Reviving a Canon AE-1 Program

My first SLR was a Canon AE-1 that I was gifted some years back. Unfortunately, that camera is still lost to date. Perhaps out of nostalgia, I’ve wanted to replace it for a while now, and in May I found one in a box at the Pazari i Ri in Tirana. Attached to it was a working Canon FD 50mm F1.8, but missing the filter screw part at the front, and the shutter didn’t fire. I was hoping batteries would make a difference, but unfortunately, they didn’t.

The next step was to find someone who would clean and fix it. But tough luck, the only person I found said they would have a look for 50E, which is really steep here. And so I did my research, opened up the camera, checked everything, and it seemed that the problem was caused by a defective magnet. It took a while to find one, but fortunately Ebay has sellers who would take a broken camera apart and sell individual working parts for any repair needs. I got a new magnet from Italy, and after 4 months living on the shelf, the magnet was replaced the very morning I received it, and, ta-da: the camera worked again.

Why bother with all of this? When I called the person meant to repair it, he told me to just throw it away and get myself a new one. And indeed, for 50 euros, what he wanted to charge to just ‘have a look’ would buy me a brand new Canon AE-1. But, I am at odds with the culture that we *have to* throw something away as soon as they have a problem, and I also hold strong environmental values. Fixing the camera is actually more satisfying than getting a new copy. I also replaced the lens, with another FD 50mm 1.8 that we had previously fixed. It turned out though that perhaps not well enough, as the first roll of film came out blank. Then I tried to see whether it was the camera or lens that was the issue. The second lens worked much better: a Canon FL 35mm F2.5.

My process of dealing with the shutter not firing on Canon AE-1 Program (with some help from the engineers in my family):

  1. Identify that the electronics are still working (in the bottom part)
  2. Open the top part and check if there is anything (a piece of something, for example a dead bug) blocking the contact of the button.
  3. Try to re-solder the magnet part.
  4. If this is all done but doesn’t make a difference, consider replacing the magnet. I bought mine from an Ebay seller who confirmed that the magnet was functional.
  5. Replace the magnet: de-solder the two points that link the magnet mechanism to the electronic part.
  6. Unscrew the magnet, replace it, and re-solder it into place.
  7. Make sure the batteries are in and try to fire the shutter. Mine started working immediately.

Final cost of the camera, not including time spent on checking and repairing it (it is a hobby after all):

Broken Canon AE-1 Program: 10 Euros

Functional Magnet+ shipping: 18 Euros

Canon FL 35mm F2.5 (5 Euros)

Agfa Vista 400 (to test the camera): E0 – a gift from Rijeka, Croatia

Total: 33 E

Giving new life to a camera that would have ended up in the bin: Priceless


7 Comments Add yours

    1. Adelina says:

      thanks, i got lucky this time, it was pretty easy to fix.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Adelina says:

      Thanks a lot, Natalie 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Jim Grey says:

    You should start a camera-repair service!


    1. Adelina says:

      ha! Wish i could fix everything but I not qualified enough for that. I shall stick to solving human problems 🙂


  2. Well done! I love to save things and use them.


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