160604 Canon - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

My latest camera, my fifth Canon, and my first Canon SLR.


I have a certain predisposition towards cameras with angular prisms. I nearly bought a Sony A900 simply because it's the best-looking digital camera ever made, and it's still something of a mystery as to why I've never owned a Pentax. This has been a longstanding attraction, so I finally decided to do something about it.

Buying a nicely-styled old film camera seemed like a much more sensible plan than looking for a used A900, so that's what I did. And it resulted in my latest acquisition: a Canon A-1 and 50mm f/1.8 FD lens. It's a very nice camera, and an excellent working machine. I've already used an entire roll of film photographing streetcars with it.

But it's not quite the camera I want.

I finally realized, looking at old cameras online, why I have such a compulsive attraction to this angular viewfinder style. I took up photography as a connection with my mother, and her camera when I was a kid was the Canon AE-1. To me that's still what a camera should look and feel like. And my mother passed away ten years ago this summer, so while she's never been far from my mind, I've certainly been thinking more about her as that anniversary approaches.

If she hadn't already owned an AE-1 then she probably would have bought the A-1 when it came out a couple of years later. It is a better camera, after all. But perhaps not; sometimes being better isn't the point. And that's why I'm still going to keep looking for a nice black AE-1 to add to my collection – it remains my archetype of what a camera should look and feel like.


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