My name is Joe Careta and I have been a full-time camera repair technician since 1975, working in Boston, MA, Stamford, CT, Providence and Warwick, RI, and now semi-retired in Englewood, Florida.
I was a factory-authorized Canon camera repair technician for over 12 years with many factory training seminars.
I have worked on many cameras in the past 48 years, but now I just repair Canon AE-1s, Canon AE-1 Programs, and Canon AT-1s.
For info on my camera repair costs and services, click here
The Canon AE-1 came out in 1976 and is a manual and shutter priority camera. It has an analog type meter needle in the viewfinder.
The AE-1 Program came out in 1981 and is a Program, shutter priority and manual camera, and it has LEDs in the viewfinder.
That is the main difference.
There are a few more minor differences. The AE-1 has a one and a half stop backlight button and the Program does not, but it does have a meter lock button.
The AE-1 Program has user-changeable focusing screens; the AE-1 does not.
They both have an on-off switch, a self timer, a depth of field preview button, a battery check button, hot shoes and a PC connection, and shutter speeds up to 1/1000s, but the Program has a 2-second speed.
Both use 6-volt batteries and accept a motor drive or winder.
The AE-1’s ASA or ISO goes from 25 to 3200 and the Program goes from 12 to 3200.
In the Manual Mode
When using it in the manual mode, you look through the viewfinder and see what the meter says the aperture should be for the shutter speed you have set. Then if you agree with the meter, you set the f-stop on the lens and focus and shoot.
In the Shutter Priority Mode
You set the shutter speed you want and the lens on A or auto. If you agree with the aperture in the viewfinder, you can just focus and shoot and it will set the aperture automatically.
In the Program Mode (AE-1 Program only)
You set the shutter speed to Program and the lens on A and everything is done—just focus and shoot.
There is much more to using these cameras, but these are the main differences.