ANALOGUE: Canon AE-1 Program

MONDAY MAY 14, 2018


Full-frame goodness

Conversation starter

Tightly screwed together


Plasticky joint parts

Prone to scratch


35mm, film

FD mount

575 grams

From RM 300

Canon’s AE-1 was born in a time where cassette was the norm and the AE-1 Program later in time when compact disc was in its introductory phase. A sophisticated processor led the company to world domination making an unprecedented sales success. From automatic shutter speed to automated aperture with only focus to nail, the AE-1 P cannot any more foolproof in the 80s.


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Being in black, the panels are glittered with enamel while silver’s in chrome, both to deliver a feel of solidity. This one has been paired to a 50 millimetre as the focal length forces photographers to move their feet for composition instead of resorting to zoom. That apart, an f/1.4 was favoured over a 1.8 for its superior aperture but this comes with drawbacks namely, additional weight and narrowest is at f/16.


Moving on, the Program also feature modern camera conveniences like self timer, split screen focus and suggestion of aperture, the latter two delivers an even wider safety net.

If something has to be pointed to be at fault, it’d be having to remember to wind after every shot taken. Then again, the process is an enjoyable one, like shifting a stick transmission. Thanks to film’s wider dynamic range, it is often where more time is spent on one photograph before flipping for the next.

This Canon manages to strike a good balance between automation and analogue making it something worthy of consideration for anyone who would like to have a taste of film photography. What’s more the AE-1 P consumes so little battery where it basically feeds off solar energy.

When it comes to choice of film, an Agfa 400 is a good place to kick things off for its competitive price and colour delivery. They still could be found at reasonable prices despite the Vista line has ceased production so it is wise to bag some before they’re all gone. If black and white is what you’re after, Ilford HP5 or Fomepan 100 could be your cup of tea. As for Kodak’s Portra 400, it is just one of the best by being sharp and true to life. There is no one definitely film to go to as more fun will be had than regrets in each and every one of them.

At under a thousand ringgit for a state of the art example, you won’t lose much (if at all) say the experience doesn’t turn out be how one imagined. It is a conversational piece, teaches patience and a fragment of history deserving of a place in the cabinet even if it serves the sole purpose of an ornament. The AE-1 was a camera for everyone thirty years ago and today, the film camera for anyone.

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