Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Canon T90 - Concept Part II


The T90 was an eventual product from a unique R&D policy and a very determined effort by Canon to replace the A-1. For those who have used or seen the A-1 would be very much impressed with the T90's attractive appearance and functional controls. Despite the fact that the Minolta XD-7 had the advantage of having kicked off the mutli-mode auto SLR revolution in 1976, Canon's A-1 eventually had more followers than it. Thus, the T90's designing team had an enormous task as well to retain that strong prestige brought by the A-1 or even exceeding it in various aspects with the new camera. A great deal of emphasis was put on human engineering, its contour and shapes were all formed as a harmonies and integral part of the whole system. But the pleasure of glazing on a T90 is surpassed by the act of holding one. A clear departure from the traditional design was further evidenced by substituting the shutter speed dial and knobs with an Electronic Input Dial. However, a lot of users took some time to get themselves familiar in operating it. It was very innovative - in fact personally, I quite admired Canon's big gamble on its brave move to change the way of how photographers work by incorporating the input dial. All the EOS AF 35mm SLR cameras to date do featured the electronic input dial and this concept has also been borrowed by many other manufacturers. One of the most noticeable features on its physical appearance was centered at the grip. It was the modern science of human oriented engineering as its design allowed the user to use the Electronic Input Dial comfortably and naturally while at the same time, permitting the most "human" way to input the vast amount of information, making the hand grip an extension of the T90's aerodynamics. It has a soft rubber skin for a comfortable, non-slip surface. The grip extends to the curved thumb indentation at the back of the camera, providing a sure, comfortable "hold". It locates the shutter button where your index finger naturally comes to rest. The gently curved surface around it feels "right". And it positioned the unique Electronic Input Dial exactly where your index finger can best operate it. But to master the strokes of those awesome capabilities with this camera to assist you in any task imagined, yet making it so non-offending and shielding its sophistication beneath its shell by its simple outlook was really something. As far as my first personal experience with the T-90 was concerned, that was the impression given.

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Data memory back.jpg

This optional Data Memory Back created a lot of excitement
with its
revolutionary list of features as well.

The T-90 is a photographic tool created specifically with the serious user in mind - you don't expect a beginner or a novice shooter to handle these task despite the fact that the T90 has a simple-to-use Programmed AE mode. To be more exact, it even might require experienced photographers with vast knowledge of photographic know-how (and also not so defensive with high-tech operations) to realize its full potentials. Its main targeted audiences were photographers or users of the A-1 and working professionals using the New F-1. Some of the features the T90 has was TTL flash - the first Canon model to have it, built-in coreless motors plus the Partial and Spot metering options that do not require the hassle of changing the focusing screens like in the case of the New F-1.

Why ? Just look at its features:
There are a total of EIGHT Exposure Modes:

1. Shutter-priority AE with selectable Safety Shift function (ON/OFF possible)
Aperture-priority AE with selectable Safety Shift function (ON/OFF possible)
3. Standard program AE
4. Variable shift program AE (selectable out of 7 programs)
5. Manual
6. Stopped down AE
7. Stopped down (fixed index) metering
Flash AE (possible with specified Canon Speedlites)

From the above, you can see that the T90 provided all imaginable auto/program functions that a photographer might be utilizing A built-in motor drive capable of a 4.5 frames-per-second continuous shooting yet required the power of only four AA-size alkaline batteries. A maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 sec. and a 1/250 sec flash synchronization plus the aforementioned three switch able metering distribution patterns - Center-weighted, Spot and Partial. Multiple AE modes including variable-shift program with 7 program settings.

The list goes on. All these had also indicated what Canon aimed to make the T90, its next generation of an automatic exposure-based SLR. That was the theme and as well as the direction of high-tech camera where the manufacturers thought the users wanted during that period. And that is why as I had said earlier, the Canon A1 did pale in comparison with the T-90, as far as its options/features are concerned. We will ignore the fact that the Minolta, which has kicked off the AF revolution with its body-integral motor's Maxxum 7000, was one factor why the T90 had a short life cycle.

Most of us appreciate that automation, which has made the entire photo-taking process more simplified than ever, is related directly with the advances in camera technologies. The highly successful and well received earlier models like the AE-1, AE-1 program, and the multi mode A-1 have laid a very good foundation for Canon users to appreciate the advantages and marvels of automation in the image making process.


The original and highly successful commercial model, Original Canon AE-1 (Sold more than 5 million units worldwide), was replaced by this camera, the AE-1 Program. It also retained the Shutter-priority AE function and with several improved features.

Relative: Canon AE-1 Program
and other
Canon A and T series SLR Cameras.

Thus, the T90 was also aimed at people who are satisfied with just pointing the camera and clicking away, aside from those who are real serious and enjoy the painstaking process of photography. The T90 allows you of not to worry about doing everything by yourself, like operating secondary factors like film advancing, rewinding and tedious calculations on exposures, leaving you to concentrate fully on the creative aspects.

The T90's control concept was successfully realized. Everything that can be automated is automated. Yet everything that requires human input has not been ignored by retaining the key components in the image making process to restore the identity.

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Instruction manuals for 300TL Flash & Canon T90

Canon A & T series SLR Models

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Maintenance Team: Credit: Pawel Nabe for his image on the Data Memory Back. EEwyn Foo, my nephew, who has spent quite a number of nights converting the original manual in HTML format. Mr. Richard Yeow, General Manager -Optical Division of Canon Marketing for granting special permission to reproduce this manual into HTML format in his site as a form of obligation to all the T90 users worldwide. Maintainders of the T90 Message Board: Kaipin, Terry Carraway & Dr Strangelove; Tom Scott, for his images of the SPD cell, Chris Tutti for his initial effort to scan and prepared the T90 manual in PDF format. My staffs Miss Wati and Mirza for helping the basic setup work. * Canon, T90, FD Lenses, Canon Marketing are registered trade names or trademarks of Canon Inc. Japan.