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Hey! Jon here with Prime Studios and in
this video I’m going to show you guys how to use the Canon AE-1 35mm film camera which is one of the most commonly used film cameras by
students today. Alright, starting off I’m going to go ahead and put in the battery.
This camera uses what’s called a V 28px battery. It’s a small 6 volt and in my
opinion I think Varta is a great brand to get batteries from. So the actual
battery compartment for this camera is actually on the front right here. There’s
a little latch that you can push with your finger to open up the door and
you’ll see the positive and negative terminals on the inside. Then take your
battery positive side up and you just go ahead and insert it in there. Now if you
have any kind of corrosion in there you’re going to need to clean that off
before you put in any battery. The camera itself won’t work without a battery. The
shutter won’t click and the winding knob will not move forward so you definitely
need a battery in order for this camera to function. In order to test the battery
there’s a button on the top of the camera right here. When you push this
button down you’re going to see the light meter inside the viewfinder
move. Now as long as the viewfinder is sitting at f4 that’s good for a new
battery. If it goes closer to 5.6 then that means
your battery is dying. Now in a lot of cameras you’ll have something that looks
like this on the bottom and often times on film cameras this is where the
battery for the light meter goes; a little button battery. But on the AE-1
this is not a battery compartment. This is actually a compartment that covers a
winding knob that’s meant for use when you attach a motor onto the bottom of
the camera in order to motorize the winding of the film. Now for those of you
don’t know how to load film yet you can go ahead and check out my how to load
film video and then you can jump back to here and as we keep going. Now after
you’ve loaded your film you can go ahead and put part of the film box right here
in the back to remind you of what film you’re using. All you have to do you just
take your film box here and you can just rip off the front, and you just go ahead and slide it into there so
it can act as a reminder: oh yeah I’m shooting llford Delta 400 film. So that way
if you put your camera down for a month or two and then pick it back up you can
see exactly what film is in there whether it’s black and white or color and what
ISO it is. So now that we know we’re using 400 ISO film we’re going to need
to go ahead and tell the camera that. So the ISO is adjusted by this outside
silver knob here and the indicator for ISO is this little green numbers right
here. The way you adjust it you can move the advanced lever out of the way here
and you actually pull up on this silver knob and you can turn it. Now as I turn
the knob you’ll see that the green numbers are changing and you want to go
ahead and we’re going to put that on 400. Now in the camera it says ASA which
stands for American Standards Association but that has been replaced
by the more modern ISO and it means the exact same thing. Now for those of you
who don’t know the basics of aperture and shutter speed you can go ahead and
check out my video how SLRs work to see all the basics of that. So the shutter
speed for this camera is this black knob here and in order to change the shutter
speed you’re going to go ahead and just rotate the knob and the AE-1 has shutter
speeds from 1/1000 second all the way down to 1 second and then 2 full seconds and
it also has B which stands for Bulb mode. On the Bulb mode the shutter door will
stay open so long as the shutter button is being depressed. And that’s for really
long exposures like 5 minute, 10 minute, hour long exposures. Now on the Canon AE-1 in order to adjust aperture it uses lenses that have an aperture ring which
is this adjustment right here which I can move back and forth like this. So
this particular lens goes from f/1.8 all the way down to f/22 and it also has a
green marking, a green “A”, and other lenses will have maybe a green O or green zero.
Now that means an automatic setting where as you adjust the shutter speed
the camera’s going to choose the aperture for you instead of you doing it
manually. So this is manual aperture where you directly choose it on the lens
or you can let the camera choose it by switch…by depressing this button here
and switching over to “A” just like that. The next thing I’m going to
show you how to use the light meter but in order to activate the light meter
there’s two different ways you can do that. First is the auto exposure button
which is this black button right here and as you hold it down that’s going to
turn on the light meter which you’re going to see inside the viewfinder itself. You
can also do this by holding down the shutter button halfway just like this.
Now I feel that this is a little more risky way to do it because it’s very
easy to accidentally take a picture. Now in the Canon AE-1 the light meter is a
little bit different than most cameras. On the AE-1 the easiest way to use the
light meter is to have the aperture ring set at “A” and then you’re going to be
adjusting the shutter speed using this knob here. As you adjust the shutter
speed in this mode the light meter is going to be telling you what aperture
it’s deciding to use on the lens. Now if you’re adjusting the shutter speed and
the needle goes into the red area, that means that the picture is going to be
overexposed and way too bright. If you see a red light appear at the bottom and
start blinking that is the under exposure warning light and is telling
you that the film isn’t going to get enough light and it’s going to be
underexposed. Now another way to use the light meter is to take the aperture ring
and take it off the “A” mode. Now in this mode when you use the light meter, and
hold the auto exposure button down, it’s going to tell you as you adjust the
shutter speed what aperture you should use but it’s not going to do it for you
like it will in the “A” mode. In this mode you’ll have to adjust the aperture ring
to whatever the light meter is telling you. This is also an easy way for you to
over-exposure or under-expose on purpose by seeing what the light meter says and
then going one stop or two stops above or below what it says to do. Focusing on
the AE-1 is quite easy. So it’s all manual focus and you’re going to be
adjusting the lens using its focus ring. As you adjust the focus ring you’re
going to see a part of the viewfinder right in the middle that has a split
image and in order to know if something’s in focus or not you put that
over the object and then adjust it until everything lines up. Another button on
the AE-1 is the depth of field preview button which is right here.
Now what this button does is when you push it in,
now you can take a little bit to lock it down, it will close down the aperture on
the lens to what it will do when it actually takes the photograph. This will
give you a preview of what the depth of field or basically the range of focus is
going to be. Now in order to use this button you need to remember that you
need to have the film wound and the shutter cocked in order for it to work. So right
now I have it on f/8 and if I push it down you can actually see the aperture
close down. And if I put it in place it’ll stay locked like that. To release it
I just push down this little silver thing here and it’ll pop back. Now doing
this will also lower the amount of light coming into the viewfinder and it can
make it quite difficult to see. My personal opinion is that the depth of
field preview is fairly useless, and really you should just be pre-visualizing the photo in your head anyway and using the markings on the
lens as a reference for what your depth of field is. So to further explain
depth of field you can look at these markings on your lens here. Now when you
turn your focusing ring you can see that it has green numbers and white numbers.
The green numbers are in feet and the white numbers are in meters. This little
sideways 8 symbol is an infinity symbol, meaning you’re focused all the way to
infinity. Now you’ll also see the aperture ring here but between the
focusing ring and the aperture ring is this guide and this is actually aperture
numbers that it’s talking about here. So for example, if I focus my focusing
ring here and I shoot at f/ let’s say 11 right, and I look at my guide here
there’s an 11 here and there’s 11 on the other side. Now what that’s telling me is
that if I shoot at f/11 with this focus ring in this position, then everything
between about 8 feet from the camera and 30 feet from the camera is going to be
in focus, but anything closer than 8 feet or further away than 30 feet is going to
be out of focus. Now this small silver button above the auto exposure button is
what’s called the backlight control switch. Now this button is kind of
interesting. It’s basically used when you are on the automatic mode here and
you’ve chosen a shutter speed but let’s say you’re shooting a scene
that has a really bright spot in it like you’re in a dark room with a single
small bright window, but you want to get the exposure right for the room. Now the
camera light meter will try to read just an average of the entire frame. But by
holding down this button when you take the photo it’s going to automatically
overexpose by about one and a half stops. Basically purposefully overexposing the
photograph in order to get the detail in dark areas. Now I think that’s kind of
silly and a strange way to do it. I feel it’s a lot easier just to use a light
meter to figure out what your settings should be like let’s say it’s telling me
at this shutter speed that I need f/5.6 to get the right exposure. But
let’s say I need to overexpose a little bit because of that bright area. Well
then I’m just going to go ahead and do f/4 or maybe f/2.8 to go
ahead and let more light into the camera and without having to use this button
that frankly I think is kind of weird. So on the top of the camera here you’re
going to go ahead and find the shutter button. Now the shutter button, it seems
obvious, is what you’re going to use to take the photo. Now remember a halfway
depression of the button will activate the light meter inside the viewfinder
and as well as the auto exposure black button right here those both do that
same thing. Now the shutter button has a couple functions: pushing it all the way
down takes the photo, but there’s a couple other things that you can do. This
lever on the side here, if you pull it down like this that’s the lock position
for the shutter. So let’s say you’ve cocked your shutter but you want to
throw it in your bag but you don’t want it to accidentally take a picture. You go
ahead and set that lock button now it won’t take a picture. Now if you flip the
lever the other way that’s actually a self timer which is pretty cool and you
get this little red light indicator so if I want to take a picture now and I
push down the button, this red light starts blinking and it gives me about
ten seconds to get in front of the camera or set up whatever the shot is,
and then after those ten seconds it’ll take the photo. Now if you look at the
top of the shutter button here you’re going to see a little screw recession
there and what that’s for is for a remote cable just like this one where
you push it down and I’ll stick out a little rod there and you actually just
screw that into the camera itself and then you can activate the shutter
remotely. Now this lever right here is what’s called the winder lever and
that’s how you actually advance the film. So after you’ve taken a picture you can
go ahead and pull this and it will pull the film this way. Now as you pull this I
don’t have any film in here right now but if I did this should be turning
indicating that the film is being pulled out of the canister and across the back
of the camera. Now this lever when you’re shooting should be set right here at
this angle so that’s easier for you to take a picture, wind, take a picture, wind, and every time you wind the counter here is going to go forward and show you which picture you’re
on. Right now it says 11, now I’m on 12,13. Now in order to change the lens on the camera it
actually kind of depends on which lens you’re using. On Canon lenses you’re
going to find a button right here on the ring that attaches the lens to the
camera. So what you do is you push that release button and you’re going to turn
the whole lens and it’s going to pop right off. Now there’s a marking here, a red
dot and on the camera there’s a red dot. When you want to put it back on you line
up those red dots and without pushing any buttons you just turn it until
clicks and it’s on. Now other lenses like this Vivitar lens here are going to
attach a little differently. They still have the same mount which is called the
FD mount and it’s completely different from what Canon uses today. But you’ll
see the red dot here. You go ahead and line those up and instead of having a
button as you’re depressing the camera you’re simply going to turn this ring
until it’s nice and firm and that’s it the lens is on the camera and then when
you want to take it off you just turn the ring back the other way
and it’ll come off. Now the last outside part of the camera to talk about is this
little port right here which has a cover. Take that off you’ll, see the what’s
called the PC sync port. This is an older style way of syncing flashes and it’s
basically you plug in a cord here that then runs over to an off-camera flash so
that the flash will go off at the same time that the shutter does. Now when
you’re all done shooting your roll of fill in order to rewind it the release
button for rewinding the film is down here. So you’re going to go ahead and
push that down, that’s going to unlock the film so that you can flip this open
and you can wind the film back into the case. Now once you know that the film has
gone all the way back in the case you can open up the back of the camera by
pulling up, and it’ll open up back, and then close it just like that.
And that’s how you use the Canon AE-1 film camera.

100 thoughts on “How to Use a Canon AE-1 35mm Film Camera

  1. Thanks. I'm still an amateur when it comes to film photography. I've mostly just been collecting cameras, but I'd really like to get into photography more. I just picked up an AE-1, with extra lenses, at a local thrift store. Good to see what everything does. I have quite a few other cameras, but I'm planning on using this one as my primary film camera.

  2. I wish you had added cards to link to all the videos you mention to check out, that way it wouldn’t be such a drag to look for them but other than that great video

  3. You are a gentleman and a scholar! I just replaced the battery in my AE-1 and knew the basics of film photography it but not the other details like the aperture settings and the green A and the DOF preview. I thought that had to be pushed in to take the picture at the chosen f stop. Didn't know it was like digital cameras where the blades close when the shutter is fired. I was always wondering why the needle changed when I moved it up to the suggested f stop. Now I know. Thanks again. The information was straight forward and your delivery was easy to follow and understand. So many people just talk and talk but don't actually say anything so thank you.

  4. No joke I have one with two lenses, a flash and an adapter lense, and a carrying case for all of the stuff. Message me if you want to buy it, I could go for 150 dollars

  5. Holy crap, I think I have been using my camera all wrong… I've been taking pictures with the needle in the middle of the meter (where it says 5.6) because I thought that the middle meant perfect exposure. Feel like a dumb-ass.

  6. i see a few slr film bodies on ebay in my country.however they dont come with any i needed to know if we can use new nikon lenses on these old slr cameras.

  7. Hi!
    I sent my canon to fix the shutter button that stoped working, however I think something strange is happening with the light meter. I would like to know if it is normal with ASA 400, shutter speed 125 the light meter points well, but when I switch to shutter speed of 60 it says that it is under exposed. Since 60 is receiving more light than 125 this shouldn't happen right? Should I worry or there is something that I don't know and this is actually working the way it should?

    (btw english is not my native language so it may be a little off)

  8. I'm new at film photography and I don't know if i should go with point and shoot or slr camera. What do you think should i go to first?

  9. If I am shooting in manual. How do I read the light meter to know I am properly exposed?
    The meter is quite different to my dslr that I am used to. Seeing as im a beginner can you further explain differences?

  10. I started to collect cameras. Your tips are interesting. If someone lacks the instruction manual, then this movie is a 'rescue' board. Thank you for your movie.

  11. Pentax->to Nikon DSLR now-> added Nikon F100 DLR 5 AF pionts! Uses 4 AA batteries. Even matrix metering. But am curious about the Canon side. I like having a high end SLR that is fully compatible with all my Nikon lenses and I don't have any of the few Nikon electronic aperture E lenses. ANYWAY, for most new users, I don't think a manual FD mount system is a good choice. A comparsion of the Canaon late model FD systems and the EOS sytems might be good. I am not in the market, just adding my voice. Nikon D7500. Nikon D750, Nikon F100 SLR , SONY a6000 and Rich GRii user.

  12. Can anybody tell me where I could buy a lens for this camera. I bought this extra camera at a thrift store, but it didn’t have the lens . Much appreciated in advance 😌

  13. Thanks so much! I’ve taking up photography a few years ago and someone gave me this camera and it seems like a different world than digital. I was messing with the buttons with you and it makes much more sense now!

  14. Do you have a video on how to clean a camera like this? I want to switch out lenses but the inside seems to be rather dusty. Not sure how to clean this and if the dust will affect my photos.

  15. I have a camera but the Winder Is not going all the way back is that because it needs a new battery or something broken

  16. I'm so hungover and I just bought one of these cameras. My head hurts to much to process all this info.. I had no idea film photography had so much to it! I'll have to return to this video when my head is a little clearer. Very good source of info.

  17. Thank you so much! I watched this video and the two you mentioned as well and your explanations were very easy to understand. I never understood aperture or shutter speed but now I can apply it to my dslr as well. I've been interested in film for a while since I adore the vintage look, so I just ordered this camera on Amazon a little while ago. I can't wait to test out what I've learned so far! Can you possibly explain how ISO in films work? I know that in dslr the higher the ISO the brighter the photo, but I never knew that in film cameras the ISO is in the film itself depending on which one you buy. Like I saw the Kodak portra 160 and the 400. Does the numbers also affect the light in photos?

  18. Getting back in the film for the first time in 35 years and this tutorial and how to use the camera help me out now and you should do a little bit more of this because people like me would love to see more and just keep on doing what you're doing

  19. I bought this camera from a charity shop for £5 !!! in pristine condition. I own a few SLR 's I love the technology and the weighty feel of it. Are they well made or what ???. Then I was really lucky enough to buy on Ebay the matching automatic\\\\\\/manual flash gun for £6 !!!. There is nothing quite like fiddling with these cameras and doing the maths….James W H

  20. Thank you for this. It's been more than 30 years since I used one of these and am now using on for a class. I needed this.

  21. Great Camera Indeed. Had a lot of fun and that FD focus is smoooooth, the best, I'm selling mine

  22. some canon lenses (or at least one, a 20mm) attach as the vivitar does (12:07) – no buttons, no click. and the mechanisms on the mount end of the lens must be in a specific position or the lens will not snug up on the top, so won't attach.

  23. I bought my canon AE-1 a few years ago, but am just getting into learning about it. I don't seem to have a light meter in my viewfinder. Is there something I'm missing or is it just something I'll have to gauge?

  24. Hi everyone! I have a question, my AE1 light meter rest in the under-exposed area even if i adjust the shutter speed.. i've tryed both manual and automatic way but it say's always that my photo will be under-exposed, so what's the problem with that? Maybe the light meter doesn't work well or its broken? Sorry for my english.. please help me!

  25. thanks! i found this camera in my basement and i love photography and art so i just had to figure out how to work it

  26. Question: I have a 28mm lens. When set to "infinity" the image finder is blurry. Isnt everything supposed to be sharp or in focus when set to infinity? Any help with that is greatly appreciated as this is driving me crazy..

    thank you

  27. My lever isnt going all the way, granted, i have no battery or film in the thing, just bought it, but uh, is this an issue or does it require power?

  28. Is the light meter still in the middle like the K1000 for proper exposure indication? BTW – I thank you for making videos that are clear in both content and quality.

  29. My first A series camera. I now have the AE-1, AE-1 Program, AV-1 and the gorgeous A-1. Shame that the "squeak" plague most of these A series cameras but a quick drop of oil in the mirror mechanism fixes it up nicely.

  30. Thank you for that great video! I am completely new at using film camera. I've got the exact same camera but the needle of my light meter isn't moving to indicate me what aperture I should use. (it is moving to indicate me the battery level though). When I slightly press the shutter and I look into the view finder, I can see that the needle goes straight down to 1.2 and the red dot is blinking. I've tried in different rooms with different lighting and it always does the same. Do you have any idea why ? thank you!

  31. my idiot ass accidentally pressed the lens release button while putting it on the camera. nothing is working i’ve gone on forums from 2007 and no one knows what the hell theyre talking about. please help

  32. Hello. I just got a mint AE-1 Program version and I am very new to learning about the old SLR cameras. I'll try to keep this to the point as possible. I noticed that the light meter will not change with manual aperture adjustments. However with shutter adjustments the meter will flash fast or slow depending if it feels under or over exposed. My question is, if the meter is reading steady for correct exposure, turning the aperture extreme closed and extreme open, , shouldn't the meter flash for under exposure or over exposure? I set the aperture to say…5.6, then adjust the shutter so the meter reads for correct exposure, but then adjust aperture back and fourth and it doesn't effect the meter….I hope this makes sense and thanks for any help or if you see this. Otherwise this is a fun, new hobby I have picked up…loving it.

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