Canon Touchscreen DSLR

Canon Touchscreen DSLR Patent

DSLRs continue to evolve. And, this evolution will continue.  There’s no stopping it.

A few years ago, purists scoffed at chimping on the preview screen to see how exposures looked.  Then, a loud minority (of probably the same purists) cried afoul when Live View displays began showing up on just about every DSLR released.  The latest purist revolt has come as a result of the inclusion of video capture as a “must-have” feature in almost every DSLR released.

Just hop on about any photo gear forum and you’ll find plenty of critical comments concerning the latest bells and whistles attached to DSLRs.  Many proclaim that they will not buy a given camera because it has a specific feature – again, the latest villain is video.

If you think the above examples of departure from a pure SLR camera are annoying, you may very well consider the addition of a touchscreen on a DSLR to be heresy. Chris posed the question of whether photographers want a DSLR with a touchscreen (among other features) back in July.  The handful of well-reasoned comments brought up issues regarding interaction with the camera and accessibility to its features.  One commenter noted, “Just because it’s possible doesn’t make it desirable. I have one DSLR that only displays the settings on the LCD on the back of the camera; it is bulky and time consuming to take my eye away from the camera, select the setting and walk through a menu to set it.”

While the above image appears to have been produced by my 7-year-old, I can assure you that is not the case.  The image actually appears in US Patent Application No. 12/422,695, which was originally filed by Canon on April 13, 2009 and published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on October 22, 2009.

The patent clearly exposes Canon’s implementation of a touchscreen DSLR.

Canon Touchscreen DSLR Details

Canon Touchscreen DSLR

So, what can we learn from the patent?

Well, the patent is only 13 pages long (that’s a bit short for most of Canon’s patents that I’ve read) and does not cover claims that are specific to the overall touchscreen interface.  Instead, the patent primarily covers claims relating to accidentally touching parts of the touchscreen when bringing the camera to your eye in order to look through the viewfinder.

Specifically, the camera is supposed to allow users to register their dominant eye.  The photographer will input whether it is the left or right eye. Then the camera will detect the registered eye when it is brought to the viewfinder.  At that point, the camera will disable a portion of the touchscreen that would likely be touched by your face and, therefore, prevent any setting changes.  Also, note that the patent covers the possibility that the camera may automatically detect which eye is brought to the viewfinder and disable the appropriate portion of the LCD.

The diagonal hatching lines in the above image show the portion of the screen that is disabled, depending on which eye is registered with the camera.

If this all sounds a little familiar, recall that a Canon patent application covers biological metadata based on the registration of the photographer’s iris within the camera via an Iris Registration Mode.  In that patent application, the photographer’s identity is embedded into the file based on the iris looking through the lens at the time the image was captured.  This applies even when there are multiple users on a given camera.  The camera can store the iris metadata for the appropriate users, and embed it when they are shooting.

We hear the cliché often; however, these two pieces of tech could work together to truly let the photographer’s camera become an extension of his or her body.

The tech side of this patent is pretty cool, but what I’m more interested in is what we are supposed to do with a touchscreen on a DSLR.

Touchscreen Features

Two simple and important adjustments that can be modified via the touchscreen are mentioned in the patent:

1. Sliding you finger across the panel in a vertical direction changes aperture values.

2. Sliding your finger across the panel in a horizontal direction changes shutter speed.

Other features contemplated by the patent that may be enabled by touch entry through the LCD include the following settings:

  • Focus detection area
  • Exposure correction value
  • Flash adjustment correction value
  • Photometry mode (i.e., metering mode)
  • Drive mode
  • ISO value
  • Auto focus mode
  • White balance mode
  • Exposure correction value

Essentially, this list includes everything that you use scroll wheels and joysticks for now.  If you think about what the info display on the back of a Canon DSLR looks like, this touchscreen idea starts to make a lot of sense.

Canon DSLR Info Display

Imagine if you could get to any of these settings just by tapping on the display in the respective boxes.  I’ve grown fairly efficient with my scroll wheels and shortcut buttons on my Canon DSLRs over the years; however, the though of tapping to select some the these settings is intriguing at the very least.

Final Thoughts

Canon Touchscreen DSLR Patent

In closing, please remember that this is a patent application, and not all patent applications mean that a product is coming or serve as a definitive indication as to the timeliness of a product or feature.  I’ve covered plenty of patents for which the tech has yet to see the light of day.  (e.g., Canon Iris Registration Mode, Canon Fuel Cell DSLR, Advanced Nikon Viewfinder, etc.)

That said, given the present market trends and competition levels, not to mention the widespread adoption of touchscreens in point and shoot cameras, I would consider a Canon Touchscreen DSLR to be a likely contender for release within the next generation or two of DSLRs.  I won’t call it a sure thing for next year, but I wouldn’t be surprised either if the next Canon Rebel showed up a CES 2010 with a touchscreen.

While a touchscreen just seems like a feature we’d find in an entry-level DSLR, if it is executed well, it could be a nice touch on a flagship camera.  The key, of course, is proper execution.  If Canon will let users ease into the feature and keep our buttons on the camera, then we would have a safety valve if we decide to hate the feature.

Does the absence of other buttons and a scroll wheel on the back of the images from the patent application mean that we won’t have those?  I don’t know.  It could just be that they are irrelevant to the claims in the patent and Canon just left them off. Alternatively, it could be a signal that Canon is planning on dropping a near-buttonless DSLR on the consumer market (I’ll go out on a limb and say there’s no way Canon would drop such a camera in the pro or prosumer market).

Your Thoughts

So, what do you think?

Would you buy a touchscreen DSLR?  Why or why not?

Any thoughts on the implementation of Canon’s design?  What features would you want/need along with the touchscreen access?

Fire away in the comments below.


  1. Mark Stone says

    Cool now I get to change more settings with my nose when I shoot!
    Yes close friends get to call me Pinocchio.

  2. Lweek says

    It is a bad idea. I personaly hate touchscreens. During sunny days You see nothing on them because sweat from fingers. There is also no need for such kind of control.

  3. Nathan Iversen says

    Would I buy one? No, unless it was implemented REALLY well, there are too many things that can go wrong like a nose or stray finger. There would have to be a way (preferably quick) to shut it off or turn it on, like the rotary switch for video on the 7D.

    Personally, I would much rather buy a camera from Canon that focuses right, a la 1D3 and 5D2 [have it, have the AF] before I would buy one with a touch screen or iris detection. If Canon can read an eye, why can’t they focus on one?!

  4. canonnier says

    if moving user input away from buttons and wheels in the body to touch gestures on the lcd allows for bigger screens like it does in the compacts i would buy it. for video 16:9 screens would be nice.
    a smeared screen is not really an anti touchscreen argument since dslr screens are usually smeared by your nose anyway.

  5. Paul says

    For adjustment of values, it is good to get tactile feedback from the clicks (detents) of the knobs and dials. However, touch would be valuable in the Quick-control screen to choose which parameter you wish to adjust; it’s a pain to use the multi-controller joystick to navigate around that screen.

  6. says

    I left a comment about it on the Petapixel post, but readers of Photography Bay may be interested in seeing the actual patent on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Website.

    It’s called “IMAGE PICKUP APPARATUS, METHOD FOR CONTROLLING IMAGE PICKUP APPARATUS” and matches the information described on this post. The patent application number provided in the post is incorrect…

    Again, the patent application is here.



  7. Amit says

    I don’t think it would be a good idea to introduce touchscreen features on DSLR. I personally prefer to use joy stick.

  8. Alan says

    I personally welcome all new technologies. However, I will not use the touch screen function for my DSLR. This is because after we keep on using finger to move or press the screen for many times, the screen will sure be scratched. Also, those who use screen protector to protect the camera screen will also not use this kind of touch-screen function.

    However, to those people who want to treat their camera screen like I-phone screen,
    then these people will sure like to touch or press the camera screen!

  9. Riccardo says

    If the implementation of touchscreen is like the Apple Ipod touch , yes i can think to buy a Canon touchscreen Camera !

  10. Dagl says

    Maybe Iv’e got the wrong end of the stick here, but to my mind a touch screen would be an absolute boon when reviewing photos or precise live focusing. (Iphone anyone?)As for the nose control surely someone’s thought about a means of turning it off as you bring the camera to your eye (For those people that still look through the little window thingy)
    ; )

  11. Kana says

    I would be interested in checking it out. I have my 2nd HP all-in-one touchscreen computer (returned the 500 for a 600xt, with a better graphics card), and a touchscreen phone. Why not a camera too?

  12. David says

    Well I’m a Canon user, and I do reckon I can use the scroll wheels pretty quickly, but a touch sensitive screen could really open up new control ideas. Like one of the posts above, I’d be concerned about its use in bright sunlight. Since I, like most I’m sure, use the wheels with the camera to my eye, I don’t see how to do without at least one of them. If some controls could be removed from the back of the camera though (the joystick perhaps?) there would be more real estate there for other devices, or a bigger screen. Be creative Canon!

  13. says

    As I has pointed out before, Manufacturers should focus on their strength rather than what is the trend. I have yet to see one product with multiple function to be the best in all its function. There is always a trade off. Manufactures should have a few branches with one focusing only on camera without touch screen or video capability or a projector.

  14. Richard says

    Another example of “improvidently awarded” patents. This is unpatentable. What, pray tell, is so unique about a finger gesture being used for some function or other…shutter speed or whatever on a camera is so obvious that it simply can not stand. Oh well, at least the lawyers will have jobs.

  15. says

    Yes,I would buy a dslr with a touch-screen AS LONG AS it keeps all these functions operative from their corresponding buttons and wheels as well. Otherwise, I wouldn’t.

  16. says

    So does it come with Apps? Do i get to hold my Canon Mark 5DIII with 1 hand, and use the other to touch focus?

    Touchscreen DSLRs is as bad an idea as using your iphone as a camera replacement.

  17. yayash says

    What’s the big deal: Leaf have had a 3.5″ touch screen on their digital backs since 2004 and most people who own and/ or use it, just love it!
    And there are no issues with accidentally changing setting since you have to push a certain “button” to get to the menus plus you can lock the screen by holding down the user button:

    Oh and now they also have an iPhone app which is excellent:

  18. G.U.R.L. says

    I would prefer such a screen being included in a remote trigger.

    My DSLR was designed to be used with an eye on the viewfinder and this works very well (though not so well in portrait orientation.)

    Alas, I often use a tripod and portrait orientation at the same time. Obviously, the camera was not designed for that, two of the controls I must use very often are nearly inaccessible, most are very unpleasant to use.

  19. says

    i really can’t imagine a worst idea! looks like some idea that came out of someone who never ever used a camera. it’ll be a good opportunity to leave canon. they should be working on useful functions, like the dinamic range problems, and not this useless toy features for kids.

  20. G.U.R.L. says

    Paulo wrote: “they should be working on useful functions, like the dynamic range problems, and not this useless toy features for kids.”

    I completely agree about dynamic range being a severe issue (I make circular panoramas!) However present digital cameras look like the unhappy encounter of a film camera and …a keyboard. For a given photographer most functions and the corresponding buttons are useless but each function/button is useful for a (large or small) subset of users.

    Conclusion: though most will fail, that camera manufacturers are exploring new solutions should not be blamed.

    BTW, Apple iPod + iPhone show that a large amount of “kids” are ready for something like that…