How to Load Film into the Canon AT-1

Canon AT-1 Load Film

This guide will show you how to load film into your Canon AT-1. This will also show you how to make sure your camera is functioning properly so you don’t waste a roll of film.

If this is your first time using your Canon AT-1, make sure to read through the before you load film section.

Before You Load Film

Check the Battery

Canon AT-1 4LR44 Camera Battery

The Canon AT-1 needs a 4LR44 battery or equivalent to operate. The shutter is electronically controlled. Without a battery, you will not be able to take photographs with the AT-1.

Make Sure There is No Film Loaded in the Camera

If there is any film left in the camera, it will be ruined if the film door is opened before the film has been rewound. If you purchased the camera second-hand from a flea market, thrift store, garage sale, or similar type of sale, you can assume the film has been exposed.

To check for film, see if the frame counter shows a number instead of an ‘S’. If it shows a number, go through the process of rewinding and removing a roll of film. You can follow this guide on how to rewind and remove film from the Canon AT-1.

Make Sure the Canon AT-1 Functions Correctly

If your Canon AT-1 has not been used in a long time or if it is your first time using the camera, check to make sure the camera is functioning correctly before loading film.

With fresh batteries and no film, press the shutter button and listen for the shutter to fire. You can also remove the lens and watch the mirror move up.

Do Not Load Film in Sunlight

You can ruin your film by loading it in direct sunlight or bright light.

Bright light increases the risk of light piping. When this happens light is able to penetrate through the light seal on the 35mm film canister.

The film is not guaranteed to be completely ruined. You could end up with varying degrees of fogging.

Fogging can produce a range of undesirable outcomes such as a loss of contrast, blown out streaks, or a completely exposed frame. If this problem occurs it should subside with progressive frames.

For Best Results, Use Fresh Film

Film degrades in quality over time. It should also not be exposed to hot temperatures like those in a car on a sunny day or attic during summer.

Expired film can be used, but you are not guaranteed predictable performance.

For the best results, use a fresh pack of film that is not expired. For a complete list of all types of film, check out the Best Canon AT-1 Film, but for the most commonly available films, my recommendations are:

Black & White


Step-by-Step How to Load Film

Time needed: 1 minute.

How to load film into the Canon AT-1. For demonstration purposes, I am using a “bad” roll of film that has been exposed.

  1. Open the film door.

    Canon AT-1 Open Film Door

    To open the film door on the Canon AT-1, pull up on the film rewind knob. This will cause the film door to pop open.

  2. Load the 35mm film canister.

    Canon AT-1 Load 35mm Film Canister

    Leave the film rewind knob in the raised position. Tilt the film canister towards the bottom of the camera to make loading easier. Take note of the orientation of the film leader which should be towards the bottom of the camera. The film leader is the half-width cutout at the start of the film roll.

  3. Push the film rewind knob down.

    Canon AT-1 Align Film Rewind Knob

    The film rewind knob will hold the film canister in place. If you have any problems pushing it down, give the knob a quarter turn. The prongs on the film rewind knob need to align correctly with the film canister.

  4. Pull the film leader over to the film take-up spool.

    Canon AT-1 Take-up Spool

    Gently pull the film leader over to the take-up spool. The tip of the film leader needs to be threaded into the film take-up spool.

  5. Advance the film.

    Canon AT-1 Advance Film

    To take the slack out of the film so that you can close the film door, you need to advance the film once. Pay attention to the film leader because it is important it does not come free. The film rewind knob should turn as you advance the film.

  6. Close the film door.

    Canon AT-1 Close Film Door

    Carefully close the film door. There is a slot on the door that can hold the end tab from a box of film. This is useful for letting you know what film is loaded in the camera.

  7. Make sure the camera is on.

    Canon AT-1 Turn Camera On

    For the next steps, the AT-1 needs to be on.

  8. Press the shutter release button and advance the film.

    Canon AT-1 Frame Counter

    Do this several times until the frame counter shows you the first frame. This is done to advance the film past what was exposed during the loading process. You want to get to the first frame, but sometimes you can squeeze out an extra shot on the ‘0’ frame.

  9. You’re ready to take photographs.

    Congratulations! You’re now ready to shoot. Once you’ve shot the roll of film, you will no longer be able to easily advance the film. Check out this page on how to unload film from the Canon AT-1.

Where to develop film? You can do it at home, or send it off to a lab to be developed and scanned.

Canon AT-1 Resources