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Canon AE-1 not working.

Anya Kubilus , Aug 25, 2010; 12:24 a.m.

I recently bought a Canon AE-1 from Craig's List and I was having trouble at first with shutter speeds and aperture, so the first few rolls I took barely came out, but the photos that did (like half of the roll) were amazing. Eventually, the pictures stopped coming out at all. I took the camera to a photo store and they looked at it and said that my shutter wasn't working for speeds over 1/60. They said that I needed to replace the mirror, but I didn't want to pay $150 for a camera that's only worth $50.
I spent the next roll just taking photos under 1/60 shutter speeds and none of the photos came out.
I'm wondering if anyone can offer me any advice or give me any tips so I could see what the problem is with my Canon AE-1.

Here are some examples of the pictures I have taken: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anyapotato/4824259008/in/set-72157624486791068/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/anyapotato/4823651175/in/set-72157624486791068/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/anyapotato/4810504564/in/set-72157624486791068/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/anyapotato/4781933862/in/set-72157624486791068/

Responses

Dave S , Aug 25, 2010; 12:38 a.m.

Anya, I bet everyone here is going to say 'Check the battery!'

The AE-1 is strictly battery-dependent. I wonder if the battery was weak when you bought it, and then it conked out and the meter failed, or the electronic shutter failed to trip. It will cost you about $5 to find out if it was the battery-- just get a cheap alkaline PX28 6-Volt cell.

The thing about buying old cameras for use is that around half of them need an overhaul right away, but you're correct that the cost of replacement would be less than the cost of repair. If you're in the U.S., you might look at KEH.com, which sells used cameras at excellent prices, and they have an excellent guarantee policy. I'm in Canada and I've found Henrys.com in Toronto to be outstanding too.

If you get into manual focus Canon cameras, post your experiences on the Canon FD forum here on photo.net-- there are folks there with encyclopedic knowledge of the darn things.

John Tran , Aug 25, 2010; 03:45 p.m.

1. Find a manual online and spend time reading it very carefully

2. It helps a lot if there is some one you know who used this kind of cameras before, he/she can help a lot. The young guys at the stores may not have a clue, and their job is to sell, not to help you fix an old camera

3. I hope when you learn more about it, everything will be fine, because if the camera was broken usually it won't let you use it anymore

4. In the worst case, buy another one and $150 is too high

Lynn Jones , Aug 25, 2010; 06:46 p.m.

These were great cameras but they haven't been made for about 30 years and there are no repair parts available.

Lynn

Pete Hobbis , Aug 28, 2010; 10:09 a.m.

Despite its age, I had a repair done to my A1 not too long ago. You may not find repair to stuff this old offered at your high-street camera store though. As someone said above, they'd much rather sell you a new one. I'm in the UK, and the place I went to is called 'Northern Photo-Electronic Services'. There must be similar services available near you (try here: http://www.ap-t.com/index2.html )

What happens when the picture 'doesn't come out'? Did you still hear the shutter fire? If the shutter doesn't fire when you press the button, there are several possible causes. As mentioned above, a weak battery, or dirty battery contacts, could cause this, but should show when you use the battery check (button on the top plate, to the left of the pentaprism; the meter needle should fall at least half-way down its scale). Batteries for the Canon A-series are still readily available. Also, the shutter mechanism involves some electromagnets, one to release the first shutter blind (i.e. open the shutter) and one for the second blind (to close it). These are under the bottom plate, I think, but they aren't for home repair unless you're really into this sort of thing. The electromagnets can become dirty so they either hold on too strongly or too weakly. Or they can just fail.

Clearly, you can see directly if the shutter is releasing, by firing it with the back door open and no film in the camera. Similarly, you can watch the mirror moving by firing the camera with no lens attached. Don't touch the mirror, but you can see that it's getting out of the way before the shutter fires, and returning properly.

Good luck.

H S , Aug 28, 2010; 06:13 p.m.

From the photos you have on your flickr page, it looks like a classic problem of shutter capping. The cause is either old gummed up shutter spindle bushings (most likely) or extremely worn shutters (likely only if the camera has seen tremendous use). My bet would be the former.

The solution is also relatively straight forward: clean and lubricate the shutter spindles and their bushings. Mostly, just doing this on the bottom four bushings (have to take off the bottom cover) solves the problem. If not, then the procedure has to be done on the bushings on the top as well.

In any case, the procedure is the following:
1. Open the bottom of the camera and locate where are the four bushings in which the shutter spindles go. Make sure the bushings are not worn out of shape. The bushing should be round and the spindles should be snug in them. If the bushings are oval in shape and the spindles can be moved by pressing them with a thin tool, then the case is hopeless and the shutter will never work properly in the camera. If this is not the case, you are good and go to next step.
2. Drop a couple of very small drops of lighter fluid (or naphtha) on the bushings (do NOT use too much of it!). Work the shutter a few times. Blow with a bulb blower to make the naphtha evaporate.
3. Drop similar small drops of a lubricating oil on the bushings and work the shutter many times at various speeds.
4. Most likely, the problems is solved. Check by removing the lens and opening the back of the camera. While holding the camera with its back open, point it to a bridge uniform scene (bright sky is ideal) and release the shutter while watching through the aperture from the back of the camera. If you see the aperture rectangle of constant brightness at all speeds (it will be dimmer at faster speeds, but constant through out), you are good. If you see some dark bands, then the capping is still occurring and you might want to try repeating the procedure on the bushings on the top and this should in all likelihood solve the problem for you.

Good luck.

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