Recommended lenses canon ae1


TPF Noob!
Sep 12, 2022
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Good afternoon all. I post this today asking for your help, not for myself but for my daughter, who at the start of studying for her degree in creative arts, fell in love with monochrome photography. Not having so much as picked up a camera before this point, the art came naturally to her, continuing her degree using the art of monochrome photography, and was soon given her own studio space by tutors, where she also began developing her work also.
She has recently graduated again gaining a Masters degree in fine art, again predominantly using monochrome photography to express her work and it gained her a merit. For many reasons she is a very special girl, thinking of others before herself always, and her passion for black and white photography led to her influencing first year art students to want to follow in her footsteps, has assisted tutors throughout her time there by mentoring first year students in this particular area, so, her passion for the subject clearly rubbing off on them and has led to the arts dept there receiving additional funding to set up darkrooms and extra studio space due to the interest new students have shown in wanting to study , and use monochrome photography in their studies.
This I hope explains why I want her to have the best that I can afford for her, and having been lucky enough to find a canon ae1 in mint condition when starting her masters degree as she used and loved the camera throughout her studies , thought I would attempt to put together a lens kit for her 😳, Not easy when you don’t know the first thing about cameras!.
Not wanting her to smell a rat by asking her about lenses,i need your advice as I simply do not know where to start.
I have no set rules for building this kit ( ie how many lenses, cost etc) , i am simply going to go on the advice of any one who owns an ae1 and what lenses they feel every ae1 owner should own to compliment it. if anyone has any other ideas of accessories for the ae1 that would further compliment the set up or can signpost me where to go for purchasing items thenI’m all ears, and will consider all suggestions.
I cannot do this without help, and thank you in advance for taking the time to read my rather long post (sorry) and for contributing your ideas . She is a special girl and therefore deserves a special kit ❤️.
I had a AE-1 for many years until it finally died on a 10 day hike through the Sangre De Cristo mountains of New Mexico. You will get a lot of different opinions on what glass is best, so I can only give you my advice. The AE-1 accepts any lenses designed for the FD mount or the newer FDn mount. IMHO, the best place to buy glass is at, but stay with EX-, EX, EX+, or LN quality ratings. Avoid Bargain and Ugly ratings. Be careful with Ebay, but there are some good buys there as well. I would start with a fast 50mm, like a Canon f/1.4 for general purpose photography. For landscapes a 24mm f/2. For portraiture a 135mm f/2. If she's into macro photography, I'd recommend a good set of extension tubes to use with the 50mm lens. After that I'd go with a longer telephoto zoom out to about 200mm.

With that said, that camera and lens mount are obsolete. You might want to consider getting her a Nikon 35mm film camera, which takes f mount lenses, which have been around since the 1950s. There is a lot more variety of Nikon used gear out there in very good condition. You can get an F5 pro level camera for about $500, then go for 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 135mm fast primes and a longer telephoto zoom. You have to be a bit careful with compatibility of lens and camera, but there are plenty of websites, including at Nikon, which will tell you which generation of f mount glass to use.

My best recommendation is to find a local brick and mortar store. Ask for someone knowledgeable in 35mm film cameras and talk to them for a while.
She already has the camera, so you're not looking to replace that. You don't mention what lenses she already has, just that she's used the camera "throughout her studies," so recommendations may be redundant to something she already has. Also, you don't buy lenses for a camera just so you have them, you buy lenses for the photography you want to do. (I do wildlife, air shows, auto races, so I have several long lenses, and not a lot of wide-angle or portrait lenses.)

As stated above, anything made for the Canon FD mount will work. There were lots of third-party makers, such as Vivitar, Kiron, Soligor, Quantaray, etc., that made lenses for the Canon cameras. Getting them from someplace like KEH, that rates them for condition, is definitely the way to go.
I agree with both of the above ... focal lengths are personal, meaning the lens fits the style of photographer.
I was a Canon New F-1 shooter and went through many lenses to end up with a prime set of four that I always used for the type of photographs I wanted to take.

Hmm, does KEH have gift cards ?
I have multiple AE-1’s and AE-1 Programs and still shoot with them on a regular basis. If money is not an object get FD L lenses. Also get lenses with the smallest f-stop number you can afford i.e. 1.2, 1.8 etc. One good accessory for any A series camera is a power winder. It is nice not to have to wind the camera after every shot and you can keep your eye to the viewfinder and keep shooting. As mentioned focal lengths are totally dependent on what type of photography they want to accomplish. For sure a 50mm is a must have. The faster the better. (if you don’t know faster is the lower f-stop number i.e. 1.2, 1.4, 1.8 etc). I also use my 35-70 a lot and my 100-300. I also have a 28-105 I use. If you go with the 28-105 and the 100-300 with a fast 50 thrown in you will have a kit that will cover about anything you want to shoot.
I can say, all of the above, except I don't favor aftermarket lenses by others, which can be hit and miss. That would take more research on a lens by lens basis.

It's not a simple question and there are no easy answers. But Primes are an easy positive and so are the L lenses.

Everyone is right, the 50mm is an obvious base choice and can't go wrong if you are building a kit.

Here's my personal choice, which I still own, for the if I had to choose only one lens answer:

Canon FD 35-105mm Macro Zoom 3.5

It's sharp, it's fast enough, it's versatile.
Building a lens kit is kinda personal. What you shoot drives the lenses you get.
Example, what I shoot for high school is NOT what I use for my personal photography.

Without specifics, building a "general purpose" kit:

I am a zoomie, so the 35-105 that @RacePhoto recommended is what I would get.
If there is a 28-105, even better.

I would partner that zoom with a fast prime, like a 50/1.8 or 35/1.8, for use in low/dim light.
That is a good 2-lens kit.

I used something similar in my film days.
If a 35-105/3.5 lens was available for my Nikon, I would have used that lens.
I did not have, but really could have used a relatively fast prime like a 50/2 or 35/2, for low/dim lighting.

If you want fixed focal length lenses (not a zoom lens), then there are a couple options.
- Traditional 2-lens kit = 35 + 85/105
- Traditional 3-lens kit = 28 + 50 + 105/135
Which way to go depends on what lens she has now.
Presumably she has a 50/1.8. So I would go with the 3-lens kit.

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