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.
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.
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.
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.