Hands-on with the Canon A-1


The Canon A-1 was one of my more anticipated purchases for a long time, and I found myself constantly asking poor Milo (shoutout for the good guys at Sapu Film!) when the camera would arrive from his suppliers in Japan.
We had just gotten the Oly mju ii a couple of months ago and while it was a great little trooper, I still found myself longing for the control that I had with the EOS 3 - I am a bit of a control freak. It was between the Canon AE-1 Program which was slightly cheaper (and only had program mode but not Av or Tv), and the Canon A-1. After some thought, I finally decided on the Canon A-1 based on two factors: (a) availability of aperture-priority mode, which is what I primarily shoot with, and (b) size.
 


Whilst the Canon A-1 is not the lightest camera in the world, I love how compact yet solid it felt in my hands. I liken it to a mini tank. Wilson is still having some trouble getting used to the tiny handgrip (he has big hands) but I'm quite comfortable with it, thanks to years of shooting with a Micro 4/3. And not to mention the fact that it looks absolutely gorgeous. The retro 1970s build and styling can hardly be found in today's generic-looking digital cameras - only if you include Nikon's Df and Fujifilm's X series. 
 

To get the shot on the right, I walked smack in-between a couple who were talking and they immediately fell silent and eyed me warily. Oh, the things I do for photography! I'm starting to develop such a thick skin lol.  

To get the shot on the right, I walked smack in-between a couple who were talking and they immediately fell silent and eyed me warily. Oh, the things I do for photography! I'm starting to develop such a thick skin lol.
 


The Canon A-1 is a manual wind camera which may not be a surprise to photographers who shoot a lot of film, but for me it was a whole new experience. You have to load the camera with film and manually wind it in, and wind it after every shot. After you've shot one roll, you press the release button and roll it in like a fishing reel. I think we've definitely been too spoilt by digital photography. Even with the EOS 3, I constantly spoke about how film would help us to slow down but in actual fact, the EOS 3 isn't that much different from a DSLR - it was just a difference of medium as all its controls and the handling remained the same.
These SLRs on the other hand, really force you to slow down thanks to manual focus and manual winding. 

Whilst I had originally balked at the thought of manual focusing, my doubts were unfounded as the clear and bright 100% coverage viewfinder had a textured central focus point that became very clear once you got your focus right. It's hard to explain with words but if you ever try it you would know what I'm talking about. 
Word of caution - there is no light meter in the viewfinder so if you're shooting fully manual it would be like shooting blind. 
 


I went back to my favourite place ever - Pulp - for coffee and a test roll. I absolutely love the light at Pulp; every time I go there I come away feeling really pleased. I shot and wound, shot and wound, and loved every minute of the experience. Before I left, one of the baristas said "that's a nice camera that you have!" and I loved how the A-1 could create conversations as well as beautiful photos. I absolutely can't wait to take even more photos with this mini tank of mine!

All photos shot with Canon A-1 on Fuji C200