The Canon A-1

Home Up The Canon A-1 Right Place & Time The Right Animal    

Old Faithful

This is my trusty, 20-year old Canon A-1.  This camera has been to the bottom of the ocean in a plastic bag; it has survived caves, backpacking trips, rock-climbing, weddings and streams.  It has fallen and been dropped; I have waded streams all over the country with it in hand.  It keeps on going, and it still takes great pictures.

When I bought it, I was an undergrad and it represented a significant purchase.  Through graduate school, I was able to add a few lenses and a flash to my outfit, but I was never really able to buy all the gadgets for it that I wanted to.  Over the years, I was able to make a lot of good images with it, but to be fair the only really good lens I had for it is the one it is pictured with, a Canon 50mm f1.8 lens.  My macro lens was OK, as were 2 zooms that I bought.  I still think that although all in all I'm taking a higher percentage of good pictures these days, this is due to better lenses (and more experience) rather than to a better camera.

When I bought the camera, it had two features which were revolutionary for the time.  First, it had a digital readout in the viewfinder which showed both the shutter speed and the aperture.  I had grown wary of the then-traditional  match-needle type exposure meters.  They had a tendency to get stuck, particularly if the camera was dropped.  The second new feature was shutter-priority automatic exposure.  Some other cameras in my price range had aperture priority automatic exposure.  The A-1 combined shutter and aperture priority and allowed completely automatic exposure.

I had a number of memorable moments with this camera.  I remember a number of diving trips with it crammed into a flexible housing.  I mounted it near the heating equipment in a church and ran a long cable so that a friend could take remote aerial pictures of my wedding.  I still remember the day I dropped it when a camera strap slipped out of my hand and it fell onto a concrete sidewalk.  The zoom lens took a dent to save the camera.  Perhaps the most magical moment, however, was wading the shallows of a lagoon in Jamaica early one morning.  No one was around except for a Little Blue Heron which paced me as we both explored the turtle grass beds.