon AE-1 only had manual shutter speed settings, the Canon AE-1 Program has automatic shutter speed settings, as well as manual ones. 

Nowadays, the Canon AE-1 Program is still going strong, and is the first choice for a lot of people new to film photography or looking for their first SLR camera.

What features does the Canon AE-1 Program have?

The Canon AE-1 Program was the successor to the Canon AE-1 and had added automatic shutter speed modes, however it also has great other features. 

The Canon AE-1 Program has: 

  • automatic shutter speed settings
  • manual shutter speed settings
  • manual and automatic aperture settings (set on the lens)
  • self-timer
  • a clear, easy to read built-in light meter
  • well-built, sturdy body 
Canon AE-1 Program top of the camera

Which lenses can you use on the Canon AE-1 Program?

The Canon AE-1 Program has a FD mount, which means it can use any Canon FD mount lens. If you are using a FD mount lens and the lens has an automatic aperture setting, you can use this on the camera, and the camera will decide your aperture automatically. This means you could use the camera entirely automatically, with automatic shutter speeds and automatic aperture. 

You can also use FL mount lenses, but the camera won't take into account your aperture when deciding on a shutter speed, or when you are using the built-in light meter.

There are lots of great Canon FD lenses, and they don't have to be Canon branded either, which means you can get cheap lenses for the camera.

Which battery does the Canon AE-1 Program use?

The Canon AE-1 Program uses a 4LR44 battery, also known as a A544 battery. These are readily available online and in some stores.

Using the Canon AE-1 Program

I have a lot of experience using this camera. It was my first 35mm SLR film camera, and I used it for around five years before upgrading to the Canon F-1. 

The main reason I chose the Canon AE-1 Program when I started film photography was for the automatic and manual settings. It makes using the camera so easy. 

When you need to take a photography quickly, you can set the camera to fully automatic.

View of boat through two roofs

When you want to set your aperture manually for a desired effect, you can quickly change the setting on the lens, and the camera will do the work for you by choosing the shutter speed.

It also works the other way, so you could set your shutter speed to manual, and your aperture to automatic. This makes it easy to control how your final image will appear, whilst also making it quick and easy to take a photograph. 

View of Dean Village in Edinburgh
View of boat on a canal in Amsterdam

What accessories can you get for the Canon AE-1 Program?

There are lots of great accessories to get for the Canon AE-1 Program. You can add things to the camera to make it even easier to use, and to make your film shooting experience super easy. Here are a few of the accessories we recommend:

Our final thoughts

The Canon AE-1 Program remains a great choice for beginners, and we highly recommend it to anyone who is new to film photography, or is looking for their first SLR camera. 

It is so versatile with its modes, but also very easy to use. It does not take long to learn how to use the camera at all. It is not an overwhelming camera.

Even though it is so simple, you can use the camera for a long time and won't outgrow it for many years. Some people never upgrade from the Canon AE-1 Program!

If you found this article helpful, please consider buying me a cup of coffee so that I can keep creating content for photographers like yourself.

Max, owner of Cameras By Max

Article written by: Max

Max is the owner of Cameras By Max. They work full-time repairing and refurbishing all the 35mm film cameras you see on the website. Their favourite camera (at the moment) is the Olympus XA, and their favourite city in the world is Edinburgh.


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