Take a moment and look at your smartphone. The touchscreen is the only way to operate the device, except for a few buttons on the side, perhaps. Modern cameras also have touchscreens, but often, they are very limited. I wonder why that is.
I have been reviewing cameras for a couple of years now. In that time, I have photographed with almost every camera brand, except Olympus (don’t ask me why, because I don’t know). And I have seen touchscreen functionalities started to appear gradually.
At first, I didn’t find it to be necessary. Why use a touchscreen if you can operate the camera through an array of buttons? Every photographer managed to shoot for decades without the need for a touchscreen. So, why start now? On top of that, when looking through the viewfinder, your face could activate the touchscreen and perhaps change settings unintentionally. Or so I thought. Still, I had no need for a touchscreen. Until I bought my first Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, that is.
That's When I Learned How Great Touchscreens Are
For the first time, I got a camera with a very usable touchscreen. I could operate the camera completely by touchscreen if I wanted. And the beautiful thing about it, if I used the viewfinder, the touchscreen wasn’t functional at all. That’s when I changed my opinion, and I started to believe the touchscreen is a handy way of operating a camera. It is quick, it is easy, and no more fiddling about with small buttons or button combinations. But you still have the ability to use button operation, if you don’t want to use the touchscreen.
I discovered the nice possibilities of a touchscreen. Some cameras make it possible to place the autofocus point by touchscreen, just by swiping your thumb. Others can place a histogram anywhere on the screen or operate all the settings by a smart quick menu. These are just a few of the possibilities a touchscreen can offer. I think it's the next step in operating a camera.
But then it occurred to me. There are only a few cameras with a fully functional touchscreen. Most cameras only offer limited use of the touchscreen. Of course, I haven’t used every camera on the market, but I found a fully functional touchscreen only on the Hasselblad X1D, the Canon EOS M50, the Canon 5D Mark IV, the Nikon Z 7, and a few Panasonic cameras like the Panasonic DC-S1. I believe the Nikon D850 and Nikon Z 6 also have nearly full touchscreen capabilities.
Why Are Touchscreens Often Crippled?
Most modern cameras I reviewed have touchscreens, but these are limited to just a few functions. I noticed this with the Sony a9, the Sony a7R III, the Nikon D500, the Fujifilm GFX50S, and Fujifilm GFX 100, to name a few. Sometimes, you can use the touchscreen, sometimes not. You not only have to remember which buttons to use, but also when you are able to use the touchscreen and when not.
On top of that, isn’t it strange the menu of these cameras cannot be operated by the touchscreen? If smartphones can have a very sophisticated menu that can be operated with your finger, why do modern cameras lack the ability? Is it so difficult to incorporate a fully functional touchscreen? Even car navigation systems have more touchscreen functionalities.
The strange thing is, if you are used to a touchscreen operational camera, like my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, it becomes very frustrating when you get a camera that is limited to just a few functions. I noticed this again while photographing at Lofoten with the Fujifilm GFX 100. It has a touchscreen, but when I accessed the Q menu, which has a touchscreen-friendly layout, it wasn’t possible to operate it by touching the screen.
I found the same thing with the different Sony cameras. These very sophisticated cameras also have very limited touchscreen abilities. Why not offer the possibility to use the touchscreen for everything? If a smartphone manufacturer can do this, swhy can’t Sony and Fujifilm? After all, the screen is already touch-sensitive. Just write the software. I have to admit I don't know about the touchscreen functionality on the newer Sony a7R IV. Perhaps it is better already.
Once You Are Used to Something, It Is Hard to Let Go
I have grown used to operating the camera by touchscreen. That is why I am bothered by all this. It's a personal thing, I know. Most photographers only use one type of camera, and probably don’t know what difference a fully operational touchscreen can offer. I also know most manufacturers don’t build a camera with every functionality and modern techniques available, because they want to make the next model just a little bit better, perhaps even with some extra touchscreen functions. Or they want to offer extras with a firmware update, something that will extend the possibilities of the camera. After all, we all like to get extras after we have bought something.
Although I understand the reason why we aren’t offered cameras with every functionality available, I also know it is ridiculous why fully functional touchscreens aren’t more common, just like on our smartphones. It is easy to incorporate, I think. Panasonic, Canon, Nikon, and Hasselblad have shown us it is possible. So, I ask all camera builders and designers, especially Fujifilm and Sony, two brands that are often called very innovative, take note of the aforementioned brands with full touchscreen functionalities. Who will be first?
Before I end this article, I think it is good to mention that I don’t think a camera is bad when a touchscreen is not present or not fully functional. I just think it foolish if a touchscreen is so limited.
What do you think of touchscreen functionalities? Do you feel it is an overrated thing, or do you feel it is the best way to operate a camera? Please let me know your thought on this in the comments below. I am looking forward to your opinion.