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Canon files touchscreen DSLR patent

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December 6, 2009

Canon's patent application details the disabling of parts of the touchscreen (the shaded a...

Canon's patent application details the disabling of parts of the touchscreen (the shaded area) depending on which is the photographer's dominant eye

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Touchscreens have almost become standard on point and shoot digital compact cameras. The same can’t be said for more enthusiast/professional oriented DSLRs, mainly because of the different ways both types of cameras are used. Compacts are generally held out in front of the photographer who checks the framing via the camera’s LCD screen. DSLRs, on the other hand, are often still used with the photographer’s face mashed up against the rear of the camera to frame a shot using the optical viewfinder. This would wreak havoc with a touchscreen as the photographer’s nose goes about changing all those carefully nurtured manual settings. But a new patent application from Canon could solve the problem and see touchscreens appearing on DSLRs as well.

The patent proposes a system that allows the user of the “image pickup apparatus” to register their dominant eye which they use to look through the optical viewfinder. When a detector on the camera detects the approach of the eye to the viewfinder, part of the touchscreen is disabled. The area of the screen that is disabled differs depending on which eye the photographer uses to look through the viewfinder. Photographers who use their right eye will have pretty much the left two thirds of the touchscreen disabled, while those using their left will have the right two thirds disabled.

This selective disabling is designed to stop any accidental manipulation of the touchscreen with the face. When the face is withdrawn from the camera the touchscreen’s full area is enabled again. The camera would also include something – presumably an accelerometer of some sort – to detect whether the camera is being held in the horizontal or vertical position and adjust which area of the touchscreen is disabled accordingly.

Naturally all this effort by Canon to bring touchscreens to DSLRs isn’t just to prove that they can. It is also to make the cameras easier to use. The patent application proposes that just about everything that is currently controlled via scroll wheels and buttons could be manipulated via the touchscreen including:

  • 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

But two of the most obvious uses for the touchscreen mentioned in the patent application are the ability to slide a finger across the touchscreen vertically to change the aperture, and slide horizontally to change the shutter speed.

Although it’s just a patent application at this time, given the widespread adoption of touchscreens on point and click cameras, it’s probably a good bet that touchscreens will show up on DSLRs in the not too distant future. In the past purists have been averse to new technology - checking exposures on preview screens, Live View and video capture have all attracted their share of criticism upon introduction. So the addition of touchscreens is likely to attract its own share of disapproval from similar quarters. But if Canon choose to implement the touchscreens alongside existing controls, instead of removing the traditional scroll wheels and joysticks, they should be able to smooth the transition and keep the condemnation to a dull roar.

Via Photography Bay.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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