Packed full of features, I think the Canon A1 is one of the best value SLRs you can buy!
It was produced in Japan by Canon between 1978 and 1985 and was the first SLR to offer an electronically controlled program mode. What this means is the camera will take a light meter reading and then set the most appropriate aperture and shutter speed for you. Most of the time when I go out to shoot photos just for fun this is the setting that I will use as all I need to worry about is focusing the camera.
However, the Canon A1 is also equipped with aperture priority (Av) which I use for portraits and shutter speed priority (Tv) which I use if I am photographing quick moving subjects such as pets or at sports events. This makes the camera super versatile and one of the reasons why I think its better that the incredibly popular Canon AE-1 which only has a shutter speed priority setting.
Aperture priority (right) and Shutter priority (left)
Read more about exposure settings and what they mean here.
The Canon A1 can be fitted with any FD mount lens, you can pick up off brand lenses (Vivitar, Sirius, etc.) for a fairly cheap price. Alternatively, you can stick with the original Canon lenses. I chose to use a mixture of 3 lenses, a f/2.8 35mm lens that I used for landscape photography, a f/1.4 50mm lens which I used for everyday shooting (but is especially good for portraits) and finally a 70-210mm macro zoom lens that I used for sports events and macro photography.
Portraits taken on a Canon A1 using a f/1.4 50mm lens and Kodak Portra 160
One feature which a lot of other SLRs don’t seem to have is a slow shutter speed capability. The Canon A1 however, has programmed shutter speeds that drop down to 2, 4, 8, 15 and 30 seconds! This makes low light and night time photography just that little bit easier.
Taken at night on a Canon A1 using Kodak Portra 800
So why is this my favourite Canon SLR? Well besides everything that I have already mentioned, this camera is gorgeous and feelings incredibly well built. It’s a camera that I can take with me anywhere as it is incredibly versatile and reliable.