Was given a Canon AE-1—what to check for?

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by alvareo, Jan 6, 2017.

  1. alvareo

    alvareo Member

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    Hey,

    So I've been thinking of getting into analog photography the past year or so, but haven't had the money to buy a camera. Lo and behold, today I arrive to my house and my father's girlfriend has for me an AE-1 with a seemingly crappy Sigma 28-70 ƒ/3.5-4.5 lens that her parents haven't used in ages. Should I check or do anything specific before buying a battery and film roll and see if it's working properly?

    Thank you. :smile:
     
  2. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Member

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    Check the battery compartment for corrosion.
     
  3. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    Two issues to check for:
    1. Shutter speed accurate/consistent...all frames equal density if you expose up the series...1/500 f/2, 1/250 f/2.8, 1/125 f/4, 1/60 f/5.6, 1/30/ f8, 1/15 f/11, 1/8 f/6
    2. Lens diaphram not sticking due to oil on aperture blades...this is often visible if you simply stop down all the way and actuate the diaphram via the DOF Preview button.
    In addition it might be good to verify...
    • Self timer triggers shutter
    • Light meter accuracy (compared against a known good meter)
    That is what I would check for fundamental operation. If it has issues with #1 or #2, send it in for a CLA.
    You can live without a self timer, and you can rely upon a handheld meter if the camera's meter is inoperative.
     
  4. OP
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    alvareo

    alvareo Member

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    Nothing of the sort, pretty clean in there.
    Not sure what you mean with the first point, is it that all frames should have equal exposure at each shutter speed/f-stop combination?
    The second one seems okay, diaphragm stays in place and there's no oil at all. I'm probably not gonna use this lens much anyway, though. As for the other two points, I'll check those when I get a battery.
     
  5. Nick Merritt

    Nick Merritt Member

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    As you probably know, this was a groundbreaking camera when it came out, due to its extensive use of electronics. So if they've gone, the only way to fix the camera is to get a parts camera to cannibalize. But in my limited experience, the electronics have held up well, especially if the camera was stored well (and hopefully, without the battery in the chamber!). Takes a PX-28 battery; harder to find now than then but still available in decently stocked pharmacies, and for sure at Radio Shack or a camera store.

    In addition to what the others have said, the zoom may be hazy at this point, or may even have fungus. A shade will help with flare, though a shade that doesn't vignette at 28mm gives pretty limited protection. But as mentioned, sluggish aperture blades are the bigger concern. That is a s-l-o-w aperture range, for sure -- hard to focus indoors or in low light. But it's free anyway!

    If the camera body is good, then look for some FD lenses, which are pretty reasonably priced these days and as you know are top notch. The 50/1.8, 28.2.8 and 200/4 will give you a nice range for not much money.
     
  6. OP
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    alvareo

    alvareo Member

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    Yeah, I noticed this is a fully electronic camera when looking it up (I was familiar with it, and was one of the choices I was considering, but I didn't know it wasn't mechanical). The battery was in the chamber sadly, I'm gonna look where I can find one of them in my country and hopefully it's all still working. Yeah, I intend to get a New FD 50mm ƒ/1.4 which I read is a really good lens. This aperture range is indeed really slow, and I want a fixed focal length anyway.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  7. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    Yes. I just looked up the AE-1 and find it has a electronically controlled, electromagnet horizontal cloth focal plane shutter, so it is less likely to have shutter timing issues as if it were mechanically timed.
     
  8. Larry the sailor

    Larry the sailor Subscriber

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    Mine was bought new in 1981, over the years I've shot hundreds and hundreds of rolls of film through it. I did get a CLA done on it about a year ago, age can catch up with anything. Good FD lenses can be had fairly cheap.
    Good luck with it.
     
  9. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Member

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    Yes. Equivalent exposures should produce equally exposed frames. The best way is to set the camera up on a tripod and make equivalent exposures of the same scene/subject.
    Shutter speeds from slow to fast cut the light reaching the film in half, going from fast to slow they double the light reaching the film.
    Apertures from Maximum (small number) to Minimum (large number) cut the light reaching the film in half for each whole stop, going from minimum to maximum they double the light reaching the film for each whole stop.
    The sequence in post #3 is whole stop equivalents except for the final one which should be f8 not f6.
    Search engine " f stops " or " apertures " for an in depth discussion.
     
  10. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Member

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    Battery leakage = white powder.
     
  11. onre

    onre Subscriber

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    The camera will probably shoot with new battery, but if it makes a squealing noise when shooting, the mirror mechanism lubrication has dried. Either you can keep shooting until it breaks or alternatively disassemble the whole camera to remedy the situation. The camera is basically built around the mirror mechanism, so there is no easy way to reliably re-lubricate it.
     
  12. TheToadMen

    TheToadMen Subscriber

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    Hello alvareo,
    Welcome to APUG!!!!
    And enjoy the camera.
    Bert from Holland
     
  13. OP
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    alvareo

    alvareo Member

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    So, I got a battery and a couple rolls and everything seems to work properly, only thing remaining is to develop the film and check the photos. I ordered a New FD 50mm ƒ/1.4 anyway because I couldn't wait and it'll take a couple weeks to get here. :D

    oh I know this, I take digital photos, I was just a little confused by the phrasing. :smile:

    No squeaking! Everything works fine.
     
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    alvareo

    alvareo Member

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    Thanks Bert :smile:
     
  16. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    Hi and "saludos desde Perú",

    The AE-1 was my first "serious" SLR and I still like the model. The camera's electronics are among the most reliable ever put on an electronic camera so if you don't see any corrosion traces, everything should be fine. The "weak" part is an internal string that runs across the camera top from one side to another, but if you move the shutter speed dial gently all the time, everything should be fine.

    The advice above regarding checking the shutter speeds apply, particularly check the speed at 1/1000 and 1/500 by looking through the camera towards a white wall, with no lens mounted. The exposure should be an uniform white. Any lack of exposure uniformity (i.e. a white line at the side, when shooting) indicates a problem. But before worrying, shoot several times to see if the problem solves itself (sometimes it does).

    As for the lens, i would discard that lens and start with any of these good (or great) standard lenses:

    Canon FD 50/1.4, any version
    Canon FD 50/1.8, bayonet mount version (known as "new FD" or "FD new" or "FDn" version)
    Canon FD 55/1.2 or 50/1.2, any version
    Canon FD 35/2.0, any version
    Canon FD 35/2.8
    Canon FD 35/3.5

    Most of them are available for cheap out there. Cheapest are 35/3.5 and 50/1.8, both are nice, sharp lenses (the 35/3.5 is a sleeper!). Best bokeh is on the 55/1.2, best overall is the 50/1.4, highest contrast/deeper colors are on the 50/1.4 new version (black barrel), and perhaps 35/2.8.

    The 35/2.0 SSC with a concave front element has the reputation of being one of the sharpest FD lenses out there, but all of them will give a yellow/green coloring to the images due to radioactive decay of one of the elements. But the other 35/2.0 versions seem to test just beautifully, from what i've seen on the 'net. In all honesty, all the lenses listed are sharp enough so don't worry.

    If you want a zoom, the Canon FD 35-105/3.5 is not expensive and it is one of the best zooms made by any manufacturer in the 80s. Just make sure it does not rattle when you shake it. If it rattles, that means the internal mechanism that holds the zooming groups is tired, and the lens will not perform good at all. An alternative test is to focus it to a specific distance at, say, 35mm and then zoom slowly to 105mm. The focus point should not move... or at least just slightly. This test needs to be done with any Canon FD zoom in "new version" (bayonet mount) you want to buy.

    Finally, if you want to build yourself a kit for little money, these three lenses will are inexpensive and excellent performing:

    * Canon FD 28/2.8 or 35/3.5 or 35/2.8
    * Canon New FD 50/1.8
    * Canon FD 135/3.5 (any version)

    As you may have noticed, i'm a big fan of Canon FD (and FL) lenses, so here are my favorites if this information is relevant to you:
    - Canon FL 19mm f3.5 R
    - Canon New FD 24/2.8
    - Canon FD 55/1.2 S.S.C
    - Canon New FD 50/1.4
    - Canon New FD 85/1.8
    - Canon New FD 200/2.8

    All Canon 85mm, 100mm, and 135mm lenses are great to fantastic, so you can't go wrong with any of these.

    There is an easy way to relubricate it and i have posted it way back in 2005 or so. It involves using WD-40 with the included straw, applying a small amount of WD40 in a strategic place. I have received a lot of patronizing and criticism for this, but it has worked perfectly and my A-1 is still working just fine after 11 years or more (of using this fix).

    There are tons of variations on this, but basically this method is to take down the bottom plate of the camera and apply very light lubricant (or WD40 which is solvent with a tiny bit of lubricant) with a syringe (or the WD40 tube) (or whatever you want to use) on the exact point where the mirror mechanism that squeaks is.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
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    alvareo

    alvareo Member

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    Saludos desde Chile!

    As I said above I got a nFD 50mm ƒ/1.4 which I read great things about, thanks for the other suggestions, I'll be checking those out!
     
  18. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    I've just edited my post, so take another look - i've added information.

    If you have already the nFD 50/1.4, then perhaps first enjoy this lens before buying anything else. 50mm is my most used lens (when i'm not carrying the huge 55mm 1.2).
     
  19. OP
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    alvareo

    alvareo Member

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    Thank you for the added info, specially the zoom one as I wanted to know which zoom lens was good and it helps that it's both cheap AND 3.5 for the whole range! I'm looking for the widest apertures that won't break the bank as I like to take photos in low light.
     
  20. onre

    onre Subscriber

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    If the method is really repeatable enough to make the bodies not cough again, I am certainly interested in further detail. I've seen a web page describing exactly what you wrote about - maybe your page? - but haven't been able to reliably reproduce the results on different Canon bodies affected by the problem. I'm not sure at all if the mirror mechanism and/or body casting is same across the "model range".
     
  21. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    The mirror mechanism is almost the same in the whole A-series range.
     
  22. Cholentpot

    Cholentpot Member

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    That 135 is amazing. I got one in thrown in with another kit as a bonus and it's great.
     
  23. dances_w_clouds

    dances_w_clouds Subscriber

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    For the shutter squeal I have used clock oil and has worked fine. I have had no problems with it migrating anywhere as only one drop out of a pin sized tube.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
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    alvareo

    alvareo Member

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    flavio81, any reason you didn't mention the 35mm f/2 or the 24mm f/2?
     
  25. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Member

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    Water Displacement formula #40 AKA WD-40 contains a small amount of light weight oil that dries out and leaves a sticky residue behind. It will build up with repeated applications. It is not a product that any competent repair person would use for a reliable repair. There are pin oilers, machine and clock oils, and ink cartridge refill syringes and long needles easily available that will work far better.
    https://wd40.com/cool-stuff/history
     
  26. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    I too have addressed "shutter squeak" with some clock oil out of a syringe with needle. If I had felt it worth (to me) a CLA, I would have gone that route.