The Canon A-1 is the camera that I spent most of the 1980s coveting, but £600+ was a lot of money when it was introduced in 1978. Good old eBay!
The A-1 was one of Canon’s A-series ‘enthusiast’ cameras, smaller and lighter than the professional F-series. It was one of the first fully-electronic cameras, the first SLR (by some years) to offer an electronic programme metering mode, and the first to offer all four of the ‘PASM’ modes that we expect in a modern camera. All of the important controls are on the top-plate which is daunting at first but becomes intuitive with use.
Exposure mode is selected by a switch, then the shutter speed or aperture are changed using a front control wheel, in the same way that we are used to with a modern DSLR.
Metering goes up to a surprisingly high 12800ASA, which would have been pretty-much unusual for its time; 3-stop uprated HP5 or Tri-X only requires 3200ASA (and metering is accurate at that level in a dimly-lit pub gig.
Coupled with the razor-sharp FD lenses, this has become my go-to camera when I get the urge to shoot some 35mm. I have used it for June in my 12 months, 12 cameras project.