Is It Time to Ditch Dials and Buttons and Replace Them With a Huge LCD Screen?

It’s been reported that Canon has just registered an intriguing patent in Japan: a camera where the rear LCD fills the back of the body, removing the scroll wheel and incorporating it as part of the screen itself. With advances in touchscreen technology, is this what we can expect to see on cameras in the very near future?

Canon Watch spotted the patent application, which appears to show a large rear screen where the control wheel is instead replicated digitally and then also shown when looking through the EVF. 

Manufacturers such as Canon register countless patents, many of which never go into production, but this is definitely an intriguing possibility and could affect camera design more broadly. Given smartphone technology and the evolution of touchscreens, it’s surprising that rear LCDs are not being used more by camera designers. Perhaps part of the difficulty is that photographers are used to and appreciate the tactility of chunky dials and buttons, allowing them to operate a camera without looking.

Cameras are starting to use touchscreens more often, as seen in the Leica SL2 and the Canon EOS R. Personally, I find it fiddly and appreciate the more analog experience of turning a dial rather than sliding a finger, but there’s probably a load of customers who would prefer something that is closer to the experience of using a smartphone.

The dial shown in Canon’s patent diagrams features Av and Tv, the aperture and shutter priority modes that are becoming increasingly out of date. Thanks to digital, I’d argue that these modes should be completely rethought given that ISO is one of three equally important variables for creating an exposure and is no longer fixed for 24 or 36 photographs. Interestingly, Canon seems to be aware of this, as suggested by the Fv mode seen in the EOS R.

What do you think? Do you want to ditch your dials and just use a screen, or is that going to interfere with how instinctively you use your camera? Leave a comment with your thoughts below.

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