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Canon AE-1 Program

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Canon AE-1 Program was a 135 film single-lens reflex camera that used Canon's FD mount lenses. It was introduced in 1981 as the successor to the Canon AE-1, five years after that camera's introduction. The major difference was the addition of the Program AE mode first seen in the A-1. This mode sets both the shutter speed and aperture automatically—albeit with a slight bias towards the shutter speed setting. The user simply had to focus the camera and then press the shutter button. For those desiring more control, the AE-1's shutter priority auto-exposure and full manual modes were still available.

Like the A-1, the AE-1 Program sported a right-hand "Action Grip" on the front of the camera. It also supported the A-1's Motor Drive MA; this required another electrical contact on the baseplate. The AE-1's Power Winder A, and a new, faster Power Winder A2, were also supported. The viewfinder used LEDs to show information to the user.

Also like the A-1, the AE-1 Program supported interchangeable focusing screens. Unlike the A-1, though, which specified that screens only be changed by the factory or experienced service technicians, those on the AE-1 Program could be user changed. The camera came standard with the new split/microprism, but seven others were available. Unfortunately, the AE-1 Program retained the dated A-series electromagnet-controlled cloth-curtain shutter, with its slow top shutter speed and flash sync. This shutter design has also proven to be more maintenance-intensive than modern vertical-travel metal blade designs.

The focusing screen on the AE-1 Program is brighter than any previous focusing screen on any Canon manual focus camera, allowing the user to focus with greater ease with "slow" lenses (up to f/5.6). It is the same focusing screen that was used in the newest model of the top-of-the-line Canon F-1 (known as the F-1N).

The additional electronics used for the program features of the AE-1P have resulted in more electronic gremlins over the years, and the model is considered by some more difficult to repair than earlier and simpler A-series cameras.


Type 35mm focal-plane shutter SLR camera
Picture Size 24 x 36 mm
Normal Lens Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 SSC, FD 50mm f/1.8 SC
Lens Mount FD mount
Shutter Four-axis, horizontal-travel focal-plane shutter with cloth curtains. X, B, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000 sec. All speeds controlled electronically. Built-in self-timer (with blinking LED).
Flash Sync X-sync automatic-switching sync contacts with German socket and hot shoe.
Viewfinder Fixed eye-level pentaprism. 0.86x magnification (EX 50mm), 93.5% vertical coverage, 96% horizontal coverage. Split-image rangefinder encircled by microprism rangefinder at center with a fresnel matte screen. Exposure meter needle, aperture scale, overexposure warning, stopped-down aperture metering needle and battery check indicator, and underexposure warning LED provided.
SPC for TTL full-aperture metering with shutter speed-priority AE or TTL stopped-down match needle manual metering (centerweighted averaging). Exposure compensation range of +1.5 EV. Metering range at ISO 100 and f/1.4: EV 1 - 18. Film speed range from ISO 25 to 3200.
Power Source One 4G-13 6 V mercury oxide battery or 4LR44 alkaline battery
Film Loading &
Slotted take-up spool. Advances with camera-top lever's 120° stroke (partial strokes enabled). Ready position at 30°. Winder A also optional for power winding.
Frame Counter Counts up. Resets automatically when camera back is opened.
Film Rewind Camera-top crank
Dimensions &
141 x 87 x 48 mm, 590 g
Data from Canon Camera Museum