Canon AE-1
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Canon AE-1

History: The Canon AE-1 was produced from 1976-1984 and in that time more than a million units were sold. One of the first affordable SLRs on the market to feature TTL auto exposure metering, the AE-1 was also the first SLR to use a microprocessor. It is constructed mostly of injection molded plastic to keep costs down. However, this leads to a comparably lighter body than most metal SLRs of the day.

'From 1976-1984...more than a million units were sold.'

Why we like it: This camera is a solid choice for beginners, offering both a shutter priority and a manual mode (though sadly no aperture priority mode). Metering tends to be accurate and the camera can be powered by a variety of common drugstore batteries. Canon FD lenses are cheap and readily available for the system.

Buy one: These cameras are extremely easy to come across in working order for under $100. If buying on eBay, you can often pick up an AE-1 with a bunch of FD lenses and other accessories for about the same price as the body.

Also consider: The Canon AE-1 Program (shown above). The Program was released in 1981 is the follow up to the original AE-1. It is largely the same camera, except for the inclusion of a Program auto exposure mode that sets both shutter speed and aperture.