Canon AE-1 and AE-1 Program review: classic film cameras revisited

We take a look at the Canon AE-1, an analog camera classic that changed the course of Canon cameras forever

5 Star Rating
Canon AE-1 Program
(Image: © Gareth Bevan)

Digital Camera World Verdict

The Canon AE-1 was a revolutionary 35mm SLR for the brand, allowing it to bring advanced features at a more affordable price, and it firmly put Canon on the path to the camera behemoth it is today. The camera has remained a classic and is still highly sought after, and for good reason. The camera is solidly made and reliable, with a good range of features including a full manual, shutter priority, and with the addition of the AE-1 Program, a fully automatic mode. Easy to use, and relatively affordable, this is the classic camera to beat.


  • +

    Big easy to use viewfinder

  • +

    Simple controls

  • +

    CPU produces quick and accurate metering

  • +

    Great selection of lenses


  • -

    Non-metal body (but hidden well)

  • -

    Very loud

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Launched way back in 1976, the Canon AE-1 broke new ground for 35mm SLRs, becoming the first camera to feature a central processing unit (CPU). Together with a huge advertising campaign that featured famous golf and tennis players, the AE-1 was a huge hit for Canon, selling well over a million units in its eight-year lifetime ad remains one of the best film cameras available today.

Find the Canon AE-1 on eBay US

Find the Canon AE-1 on eBay US
An AE-1 in nice condition with a 50mm f/1.8 shouldn’t set you back more than much more than $200. Just be mindful that there can be a few issues if they haven’t been looked after.

Find the Canon AE-1 on eBay UK

Find the Canon AE-1 on eBay UK
An AE-1 in good condition with a 50mm f/1.8 will cost around £100-200, depending on the condition, but you can find examples for around £75. Just be mindful that there can be issues that the seller may not even know about.

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Gareth Bevan
Reviews Editor

Gareth is a photographer based in London, working as a freelance photographer and videographer for the past several years, having the privilege to shoot for some household names. With work focusing on fashion, portrait and lifestyle content creation, he has developed a range of skills covering everything from editorial shoots to social media videos. Outside of work, he has a personal passion for travel and nature photography, with a devotion to sustainability and environmental causes.

With contributions from