How to Date a Canon A1 Camera

Written by nat fondell
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How to Date a Canon A1 Camera
The date code on a Canon A-1 tells its age. (old slr-camera isolated image by Alexey Klementiev from

The Canon A1 camera is one of the classic camera bodies in the history of photography, and was produced from 1978 to 1985. A favourite of hobbyists and film camera beginners, the A1 is also very popular with collectors and expert photographers, due to its many features and accessories. Determining the production date of a Canon A1 camera is made much easier due to Canon's labelling system, which stamps each camera body and more modern lenses stamped with date codes.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Open the film door of your Canon A1 camera body. Hold the camera under a bright light to find a code written on the interior of the camera. This code will be in black letters, written on the black metal of the film chamber, and should contain letters and numbers.

  2. 2

    Use the first letter of the code to determine the year of the camera's manufacture. "S" represents 1978, "R" represents 1979, all the way through "Z" for 1985. This system can be continued when dating Canon cameras produced earlier or later, with "A" standing for both 1960 and 1986, and continuing upwards in this pattern.

  3. 3

    Check the next digit in the code, which should be represent the month. The months are represented as "1" for January, "2" for February, with "12" standing for December. Sometimes there is a zero in front of the single digit month numbers, and sometimes there is not. The final digits are irrelevant for dating purposes, but there should be two remaining digits and a letter which determines the factory of production.

Tips and warnings

  • After 1986, the letter representing the factory code was switched to the beginning of the code, so on these cameras there will be two letters at the beginning of the code, with the second letter representing the year of production.
  • This code can also be found near the rear lens mount on Canon lenses, and can be used in the same manner to determine their age, which is often different than the age of the camera body with which they are paired.
  • Be careful to distinguish between the first coding run beginning in 1960 and the second run beginning in 1986. If you are unsure, remember that the factory code comes first on the models produced after 1986, so if there are two letters at the beginning of the code, you can be fairly sure it was produced after 1986.

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