Five Features I Wish All Cameras Had

Five Features I Wish All Cameras Had

Modern cameras often have a vast array of features, some more useful than others. There are some features that are less common than others that are still highly useful, however, and here are five that I wish would appear in more cameras.

1. Illuminated Buttons and Lens Mount

This is one of those little features that you might not even think about, but once you experience it, you wonder why it is not in every camera. If you are anything like me, you probably have crucial buttons like the shutter and AF-On buttons in your muscle memory, but when you need to pull the camera away from your face and dive into the menu system, you have to actively think about which buttons you are using and where they are located. This is not a big deal in bright light, but in a dark environment, this has often made things difficult for me, especially since I frequently shoot in dark concert halls. I recently got to play with the new 1D X Mark III a bit, and the illuminated buttons just made everything all the more convenient.

Similarly, during those concerts, I often have to change lenses and be extraordinarily quiet about it (classical music and all), and it is tough to fiddle around in the dark, trying to connect the lenses. The Pentax K-1 is the only camera I have ever known to have an illuminated lens mount, but it was fantastic to have and made changing lenses in the middle of a dark field at 2 am much, much easier.

2. Sensor Shift for Astrophotography

Speaking of the Pentax K-1, this was one of the coolest and cleverest features I have seen in a camera. The K-1 has in-body image stabilization. Pentax recognized the potential of this for usage beyond stabilizing images. They call the function "AstroTracer." It works much like an equatorial mount, rotating the sensor to compensate for the rotation of the Earth to allow for longer exposures without the stars blurring. Of course, it can't rotate as far as an actual mount, but dedicated astrophotographers would probably be using a more advanced mount anyway. It can rotate plenty far enough for someone like a landscape photographer who just wants to capture the occasional night sky.

This image is a composite, where the sky was shot using Pentax's AstroTracer function on the K-1.

For example, in the photo above, I was using a 15mm focal length, which by the 500 rule would allow for about a 33-second exposure before I would start to experience blur. However, thanks to AstroTracer, I had no problem taking a 150-second exposure of the sky at f/2.8 and ISO 400 to combine with a 10-second exposure of the ground at f/2.8 and ISO 6,400. It is a fantastically convenient feature to have and super easy to use. Given how many newer mirrorless features have in-body image stabilization, I would love to see more of them implement this capability.

3. Customizable Top Screens

Many cameras show set information on the top screen, normally basic operational parameters like shutter speed, aperture, ISO, battery life, drive mode, autofocus mode, metering mode, exposure compensation, and shots left on the memory card. That is all well and fine, but a lot of us need different information readily available. For example, I really don't care how many shots I have left on a card, at least not enough to have it permanently displayed on the top screen. Nor do I need exposure compensation constantly displayed. And I almost never shoot in anything but auto white balance. 

Of course, older cameras used LCD screens that did not allow custom information to be displayed. However, as cameras like the EOS R and R5 and GFX 100 move toward more advanced top screens like e-ink, the customization capabilities increase. I would love to get rid of extraneous information and just put the bare essentials that I personally need or have specialized information displayed in certain scenarios. 

4. Automated Frame Averaging

This is a feature I believe only Phase One has, but boy, is it neat. This feature takes many images over time and then averages their luminosity values together into a single raw file. This is somewhat akin to an ND filter, but with several advantages:

  • First, there is no need to carry ND filters for long exposures.
  • Because the frames are averaged, as opposed to just reducing the amount of incoming light, you do not have to worry about blowing highlights like you would with a long exposure using an ND filter. 
  • Averaging frames also has the effect of canceling random noise, making files even cleaner, with more range in post. 
  • You don't have to deal with the issues of focusing and seeing through the viewfinder when using an ND filter.

I would absolutely love to see this feature added to other cameras, and it could likely be done with a firmware update.

5. GPS

In fairness, this is more common than the four aforementioned features, but it is not in all cameras. I never really cared much about GPS until I started shooting more with my phone. Being able to pull up a map that showed where all my photos were taken had two benefits. First, it is simply a fun way to scroll through memories and see where you have been with my camera. Second, it is a great way to scout your old photos.

Organizing photos by locations can be really useful.

What I mean by "scouting" is having a reminder of the sort of photos you can take at a specific location. For example, let's say you are an engagement photographer and a new couple comes to you asking for an outdoor shoot. After discussing what the couple is looking for, you might have a few potential locations in mind. If your photos are geotagged, you can easily hop into the Map Module in Lightroom and pull up all the photos you have taken at those locations to help decide where to go. It is a very useful tool for adding another level of organization to your portfolio. 

How About You?

Do you find these features useful? Is there some other feature you wish all cameras had? Tell me about it in the comments.

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Norman McClave's picture

How about a depth-of-field calculator and/or a DOF mask like the one that appears for focus peaking?

Martin Beech's picture

Sony has automated frame averaging called Smooth Reflections an addin app (£3.99 for supported cameras). Comes with some presets but also manual controls.

Effects not quite the same as using an ND, obviously very sensitive to camera movements in-between the multiple frame captures, and huge increase in shutter activations. Good option to have though

Matthew Lacy's picture

How about just a top screen? Forget customizable, I'd be happy with any.

Tom Reichner's picture

I didn't realize that there were cameras that didn't have top screens. All of the cameras I've owned over the past 15 years have had top screens. I wonder which ones don't?

Dan Seefeldt's picture

Pro-sumer and "beginner" cameras.

Robert Nurse's picture

Live view overlays of the various composition guides like in Lightroom.

J. W.'s picture

The Nikon Z and Canon RF mounts should release a special high megapixel (stills only) edition with a square or if possible circular sensor to combat the cropped MF cameras from Hasselblad, Fuji, and Pentax.

I don't care for the 2x3 ratio, so I always crop immediately losing image quality. A sensor that covers the entire image circle gets better 16x9 landscapes, better vertical 5x7, and 4x5 portraits without needing a vertical grip for steady vertical shoots and no more need of L-Brackets.

Olympus m4/3 while not covering the full image, did show in-camera cropping, when importing to LR one saw it as cropped in the camera but resetting the crop unveiled the full 4x3 raw, imagine doing this and seeing the full circle and cropping as one likes without losing image quality. It will never happen, but the title is the things I wished for.

Les Sucettes's picture

Better wireless integration with phones - this whole connecting with wifi is really buggy most of the time on most cameras... and actually I’d just would like to wirelessly transfer files in a convenient manner. USB-C is great for speed but more often than not it I put my camera on the desk and go on doing something else. If I could just hit a buttOn and it would do it for me ... Even if its slower ...

Because Capture One doesn’t allow you to change time - which is the one criticism I have for C1 - I just want to camera to be connected to a clock that recognises where you are and corrects the time for you (should be possible with GPS).

IPTC - can we have all key Information filled in straight out of camera? Why do I always have to input the same information over and over... like website and c information. Sure I know I can add my name and copyright but not the Google friendly © 2020 Name type of stuff.

And actually being able to update that sort of stuff and ratings and so while on the go with a really cool app would be far more useful than trying to retouch ... I mean like on the phone and not having to carry a laptop / ipad around for it... and having to transfer to your phone into a LR app first ... like why not just do that in camera using an app on the phone. And then when you import your files (wirelessly) its all there already and you can start your workflow...

Integrate a Crypto Blockchain on each photograph that directly links back to you and which cannot be removed... work with Apple and Microsoft and Google to ensure this.

I could go on

Stephen Strangways's picture

4. Automated Frame Averaging - like the Live ND feature on Olympus cameras?

Lee Christiansen's picture

Two things, one related to speedlights...

A camera that can tell me what white balance it chose on the screen where it tells me about exposure / f-stop / histogram when I look back at images. Would be very useful to make a judgement about what colour gel to pop on my strobes/speedlights in difficult ambient lighting.

A camera / speedlight that will allow me to set / lock the ETTL setting from the last shot, so when it gets it right, I can lock that down for other shots. (Would be great for shooting group or portrait shots).

Fergal O'Callaghan's picture

Pro capture like Olympus does. Very handy for nature photography or sport and you are waiting for something to happen and you are a fraction of a second too late capturing it.

Ian Browne's picture

ROF LOL; not sure too many today would have survived with fully manual film cameras :)
To me; a camera is not a modern camera if it doesn't have a proper viewfinder; flip out screen (swivel preferred) and proper dials to make make most adjustments . A live histogram in the viewfinder is now another should have . The Oly Em1 fits my needs nicely.
My wounded Olympus EM1 would have to the best camera I have used over 50 years (wounded being been a faulty rear dial :( ) . . Don't use or really need all the have to have bells and whistles so I guess I can live without the wantahaves mentioned above . Not sure I have ever really considered any; but then I did like the built in ND filter in the Canon G11/12 --- only 3 stops think but handy at times.
In camera polarising filter has been a dream for a long time.

Today's camera are pretty amazing tools as they are; but also far too complicated . It is said to be something like a million programmable settings in the Oly .

Nitin Chandra's picture

Only one feature...A. mode that shoots what I want and use AI to enhance the composition :P

charlie sanders's picture

I had a canon 1Ds III that I could pick several areas of manual exposure and bracket them. This made luminosity masks and or dodging/ burning images a breeze, especially panoramas or multi panel images. With a cell phone and WiFi connected to cameras it’s doable but I still liked that feature.

Tom Reichner's picture

Two features I think every modern camera should have:

1: WIFI, and the ability to be controlled via a smart phone. Maybe every modern pro-level camera already does have this feature ... it's actually hard to imagine any manufacturer making a high-end camera without it these days.

2: Expose to the Right exposure mode. Not just "highlight tone priority", but a mode that automatically takes every exposure as far as it can to the right, without blowing out any highlights. And make it totally fail-proof. With this mode, many of us would never have to think about exposure again ..... at least not for "normal" image-making. Why this hasn't already become commonplace is beyond my comprehension.

Nicolas Thulliez's picture

wow the top of the image with the night is about to make a jump into light speed !

Nicolas Thulliez's picture

to be serious, the two features I'd like, raw transfert over wifi and full control also over wifi.

Christian Gold's picture

Agreeing with all of those!

Scoops Fantastic's picture

RELIABLE wireless transferring of at least jpeg images should be standard on all mid to top level cameras by now and should be standard on all cameras within 10 years. the amount of productivity you could get done with that would be amazing. It blows my mind that companies are STILL focusing mostly on resolution over more useful functions, but nooooo we gotta cram 8k into a body that can't actually just so we can slap the 8k badge on the box.

Josue Rodriguez's picture

A kickass mobile app that actually works.
Show on the screen what focal length I'm using when having a zoom attached.

Steven Weston's picture

I'd like an RMyMi (pronounced are-my-my) feature: Read My Mind. Failing that, WiFi and GPS would be really nice. Add a customizable, completely touch-sensitive LCD. I'd love to use those K-1 features, especially the lighted buttons and lens mount. I like working dimly lit places without a head-light. That "AstroTracer" would be really cool for IBIS bodies. For enhanced BlueTooth connectivity add a plugin BT antenna or a shoe-mount BT amp-ant (xmt/rcv). And, thinking of my hybrid video friends, effective heat dissipation.

Andrew Broekhuijsen's picture

While the rotating sensor sounds pretty cool, and I would use it... I can see how it's kinda niche too.

Honestly the only feature I really wish my DSLR had that it doesn't is an articulated LCD. Sigh.