How to Repair a Canon A-1

Updated February 21, 2017

At its time of release in 1978, Canon's A-1 single lens reflex (SLR) camera was at the forefront of photographic technology. The A-1 is completely dependent on battery power, using either a single 6 volt PX28 cell battery or four 1.5 volt alkaline cells to power its light meter and electronic shutter. Offering full automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual shooting modes, the camera was popular among seasoned professionals as well as novice shutterbugs. The A-1 is a reliable camera, and most will function well after minor repair work and a bit of clean-up.

Remove the lens from the A-1 by pressing the release tab near the body mount thread and rotating the barrel counterclockwise.

Hold the camera upside down so that the milky-white focusing screen, as well as the foam mirror damper pad at the edge of the screen, is visible. Starting from one edge, peel away the damper pad with a pair of tweezers. Work carefully so as not to drop crumbling foam onto the focusing screen.

Blow the inside of the camera clean of crumbled foam, dust and other debris with an air blower bulb or a can of compressed air.

Cut a piece of adhesive-backed foam that is 1/8-inch wide by 1 1/2-inches long. Peel off the backing paper and lick the adhesive backing to allow for easier placement.

Lower the new damper pad in place of the old one using tweezers. Apply gentle pressure to the pad with your fingers for two to three minutes as the adhesive sets.

Slide down the tab on the left side of the camera body to open the film door. Use an air blower to remove any dust or crumbling foam from the inside of the camera.

Moisten the tip of a toothpick with a solvent, such as denatured alcohol or lighter fluid, and scrape out the grooves where the film door meets the camera body. Continue scraping until the old light seal material has been mostly removed.

Cut two pieces of black yarn which are the approximate length of the grooves. Wedge the yarn into the grooves using a toothpick. Seat the yarn permanently by closing the film door -- no adhesive is required to keep it in place.

Repair a stiff or sticky focus ring by dripping solvent into the seam between the ring and lens barrel. Use a toothpick to drip the solvent sparingly, and rotate the ring to distribute it. Use only two to three drops around the seam's circumference.

Remove any fungus from the lens optics by placing it on a bright, sunny windowsill for a week. The UV rays will kill any growth which has accumulated in the lens over the years.

Open the battery compartment located on the front of the camera body near the hand grip. Remove and discard the old batteries and clean corrosion from the metal contacts using an eraser. Insert fresh batteries and close the compartment.

Alternate between firing the shutter and pushing the film advance lever for 15 minutes to exercise the camera's internal mechanisms. Over time lubricant inside the camera can dry up and stiffen; this will loosen and redistribute it. Switch between different shutter speeds and shooting modes to ensure that all settings function correctly.

Dampen a microfiber cloth with lens cleaning solution. Rub the front and rear elements of the A-1's lens using a gently circular motion. Align the red dots on the rear of the lens and the body mount and rotate clockwise to replace it.


If you suspect that there is an internal problem with your A-1, bring it to a professional camera repair service. Refer to your A-1 manual for detailed usage instructions.


Do not attempt an internal repair if you are not experienced with camera mechanics.

Things You'll Need

  • Tweezers
  • Air blower bulb
  • Adhesive-backed foam (2.5-millimetre)
  • Toothpicks
  • Solvent
  • Black yarn
  • Coin
  • Eraser
  • 6v PX28 battery or four 1.5v alkaline cells
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Lens cleaning solution
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About the Author

Brandon Getty began writing professionally in 2008, with columns appearing in "Thrasher" magazine. He received a Bachelor of Arts in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lives in Stockton, Calif.