I have an old Canon AE-1. I want to start using it. I noticed there is a light meter in it, but how accurate is it? I don't want to waste a roll of film trying to figure it out.

Thanks! Estevan Montoya


Use the sunny-16 rule to test how accurate the meter is.

from Wikipedia:
"On a sunny day set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO film speed for a subject in direct sunlight."

For example if you are using ISO 100 film, set the AE-1 to shutter priority mode and shutter speed 1/100 sec (or 1/125 if that setting is not available) focus somewhere outside on a sunny afternoon then your light meter should recommend setting a f-stop of f16 or something closer. If it does then you can be pretty sure about its accuracy.


Compare the camera's recommendations with what you get from a source you trust, such as a light meter or another camera. Note that if you use another camera that's more modern and has multi-point metering, you should set it to center weighting to emulate what your AE-1 is doing. Film is more forgiving than most digital sensors, so exposure will be fine as long as it's close. (This assumes nothing in the camera has been damaged and a fresh battery.)

This document has some useful technical information about the AE-1, including a description of its metering system: http://www.baytan.org/prak/pdf/CanonAE1add.pdf

  • Negative film is forgiving, yes - slide film will be LESS tolerant than most digital sensors. However, the light meters in AE-1 era SLRs were definitely designed with slide film in mind, so if they are in good shape, they will be quite accurate. Dec 2 '18 at 4:03

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