Is It Time to Ditch Dials and Buttons and Replace Them With a Huge LCD Screen?

Is It Time to Ditch Dials and Buttons and Replace Them With a Huge LCD Screen?

It’s been reported that Canon has just registered an intriguing patent in Japan: a camera where the rear LCD fills the back of the body, removing the scroll wheel and incorporating it as part of the screen itself. With advances in touchscreen technology, is this what we can expect to see on cameras in the very near future?

Canon News spotted the patent application, which appears to show a large rear screen where the control wheel is instead replicated digitally and then also shown when looking through the EVF. 

Manufacturers such as Canon register countless patents, many of which never go into production, but this is definitely an intriguing possibility and could affect camera design more broadly. Given smartphone technology and the evolution of touchscreens, it’s surprising that rear LCDs are not being used more by camera designers. Perhaps part of the difficulty is that photographers are used to and appreciate the tactility of chunky dials and buttons, allowing them to operate a camera without looking.

Cameras are starting to use touchscreens more often, as seen in the Leica SL2 and the Canon EOS R. Personally, I find it fiddly and appreciate the more analog experience of turning a dial rather than sliding a finger, but there’s probably a load of customers who would prefer something that is closer to the experience of using a smartphone.

The dial shown in Canon’s patent diagrams features Av and Tv, the aperture and shutter priority modes that are becoming increasingly out of date. Thanks to digital, I'd argue that these modes should be completely rethought given that ISO is one of three equally important variables for creating an exposure and is no longer fixed for 24 or 36 photographs. Interestingly, Canon seems to be aware of this, as suggested by the Fv mode seen in the EOS R.

What do you think? Do you want to ditch your dials and just use a screen, or is that going to interfere with how instinctively you use your camera? Leave a comment with your thoughts below.

[This article was updated in order to credit Canon News as the source.]

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51 Comments

Ken Hilts's picture

I'm not at all interested in UIs that replace any of the main physical controls with a touchscreen. Whether it's operating a camera or driving a car, I don't want the tool to be a visual distraction from the job.

Nah, I wanna be able to use my camera blind with it to my face, not faffing with a shitty touch screen

jim hughes's picture

They will have to pry my cold dead fingers from the dials first.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Nope. Touchscreens, in this case, would be very inefficient. I can see either having to enter a "menu" like interface; and/or having to pull my eyes off the viewfinder to make changes. That's just silly.

Dave Terry's picture

Hell no. I know screens look cool and have their place, but they are a far inferior technology when shooting through the viewfinder because they have no tactile response. When I'm looking through a viewfinder, I never have to pull it away from my eye to look at where my hands are in order to change basic shooting settings. I would not buy an intentionally crippled camera with only a screen, unless it didn't have a viewfinder, but then "no viewfinder" is also a deal breaker.

Pierre Dasnoy's picture

I miss that part of "dumb"phones, we could write messages without even looking at the screen. You won't see my buy this kind of camera.

VINICIUS YUZO ZUCARELI's picture

I miss talking my phone out of my pocket, finding my wife's number and texting long messages without ever looking at the phone.

Rod Kestel's picture

No! Further more, dumb idea, not ever. Also Not.

Tony Clark's picture

I'd love a larger display but want to make adjustments while looking through the viewfinder. How about letting us customize menus instead? I'm sure that I'm in the minority but I want minimal interface since I shoot manually 99.9% of the time.

Steven de Vet's picture

nop.. being able to use a camera without looking at it with muscle memory is far too useful.
Far quicker too.. maybe some menu's can be used with touch screens.. but dials for ISO/aperture/shutter are pretty much a must..

Been there, Done that. Samsung Galaxy NX

Follow Up: I wanted to touch on something. Having arthritis in my hands the buttons, dials and knobs are difficult to manipulate. Thus I'm always allowing the camera (Canon M6) to make the adjustments for me. What I was hoping for, was a way to tether the camera to a larger tablet with a live view so that I can make better adjustments. Don't waste time making a camera with a larger screen, spend time and money create apps that even I can use in conjunction with what ever camera I select.

I think the best controls are the ones within reach of your thumb. A navigation pad with a scroll ring around it and some buttons within reach seem to work the best.

Penny Fan's picture

Shorten battery life, no feedback, cant find button by finger touch, cant use the camera if no light is allowed....not sure why is this a good idea.

Daniel Medley's picture

"Is It Time to Ditch Dials and Buttons and Replace Them With a Huge LCD Screen?"

In a word, no.

Spy Black's picture

Yeah I dunno. Everytime I try working with touchscreen-controlled cameras my nose touches the screen and sends the focus point to the edge and the camera either focuses on the wrong spot or doesn't focus at all. I shut off touchscreen controls.

My Pana's however do allow to shut off only certain functions, so I kill focus and other settings but I still have access to functions that won't interfere with the shot, which is pretty smart on Pana's part I thought.

Dan Seefeldt's picture

N E U R A L

I M P L A N T S

Mike Gillin's picture

Definitely not a fan of this on any pro-grade camera. Perhaps for casual shooting. For real use there's no replacement for the muscle memory of knowing exactly where a dial or button is and how it will react.

Stuart Carver's picture

No, my phone pisses me off enough as it is, I like buttons.

Sometimes patents are defensive patents so that some other company doesn't keep Canon from doing this if they ever have a need to.

Kirk Darling's picture

True. Relatively little that Canon has ever patented has found its way to an actual camera model.

Great idea. I live in Canada, and I love having to take my gloves off in -30c.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Oh great, more chimping.

It works well for Blackmagic (cinema) cameras ... nowhere else.

Only read the title, but the obvious response is:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Kirk Darling's picture

I initially thought touchscreens were anathema when I first heard of them. But when I got a 70D, I realized that touchscreens are dandy when I'm manipulating controls with the camera away from my face. OTOH, I still want tactile controls when operating the camera against my face. It's all a matter of whether I'm able to look at the screen and my fingertips at the same time.

So, no, I would not want to see all control capability relegated to touchscreens, but as long as all the controls I need with the camera to my eye are still tactile, I'll be happy.

Tactile buttons are good. It's a lesson that the automotive industry is slowly re-learning. It'd be grand to see an industry to learn from another and skip a bad idea instead of dragging their customers through a valley of sorrows for years.

Oli Aponte's picture

NOOOOO!!!! Been using iPhones since the 3G version came out... and every single time I text, I'll hit the wrong key numerous times, in the span of 3 to 4 words. Can't imagine trying to change settings on the fly, and hitting the wrong button, over, and over again.

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