Introduction: How to Use a Canon A1/AE-1 35mm Camera

About: I am a photographer in Cumberland and am willing to work for free for anyone who would like a off-scene photographer. I am willing to photograph for anyone in Cumberland, RI
Got an old Canon A1 laying around? Don't know how to use it? Well, if you fall into this category, then you may be able to take professional-looking photos with this rather than your digital point-and-shoot camera. You will be able to learn how to utilize this pro-range camera with just your point-and shoot skills. You will also learn how to diffuse/soften a flash, how to set the correct aperature, shutter and film speeds and also learn a little bit about multiple exposures with the A1. Also, if you are interested in panoramic photos, this Instructable will teach you all about it. I'm Eren S., and I will be your guide.

Step 1: Learn the Basic Parts of the A1

The basic parts that you may need to use are listed in this step.

Step 2: Turn on the Camera and Test the Battery

Switch the A/L knob to A and test the battery. If you cannot see the LED blink rapidly, then you need to get a new battery. Getting film would be good, too. Mind the fact that all film is different. I normally use 400 ISO film for indoor pictures in good lighting conditions and 800 ISO for a sunny day outdoors when there is a lot of action. I would also reccomend to go to Radioshack for the 4LR44 battery. It is only 4.99 USD. They have a great selection of batteries there, so if  your flash takes AA's (if you have one) pick some of those up, too.

Step 3: Insert Film

Remember what I said in the last step? You need film, because this thing is from the 80's. It's not digital, and if film just doesn't fit your budget, then you can stop reading. Also keep in mind that film, when exposed to light, reacts. To open the back, cock the lever halfway and pull up the rewind knob. Put the cassette in the holder. Be careful not to pull out too much film, but don't be afraid to pull out enough. Catch the leader in the film spool and close the back quickly, but not too hard. You're almost ready.

Step 4: Set Shutter, Film Speed, Aperture, and Exposure Compensation, If Needed

The next step isn't so exciting-it's time to do some math. The shutter is how fast the shutter curtain opens and closes to expose the film. The less exposure the film receives results in a darker picture, but a wide aperture can compensate for a fast shutter speed. The shutter speed is measured in fractions, such as 1/1000, or 1/400 and others. Now you know some basics of shutter. The aperture is a diaphram inside the lens that becomes larger or smaller to expose the film more or less. It is measured in f-stops. For More depth of field, a higher f-stop is good, such as f-22. Now you know about aperture. The exposure compensation is for low-light or high-light conditions. It is used in large portions, so be careful. I wouldn't worry about it until later. To set the aperture in shutter priority, simply turn the aperture dial on the lens to your desired aperture. This is called manual override. Or, if you want the camera to set the aperture for you in Shutter priority, then turn the aperture dial to "A". This is just plain shutter priority. Then, turn the AT dial to TV, set the aperture and continue. To go into Aperture priority, simply set the AT dial to AV and turn the ring on the lens to "A", set your aperture on the camera and continue.

Exposure compensation:
To use exposure compensation for low or high light conditions, simply set the exposure compensation dial to the desired amount. (I beleive the Exposure comp. is measured in stops, but I stand to be corrected)

ISO/ Film speed:
The Film speed is simply selected by the film speed dial. It's pretty much self-explanatory.

Step 5: Cock the Film

Cock the camera via the cocking lever.

Step 6: Take Your Picture

First, turn on the veiwfinder display (see step 1) and then very gently half press the shutter to veiw the aperature and shutter, and, if you like the veiw, after zooming and focusing, press the shutter. The camera should click. Advance the film and repeat steps.

Step 7: Good Job!

You just took a picture! Now repeat steps 2-6 Until your film is out and get it developed. (P.S. If you can, get it developed at a minilab)

Step 8: Thank You!

Thank's for veiwing my instructable. See maniacmusicman's account (my main) for tinkering projects.