Modern Canon Classic
Adam Richardson has just posted a nice paean to the Canon T90 on his blog.
Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON
Featured Comment by Morven: Like it or hate it, it's definitely the case that every Canon high-end SLR from then on is just a revision of the T90 design, in terms of appearance and interface. And, for that matter, many other companies' designs owe it a lot.
As well as the things mentioned, it also had the top-plate status LCD, now ubiquitous (though this was in simpler form on the earlier T70), the full-size handgrip with shutter button on the grip rather than on the camera top, and a bunch of other things. It also introduced the TTL flash system used on early EOS cameras.
Internally, it was the first camera to use multiple micromotors rather than one big motor to drive everything; its power-conservation is quite amazing. I can't think of many earlier cameras that incorporated an integral high-speed motor drive, for that matter.
The genius of the T90 was that it was the first electronic, power-driven SLR that wasn't interested in pretending to be mechanical or mindlessly repeating the control layout and appearance of the manual SLR.
If one had to pick the breaking point between the classic SLR and the modern, the T90 was the place. That it wasn't autofocus was about the only part of the revolution it did not have. Well, that and matrix metering, although it made up for it by having pretty much everything else; center-weighted, partial area, spot, multi-spot with shadow and highlight spots, and TTL flash.
I largely wrote the Wikipedia article on the T90, which I'm fairly proud of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_T90—an attempt to distil all the sources I could find into a short article on it.
Ken Tanaka: the T70 was a nice camera, very overlooked because it's boxy, plastic and motor-driven. I have one and it's a very serviceable camera indeed, and a steal for about $30 on eBay including lens. Meanwhile, less capable (but equally battery-dependent) AE-1s go for over a hundred.