A Dream: The canon AE-1 Digital!

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VfxByArt Regular Member • Posts: 362
A Dream: The canon AE-1 Digital!
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The Canon Ae-1 Digital

Mockup of an idea for the Canon AE-1 Digital Mirrorless.

Since the release of the R3, and the subsequent reviews of the preproduction unit, it got me thinking about canon doing an anniversary edition of the canon Ae-1, but sourced from the mirrorless corporates parts to keep the development cost low. Admittedly I’m a big fuji xt3 user, if anything from my exposure in my youth to the Canon Ae-1 program.

This would be a new limited vintage line. Inspired by the spirit behind the development of the fuji pro 3, its purpose would be to couple nostalgia with modern breakthrus in mirrorless.

Accompanying this would also be RF mount manual primes deigned to work with this camera. Of course the camera would be able to drive any RF or ef lens, like any other modern mirrorless canon.

This would be a camera designed for street and reportage photography. No video features to require features like a flip out screen or dedicated video toggles or cooling to complicate the form factor.

I bring this up now because canon has a lot of developments that could trickle down to this camera design in the next few years, perhaps for the 40th anniversary 2026 of the original Ae-1. The new eye control, the RF mound (close to the sensor), its new EVF with no blackout, the new back illuminated stack sensor design, improved dual pixel af to -7.5 ev, live custom WB set, electronic shutter strobe support to 1/180 sec are very street photography friendly. Current features like WIFI connectivity AS YOU SHOOT, RAW workflow, RF mount communication design, AF tracking ability, EVF’s 5.76 million pixel resolution, all of this finally gives you a shooting experience at the speed of film shooting. No more compromise because its a digital camera.

This would be a body that is mated to at least two custom designed metal manual primes: 28mm and a 50mm. A possible 85mm and 135mm could be introduced.

Body design:

Have the dimension as close to the original AE-1 as the canon’s LP-E6NH battery and RF mount would allow., the r6’s form factor shows promise dimension-wise. Borrowing from the Fuji xt3, metal body, available in both black and silver, manual dials for iso, shutter and on the lens, the aperture. The mode dial and display would be replaced with tactile dials. Comparing to the original AE-1 body the film rewind would be the ISO, the shutter would be the same, and the film advance would be an exposure compensation dial. Borrowing again from the xt-3 and the canon ef-m5 the LCD screen would flip up and down to keep the form factor still small. Sorry youtubers, no flip out screen. Weather sealed. The new Multifunction Shoe would be great for strobes and optional gps attachments.Having the R3’s integrated smart controller with the AF on button would be nice too. Again, this is a very tactile camera.

Body Guts:

R3 inspired 25 MP IBS sensor with its electronic shutter capabilities for discreet street photography. Record to two SD card slots, sorry video folks that want 8K raw. Touch drag focus along with a joy stick.

Lens design:

Again, manual lines to keep the sizes as small as possible, but keeping with the current optical formula if possible. However all RF lens electronic communication will be retained: so manual focusing with the EVF features would be a breeze with the modern RF focusing guide, focus peaking, eye control, distance calculator. A Leica inspired focusing tab would be mounted on each lens along with a focusing scale for zone focusing. Yes, this would be a love letter to street photographers from canon. No Olympic game sponsorship, no cinema endorsements, and definitely no YouTube vlogger kowtowing. A photographers camera.

Pricing the camera at $1799-$1999 would give ample room for the tech while hitting the price of high end aps-c cameras but with a FF camera. Hobbyist would be strained to reach this, but like the current fuji xt1 used pricing, you would still have a very capable street camera at a used price down the road. Initial adopters would be paying the price of such a unique camera. Again, a target timeline of April 2026 to coincide with the ae-1 programs 40th anniversary would possible allow enough time for canon FF 25mp R3 sensor tech to trickle down to that price point.

Pricing of the lens.

Thats tough… these would be special purpose lenses…. Repackaging the current f1.8 primes optical formula as manual primes in a metal body with manual as well as focus by wire clutch as a possibly ala fuji F1.4 16mm. As their modern equivalent are a few hundred dollars, a manual repurpose should have them sub $500. Getting F1.4 manual lenses…. That would be a new optical formula emphasizing a smaller size… this would get above $1000 pricing I assume as they're special purpose for this vintage line.

In conclusion: coupling Canon’s recent developments, plus years of software refinements into a traditional compact camera design for discreet street photography, with a tip of the hat to our love/hat relationship to hipster photographers, I think this camera would be welcomed as a FF version of fuji style eclectic aps-c cameras.

Canon has maintained a pace of development to keep up with the demands of sports, wildlife as well as event and studio photography. It would be great to see this great tech repurposed into a camera body the was made for the street photographer as has been so adequately shown by Fuji, Olympus and Leica. Yes, canon’ aps-c Eos-M supposedly does this, but damn, we need a FF version uncompromised in speed with a tip of the hat toward style. Nikon’s recent vintage attempts have been so half hearted. I wold hope of canon shoots for a 40th anniversary edition for the AE-1, it would be an absolute hit and feather in their cap. I would argue every pro Canon shooter would have a Canon AE-1 Digital in their bag as the camera for them.

Thx for reading!

Canon AE-1 Digital Mock-up

 VfxByArt's gear list:VfxByArt's gear list
Canon EOS M5 Fujifilm X-T3 Canon EOS R Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Canon EF 50mm F1.4 USM +10 more
Fujifilm X-T1 Fujifilm X-T3
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