Welcome to a brand new regular feature here on the Steven Wallace Photo blog: Film Friday! If you’ve been following our work, or hung out with Amanda and me at all, you’ve probably heard me mention film photography, and if not, you should know that I freaking love film! So inspired by that love, I’m going start sharing thoughts and info about some of the equipment we use, the process of shooting on film, personal and creative images we’ve taken on film, and just general nerdiness. If there’s anything you’d like to see me write about or if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email, or comment & message on our Facebook page & Instagram.
Now when I say film, I’m not talking about movies or video (I love those too, but it’s not what I do). I’m talking about physical, tangible, analog, good old fashion silver and magic rolls and sheets of film. There’s a whole lot of topics I could cover about film photography and how it is far from dead, but for now I’ll leave that to the many people out there who have written great articles on the subject. Instead I want to start our Film Friday series with talking about the camera that really started things for me, my Canon AE-1.
The Canon AE-1 is one of the most successful cameras ever made. It was introduced by Canon in 1976 and sold over 1 million units until it was retired in 1984. I bought mine on eBay in the summer of 2003.
It’s a beautifully simple SLR camera that uses 35mm film. It has a built in light meter (mine still works well!) and has manual exposure and a shutter priority automatic mode. It’s manual focus only, but has a large and bright viewfinder that makes focusing very smooth and quick. The camera has a manual film advance lever, and like I said is beautifully simple!
The camera uses the older FD/FL lens mount which Canon moved away from when they started making auto-focus cameras in 1987. These lenses are beautiful and I think some of them still outperform lenses made today. Sadly you can’t use the older lenses on any Canon EOS camera – film or digital – without an adapter, and the adapters (even the ones made by Canon) have never really worked right. On the plus side, you can get some incredible glass for pretty cheap!
I fell in love with photography using this AE-1 and I still get the same kind of excitement using it today as when I was first exploring and learning to shoot. I got my first paying photo job using this camera, and I took this camera with me when I got to spend a week in Red Deer, Alberta with my grandmother before she passed away. It was my first real camera and it will forever be my favorite. I feel something when I pick it up.
This camera and I have been through a lot together. It’s got a broken battery door that I have to tape shut and more scratches and scuffs than I can count, but it’s still going strong. 20, 30 years from now I know I’ll still be able to make great images with it that will stand the test of time. It sums up everything that I love about shooting film.
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