As I still shoot film for personal work and portraits/lifestyle photos, I wanted to upgrade my AE-1 to something more robust. Plus I needed the compatibility with my digital kit so I can make a hybrid kit that fits my backpack without adding much weight. As the last 35mm SLR from Canon the 1V was the perfect choice. After a while I got my hands on a 1V HS for dirty cheap off a photo forum. Here are my thoughts on it and its place in my kit.
1V HS is the father of all 1D series bodies, it’s build like a tank thanks to its magnesium alloy body and has a degree of weather sealing on it. The HS version I got also has a vertical grip with controls that takes 8 AA batteries to power the camera. The size with the grip is similar to the modern 1D and the ergonomics feel alike also. That’s a good thing, the 1D series have the best ergonomics in my opinion. The only down side is the vertical grip, when I grip it, it feels slim and flat. The future 1D cameras have a better feel on the vertical grip. Other than that, it’s a beast of a camera.
Using the camera
If you shoot with Canon pro cameras, the 1V will feel right at home. I have no problem switching between my 5D mkIII and the 1V mid shoot. The controls for AF point selection are outdated as it doesn’t have a joystick, instead you change the point using quick dials. Not as fast as the joystick and definitely has a learning curve to it.
Film loading is super easy, just pop the back door open, load the film and pull the tab to the orange mark. Once you close the door, the camera automatically winds the film to the first frame and will shoot exactly 36 or 24 shots, so I can’t shoot 38 frames on a 36 roll like I could on my AE-1. The camera features a lot of custom features to personalise it to your needs, with it you can set the camera to count frames upwards on downwards, the counter is displayed on the top LCD screen. Another C. Fn setting lets the camera leave a part of the film out while rewinding, useful when developing film on your own or to switch films mid roll like I do. I just remember the last frame, rewind the film and write the frame number on the label. Then when I want to reuse the film I just shoot blank frames with the body cap on till the camera reaches my last frame plus one. It works great if I don’t shoot the whole roll at once. ISO/ASA setting can be set up manually using the ISO button on the top left or a C.Fn can be activated so that the camera sets up ISO value using the DX code from the film cartridge.
The viewfinder is big and bright with 100% frame coverage. The information display is located below the frame and exposure and flash compensation on the right, just like on the 1D series. The 1V supports interchangeable focusing screens while the default one works best with slower lenses, it’s ok for autofocus uses. Like the later 1 series, the 1V has an integrated viewfinder cover and a diopter correction from -3 to +1.
Autofocus on this camera is awesome, on pair with the EOS 1 standard. Packing 45 autofocus points while 7 of them are cross type, the focus sticks to anything really fast. While the camera can be set up only in one point AF or automatic selection AF, you do have a C.Fn to expand the AF area. Using C.Fn-17 the camera can expand the AF tracking area to 7 or 13 points to help tracking. The downside is that the zone isn’t shown in the viewfinder, only the centre one is, like in one point AF. The 1V can also link spot metering to the selected AF point with a C.Fn setting, but since it uses a 21 zone metering sensor, only 11 AF points can be used at max while the other setting limits the focus to 9 points with linked spot metering.
As speed goes, this body is fast for film standards. The 1V HS can shoot one frame, 3 fps or 6 fps using AA batteries. It can go up to 10 fps with the rechargeable battery, unfortunately I don’t have it. Honestly I never use the motor drive on it, one shot is fine for my use, but it’s nice to know that I have the feature to expose a roll of 135 film in 6 sec if I need to.
The 1V HS is a great action camera, with its rugged and weather sealed body, I would take it with me anywhere. It fit nicely into my existing digital Canon kit and have no problem using both digital and film on location. It’s a fast pace camera that can deliver my expectations. While the later 1D series are more sophisticated and advance, for 35mm film this body is a beast. Plus Canon still services this body and it applies under the CPS programme if anything goes wrong. If you are also looking for a fast and rugged Canon SLR, the 1V is a no brainer.