Canon Developing Touchscreen DSLR


Keep your eyes peeled for a DSLR camera with a touchscreen interface by Canon sometime in the near future. Photography Bay is reporting that Canon filed a patent in April 2009 containing images that seem to clearly depict a touchscreen interface.

Rather than describe functionality general to touchscreen interfaces, the 13 page patent describes a method for preventing accidental touches on the screen. After registering which eye you use for the viewfinder, the camera will detect when your eye is at the viewfinder, and will disable one side of the touchscreen to prevent the contact from your face from being registered as touches.


The patent also mentions that you can control aperture and shutter speed by sliding your finger vertically and horizontally, respectively. However, I’m not exactly sure how this is superior to current methods of adjusting these settings, since the physical dial seems to work just fine.

I couldn’t find the actual patent that Photography Bay cites (US Patent Application No. 12/422,695), but if anyone can post a link to the patent in the comments you’ll get kudos from us. We’ll update this post with a link. (Update: See link below)

What are your thoughts? Would you buy a touchscreen DSLR? Do you see any advantages or disadvantages?

(via Photography Bay)

Update: Eugene (@eugenephotoblog) spent two hours searching and finally found the patent. Mega kudos to Eugene!

You can check out the patent here.

  • D.

    I'm not too fond of this idea :/

  • markthedev

    Would have to see it in action but sounds like it could be nice, one thing though is “the 13 page patent describes a method for preventing accidental touches on the screen” seems awfully similar to the iPhone's handling of this. The phone “senses” when it is near your face and locks the screen, then unlocks it when you move it away from your head. Either way I applaud Canon for pushing the envelope and being innovative.

  • Nito Edwards

    Madness…. the world has gone touch screen crazy. It’s like…. the ipod craze all over again.(Everyone needed an ipod) or Mac computers. I’ll pass. The features we already have work fine plus I’d rather not pay a good 400-600 more for a touch screen version.

  • plrang

    If there will be such a mess like is today with buttons and menu, it wouldn’t be a fun ;)

  • rickhanzlik

    The screen is too small to really support this. I wouldn't find this a deal maker for me.

  • Nick Steinbuch

    And if i look trough the viewfinder and touch the screen with my nose it fires ;)?
    Dont think i would buy one since i like the current system and i think that touchscreen will slow everything down (i mean the workflow, changing shutterspeed/aparture).

  • Ian Lee

    I'm not fond of this idea either, please stop with the gimmicky upgrades. The current method is just fine and isn't hurting anyone, if you use a touch screen, can you adjust it while your eye is up to the viewfinder?? I know when I'm shooting in the “creative zones” i'm adjusting aperture / shutter speed while shooting. #ideafail

  • dmkellman

    I feel a touchscreen DSLR is more for show than anything and I feel it's pointless and a waste.

  • Steven Yunghans

    Why? What's the point of it? Touchscreens at their best allows the users to manipulate whatever is on the computer screen in an intuitive fashion that more closely mimics how we develop knowledge of our world than QWERTY keyboards and mice do. What advantage does having a touchscreen instead of a standard LCD on the back of a camera hold? How would it be used? Is it just for adjusting camera settings or is it for taking pictures? If I set my camera on a tripod at a low shutter speed, I certainly don't want to tap in the back of the camera body to take a picture…

    I must be missing something…

  • aaron

    could be gimmicky, and I would certainly NEVER use it for exposure controls. The one thing I COULD see it being useful for is image review. I cant say I have ever been 100% comfortable with the system of zooming checking focus etc. I think that is a process that stand to benefit from the possible simplification of touch controls.

  • ajmaclean

    I've actually been wondering if they DSLR world would go touch screen at some point, however I think the idea of changing the aperture and shutter speed through the screen is just plain pointless. As a professional photographer I don't want to have to take my eye off the viewfinder and look at a screen when I'm trying to change my settings on the fly.

  • James t

    I'd like to see all manual controls and use the touchscreen for after photo viewing purposes. everyone knows how hard it is to look at a screen in direct sunlight, and if your controls are on that, it would be rather difficult to control in many photographic scenarios. agreeing with ajmaclean on this one, it would be annoying to have to look down at the camera to change settings then go back to the viewfinder, then you just look like you don't know how to use your own camera. this could work, but they would have to think about it a lot to make it work well.

  • dijea

    I think I'd give it a pass.

  • Michael Zhang

    I guess the difference would be registering which eye you use and selectively locking up one side of the screen, though I can't see why you would still be using the unlocked portion of the screen as a touchscreen when your face is pressed against the other half… :-)

  • Michael Zhang

    From the sketches, it seems as though the touchscreen would span most of the back side of the camera. =P

  • QuBe

    It could make going through the function menus a lot faster…and flicking back and forth through images….or zooming in and out on them with pinch gestures.

    But, since higher end cams allow customization of all the buttons, getting to the most needed options is quick and doesn't even require looking at the camera.

    A touch screen might be nice, but there are plenty of other things worth R&D…like even better high ISO noise reduction.
    Certainly if this adds even 1ยข to the already substantial cost of a DSLR, the manufacturers can keep it.

  • fxnut

    Ummmm…. fingerprints?

    I don't know about anyone else, but I try to avoid touching the screen on my DSLR.

    In bright sunlight, any grease from your fingers can make it impossible to see what you're taking pictures of. This sounds like a patently daft idea unless they've got a cunning way of avoiding greasy smudges.

  • Chris

    I'm not digging the extra price tag that would come with a touch screen. Not to mention that it adds little to no functionality, and I'm at a loss to see where Canon see's a benefit to this. It's just gimmicky.

  • joakimbergquist

    Waste of valuable devoloping time… There are more important things to re-invent than the use of an lcd. for instance Canons poor button placement. A touch-screen would make this current scenario even worse. And one really important thing for canon to think about is that the pro's are leaving for Nikon and the amateurs seems to pick either Nikon, Sony or Olympus… most beacause of the ease of use and lower prices. A touch-screen isnt improving this point, I think pointing at a screen is more difficult than pushing static buttons and scrolling those wheels.

  • Rolsted

    Agree! I can see some advantages when it comes to review functionality, but I don't really get it when it comes to setting exposure controls etc. But then again, maybe it's just a classic example of old habits die hard?

  • HamHock

    I like buttons that feel nice to depress, thankyouverymuch.

  • Eugene

    So, I spent about two hours searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office website today… And I believe I found the relevant patent! The assignee name is listed as “Canon Kabushki Kaisha” and the filing date of April 13, 2009 and publish date of October 22, 2009 all match the details provided on the Photography Bay site…

    It's titled “IMAGE PICKUP APPARATUS, METHOD FOR CONTROLLING IMAGE PICKUP APPARATUS” and the abstract states: “The image pickup apparatus includes an optical viewfinder, a rear touch panel display, a registering part which registers whether an eye of a user viewing an object image through the optical viewfinder is a right eye or a left eye, a setting part which sets a non-enterable area where touch entry is not permitted in the touch panel to a first area when the right eye is registered, and to set the non-enterable area to a second area different from the first area when the left eye is registered. A controller controls the apparatus such that the apparatus does not perform an operation in response to a touch to the non-enterable area in the touch panel and the apparatus performs an operation in response to a touch to an area other than the non-enterable area in the touch panel…”

    Awesome! Everyone can read more about the patent here.

  • Michael Zhang

    Mega kudos to you! :-)

    Updated the post with this information.

  • Michael Zhang

    Here's the meaning behind the assignee name:

  • Oleg Sklyanchuk

    I think this is a great idea!

    First of all – I never use any buttons on the back of my DSLR while actually shooting (only scrolling wheels and accompanying buttons on top) so I don't need to be able to find them to the touch.

    Second – I don't want to run around with a notebook and hook it to my camera each and every time I want to check if it's the eyes or the eyelashes that are in focus. So I'd very much like to have a BIGger screen with higher resolution. At this moment the only way to achieve it is to remove all the buttons on the back of the camera and use that space for a screen.

    Third – users will be able to customize their interface to their hearts' content. Want that button on the left? No problem! Want to add an additional button? A different color for it? An icon? No problem again! Now go and try to do that with your usual buttons.

    I believe that this is a perfect solution for those who complain about Canon's “poor button placement”, so I don't see why many people express a bit of negativism in comments.

  • Michael Zhang

    Ah. Very interesting insights and observations :-)

    You brought up some angles that I hadn't considered before.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • brian

    no no no

    it's pretty much impossible to see the screen in the daylight already.. how could I operate the camera if I can't see my function buttons?

    dumb idea. period.

  • lensflare35

    They'd be better off making it a screen that pulls out and rotates instead of touch. Much more useful and needed now that we have video capability. Would help with all the down low and up high shots.

  • adam

    Could it allow for setting points on the image better? Auto focus location, or something?
    What if you could just draw a circle and it would use the focus/exposure evaluation points in you circle? That could be done quicker on a touch screen than any existing way I can think of, for any arbitrary points.

  • Michael Zhang

    That's an interesting idea.

    I'm not sure it would actually be able to set an infinite number of focus points (like a point-and-shoot might, for example) since DSLRs use a discrete number of focus points, but using your finger to quickly select the first one is definitely a big plus if you have a ton of focus points.

  • Bergur

    I can see the idea behind this project. Of course it would be handy at times, especially when looking at photos and editing.

    But while shooting, in action packed situations or bad weather, I don't think I'd like this. But then again, who uses the monitor while shooting? Most cameras have a little display that handles most of the most important features.

    Why not, this was bound to happen sooner or later, let's just hope they don't make it fragile or vulnerable…

  • Zarli Win

    two things i think this might be useful for:
    1) focus point selection in live view
    2) reviewing images (especially if there's touch to zoom to specific areas)

    I would never use it for exposure controls.

  • Zarli Win

    two things i think this might be useful for:
    1) focus point selection in live view
    2) reviewing images (especially if there's touch to zoom to specific areas)

    I would never use it for exposure controls.

  • Andrew

    Im a novice shooter but I can think of some things. A couple of which are already stated… larger screen, total customization of the interface.

    How about an iPod like keyboard. Quick naming of a series of shots while on the shoot? Personally I would rather see wireless transfer via WiFi or Bluetooth built in with the ability to tether to a phone for Internet access. You might laugh but what if you could tether to a phone from a shoot in Dubai and (through some setup of course) directly upload your images to your home or office PC? Is there any value in that? I can say that I would love the ability via built in wireless transfer while studio shooting.

    Anyway… I would guess we see this on consumer grade cameras first anyway.

  • Felipe Manga

    I really like your second point, though I think the third is pretty unlikely.

    The way I pictured it was like this: in some sort of Manual mode, horizontal position controls aperture, while vertical controls shutterspeed (or vice versa). With a single poke of the screen, you'd be able to set both aperture and speed at the same time. A lot faster than a dial, though probably not as precise. The dial could be used for fine-tuning afterward.
    Personally, I shoot with either eye through the VF. The automatic detection thing might just get annoying.

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