Thursday, September 4, 2014

Camera Review: Canon A-1. Say What?

Canon A-1 with box of Kodak Ektar 100 film

I’ll admit to being somewhat of a packrat. I’ve kept many of the cameras I’ve owned over the years, displaying them on bookshelves as my own personal museum of photography. So one day a couple of weeks ago, I grabbed my old Canon A-1 just to look it over. It’s a camera I remembered fondly, having used it for automobile, event, and product photography. Equipped with a motor drive, it even did some cool motorsports work.

To my surprise, the meter functioned and the shutter clicked.

Wait … how was this possible? I haven’t used this camera in more than 20 years. Even way back in the untechnological non-digital days, some electricity was necessary. Popping open the battery drawer, I found a six-volt Energizer bunny still charged and working. Wow. This had to be an omen.

I love to try different tools and approaches in photography, and today, using film is certainly different. So I bought a fresh new battery (Energizer, of course, hoping it will last another 20 years), and a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 color negative film. I just started shooting the other day, so we’ll complete the review when I finish the roll and get the prints back.

The first habit I had to relearn was manual focusing. No AF on the old Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 lens. The second habit to unlearn was looking at the back of the camera to check the image on the non-existent LCD screen. Both were actually liberating, as was being highly selective when clicking the shutter. Film costs real money.

Compared to today’s professional DSLRs, the A-1 and cameras of that era were smaller, lighter and more tactile. Flipping that mechanical film advance lever is fun. So let’s see where we can take this!