Episode 009: Throw Back Thursday – Canon A-1

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This is the second segment of Throw Back Thursday. I have a feeling this segment may not have the same appeal as some of my others though. If you don’t find this segment interesting, please let me know. If you do, then share some of your Throw Back moments in the comments of this show in my blog or by calling into the podcast using the Anchor app.

The Canon A-1 was the flagship camera of the A-series

Canon A-1

Today I thought I would talk about the first SLR camera I ever owned, a used Canon A-1 which I purchased in my teens from what was then called Fripps Rosebank, the store is known (since 1998) as Kameraz, still located in Rosebank Johannesburg.

Between some savings and selling my birthday present, a desktop PC, (a big deal back then for a kid to own), I got enough money together to purchase a used SLR camera.

I had found out about Fripps (Kameraz) through my Gran who had happened upon the store while living in the area. To me, it was like being in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Cameras that graced the ads in National Geographic, lined the window display.

Richard (who still works in the store on my last visit there) helped me out and sold me a Canon A-1 with auto-winder, 50mm lens, and a teleconverter. It was not in mint condition, but it got me started. It was a rough learning curve given the many electronics and lack of a camera manual for several weeks, I almost gave up on photography after the first two rolls or so of film that came back from the lab.

I changed the camera before the first year was complete I believe, hooked on a notion that a different camera would help me take better pictures. It took many years and a lot of pricey camera changes to accept the truth of what others told me, that it was not the cameras fault.

The A-1’s Place in History

Today I regret selling many of the cameras I have owned, but I likely regret the trading of that Canon A-1 the most now. It took me a long time to realize the place this camera held in history.

Canon revealed the A1 to the world in 1978 and ran till 1985. It launched long before digital and even before Autofocus in a camera.

In fact, the Canon A-1, the top end model of the A-series of cameras, was the first camera to offer a fully electronically controlled, autoexposure mode. Basically the P-mode on just about every D/SLR that followed this camera came trace it roots back to this machine.

It was also the first camera to the best of my knowledge, to have a fully digital exposure readout in the viewfinder. Rather than a needle that you had to get balanced in the center of a kind of scale window, this Canon A-1 had red LED in the style of a calculator display that gave you the camera’s aperture and shutter speed values.

It really was a strong competitor in a world that often seemed extremely Nikon dominated.

I still find myself itching to own one again. Who knows, maybe I will.

(If you liked this edition of ‘Throw Back Thursday’ and have not check out last week’s edition, you can do so here.)

(Learn more about the Canon A-1 on the Canon Camera Museum site. Image of the Canon A-1 take from the same website)