Canon AE-1

Get your tissues out for this one. This is a special episode of VCQ. Cause this is the camera that took my virginity. The click that popped my cherry. That’s right, I lost it to the Canon AE-1, much like 90% of all amature photogs out there.


The Canon AE-1 is the John Holmes (Or Ai Kurosowa … I had to look up the most famous Japanese porn star. #research) of camera. Most people who have used a celluloid job have done so with this little beast, and for good reason. It’s a perfect camera.

What? VCQ guy, you usually shit all over these lightbox turds!?! What’s happening here?

Well, sometimes in life you find love, and for me, I found love like many with this guy. First, history. It’s 1976, Nikon is CRUSHING the competition and Canon’s like WTF dudes. So, they throw out all their old designs and say “lets do this bitches” and birth the AE-1 (probably over a long Sake session). They put the first ever microprocessor in it. They ditch the bayonet mount and rocked a mounting ring so there was no wear on the camera. It was fully automatic, made for the amature, and ABSOLUTELY SMOKED THE COMPETITION SELLING OVER 1 MILLION UNITS. 

Everyone got their hands on the AE-1 like a Starbucks Bathroom doorknob. It debuted for a mere 700 clams (about 2k in todays bucks) and can be picked up for about 100 bucks now pretty much anywhere. A bargain at any price.

Canon’s philosophy was “photography is hard enough, asking people to say cheese and all, and the squinting through the viewfinder and whatnot, let’s make it fucking easy … so easy a fucking noob tennis player could use it.” May I submit exhibit A you honors:

Ah the good ol days of Madison Avenue … when women were just objects, and dudes had dead cats under their noses.

I jest, but there is a reason we’re here today. There is a reason why I get paid the BIG BUCKS to take pictures, and it all goes back to my AE-1 and yes, how fucking easy it was to take pictures. 

A veritable Vivian Maier over here. Now I just gotta die …

One October my pop took me to the pawn show and bought me this camera for 60 bucks. I was 15. I cleaned it. I turned all the nobs. I read the overly complicated manual 6 times. I then took it with me everywhere I went. I mean everywhere, every day to school (it was an easy way to get girls to talk to you, or not look awkward waiting for your tots and pizza slice) I took it across Europe backpacking at least 4 times. I dropped it in 2 rivers, down 4 hills and once used it to defeat a junkie in Bristol trying to rob me.

grandpa and me
Look familiar? Even Gramps had one!

Despite looking like the Apollo 13 capsule after the mission, this little girl still shoots with Swiss Clock perfection.Photokina

I adore this camera. I adore the nostalgia of it. The sound of it’s sutter release sends orgasmic shivers up my spine, like a good crunch of a ripe apple or the first step in technicolor fall leaves. Advancing film through it feels akin to reeling in a prize fish, constant tension but secure movement. And the look of her … proletariat but ultra stylized, like a fucking Delorean, but better because it actually works and if you use it right, like I did, can actually get you places.

So, now, I got a biiiiiiiiig surprise. We’re going fully Blade Runner 2047 on my ol’ Canon AE-1 and making here fully digital with the help of the Mad Scientist Geniuses over at I’M Back.

That’s right… a digital back for your analog cameras … I mean these guys are MY BROTHERS, with the same passion that I have, to breathe life into these old memory machines, but they’re doing it with SCIENCE.

So I’m happy to announce that at the end of this month I will be going to Italy, which is the first place I bought this camera many many years ago, and will be taking her with me, this time with the I’m Back digital adapter. I’m so excited Im actually going to stop writing and have a whiskey.


Roberto Serrini is a professional filmmaker who records his adventures in word,photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a drone operator. His work can be seen where he can be contacted as well. The Vintage Camera Quest is an adventure through vintage cameras. Each week he is using one of his 40 collected cameras, developing and posting the experience here. Check him out on instagram@vintagecameraquest or subscribe to his blog – thanks for reading!

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