Canon AE-1 Program vs Pentax K1000: Which Is Better?

It’s an oft-asked question between the Canon AE-1 Program vs Pentax K1000: Which Is Better!?

I have run reviews on both these models you can check out the Canon AE-1 Program Review or my Pentax K1000 Review.

In this article, I’ll run through the battle of the two entry level, film photography beginner heavyweights. Let’s run through a comprehensive comparison of both cameras to help you in making the decision of which film camera is better for you.

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When looking for the best deals on these cameras, Craigslist can present some excellent value, but one must be very careful. As these are old cameras and unless they’ve been well looked after there’s usually something wrong with them or they need to have their lightmeter calibrated.

I’d recommend buying your Canon AE-1 Program through here.

And look for your Pentax K1000 through here.

Pros Of The Canon AE-1


  • The amount of lenses at your fingertips is limitless. The Pentax is limited with what you can use and some of the lenses are going up in value because of how rare they are. They are becoming collectables.
  • Fully automatic mode means you can add film and just shoot without having to worry about shutter speed or aperture (very handy for fast street photography).
  • Usually cheaper than the K1000

Pros Of The Pentax K1000

Pentax k1000

  • Greater longevity – the fully mechanical shutter on the K1000 is much more easily serviceable and longer lasting than the electronic shutter of the AE-1.
  • If the battery dies on the K1000 you can keep shooting. It’s only the lightmeter that will stop working. On the AE-1 if the battery dies, wave goodbye to any photos as the mirror will lock up.

Which One Produces Better Photos? Let’s Take A Look

Pentax K1000 First

Pentax K1000 example color photo
Pentax K1000. Source.
Pentax K1000 Bridge
Pentax K1000. Source.
Pentax K1000 Highway
Pentax K1000. Source.
Pentax K1000 Black And White Building
Pentax K1000. Source.
Pentax K1000 Street Photography
Pentax K1000. Source.
Pentax K1000 Staircase Black And White
Pentax K1000. Source.

Canon AE-1 Program

Canon AE-1 Program Color Field
Canon AE-1 Program. Source.
Canon AE-1 Program Color Street
Canon AE-1 Program. Source.
Canon AE-1 Program Color Bricks
Canon AE-1 Program. Source.
Canon AE-1 Program Skatepark
Canon AE-1 Program. Source.
Canon AE-1 Program Portrait
Canon AE-1 Program. Source.
Canon AE-1 Program Landscape
Canon AE-1 Program. Source.

The differences are so slight that it will really just come down to the photographer, the film used and the lens. But really, it’s just the lenses that make the difference and both sides of the coin can be argued for and against either of lens manufacturers.

One might argue that Canon has plenty more lenses at your disposal, but with the easily accessible lens converters nowadays having compatible lenses is no longer an issue when you’re manually focusing.


When it comes down to taking a bashing and continually forcing that shutter open and snapping the single lens mirror up and back again, the pundits claim the Pentax K1000 has the Canon AE-1 covered. At least the earlier models of the Pentax K1000 (circa 1970s). This is because it came with a metal body compared to the Canon’s plastic.

It’s shutter is also fully mechanical whereas the Canon’s is electronic. On top of that the Canon requires more batteries that are slightly more difficult to find. The Pentax would almost last a lifetime on the single LR44 it takes (slight embellishment there, but you get the point).

Important Features

Canon AE-1 Program
Around $169 Refurbished
AE Lock
Self Timer
Light Meter - LED Aperture
Multiple Exposures
Automatic Option
Weight - 590g
Pentax K1000
Around $180 Refurbished
No AE Lock
No Self Timer
Light Meter - Exposure Needle
Multiple Exposures
Fully Manual
Weight - 606g


If you’re looking to learn photography from the ground up go for the Pentax K1000, a fully manual and mechanical camera.

It is the best way to learn the fundamentals of photography as it will actually force you to consistently be aware of what your shutter speed and aperture are doing. There’s no cheating this. Learning to slow down and compose your shots in a thoughtful manner will also do wonders for your technique and photography style.

If you want something that can do everything and aren’t so fussed about shooting manual or on auto, grab the Canon AE-1 Program.

Having the fully auto feature is invaluable when shooting street photography and capturing the decisive moment is of the utmost importance.

Most important is to not skimp on these cameras.

While you can get them really cheap nowadays, it will pay to cough up that extra $30 or $40 for one that has been refurbished and has had the lightmeter calibrated. This is particularly important for the K1000 as it is notorious for its lightmeter being way off.

If you asked me I could only choose between one of these cameras I would happily go with the Canon AE-1 Program.

To check out more reviews by users of the Canon AE-1 Program take a look here.

If you’re interested in more reviews by users of the Pentax K1000 take a look here.

Any questions? Comment below and I’ll gladly answer them 🙂

Goodluck and happy shooting!


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