Aside from my Olympus OM-1n I've had since 1979, I hadn't really planed on collecting any more SLR's but I found this Jem at a yard sale for $10. I almost didn't get it because the shutter wouldn't fire and I really didn't want a more modern film SLR camera, but it was in excellent shape, the lens is mint and the body has less than normal wear. I figured if it was broken I could salvage the lens and tinker with the body to see what makes it tick, so I plunked down the $10.

At the time I didn't know it needed a battery for the shutter to work, but it was in the back of my mind, as my wife's Minolta, being an Auto too, requires a battery to fire the shutter. I got it home and found it takes the same battery I'm using as a substitute (for mercury) in my GSN. After finding a manual online, I saw how to change the battery and put one in. The battery compartment was pristine. To my amazement the shutter worked, but with the what I now know is the common "Cannon Squeal". It sounds like there is a motor drive attached when you click the shutter but it does work.

I did get the chance to use a Canon AE-1 one time in high school back in 1978 that belonged to our foreign exchange student. He wanted me to get some pics of him running at the Cross Country meet. I loved how it worked and the results were phenomenal. I wanted one but couldn't afford one. This is the upgraded model that came out in 1981 and has two auto modes and manual.

First is fully auto by putting the speed dial to Program and the aperture ring to A. This gives you full auto mode with pre programmed, human input scenarios for every situation except maybe the dreaded dark subject with snow/sand background. There is a Auto Lock button to help with that or adjust the ASA.

Second is Shutter Priority Auto by selecting the desired shutter speed and leaving the aperture ring on A.

Then the Manual mode is as normal, with a meter reading in the viewfinder of the suggested aperture setting for whatever shutter speed you are on. There is a great write up about this camera on Ken Rockwell's site.


Aside from a good cleaning there is really nothing wrong with this camera. The aforementioned "Canon Squeal" luckily is a minor inconvenience that can be fixed. I need to get a syringe and some light oil, gun, sewing, camera etc... and there are several ways to go about it. I'm NOT taking the top off this camera. so there is a way to get at it from the bottom. Google Canon Squeal and you will find extensive reports about it. I'll let you know how it goes.

Then there is, of course, the light seals. I opted to get a kit from Jon Goodman as there are some foam strips that go in the mirror box as a buffer for the mirror that I can't Jerry rig. This way if I decide to sell it I can do so with confidence and fetch a good price.

here's how to contact Jon: put "light seals" in the subject

MANUAL: Canon AE-1 Program owners manual- Part 1, Part 2

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