Canon to replace shutter button with touchpad?

Canon to replace shutter button with touchpad?
(Image credit: Canon / JPO)

Canon has designed a new, touchpad replacement for the traditional shutter button – something that could be the biggest revolution for cameras since the advent of the LCD screen or removal of the reflex mirror. 

In a new design patent, filed last week, Canon describes a "front touch operation member" (panel) located where the shutter button traditionally sits. This panel is able to detect both the duration and the pressure applied to it – meaning it would be able, for example, to detect a prolonged half-press to find focus, and then a firm full-press for taking a shot. 

• Read more: Best Canon cameras

Because a touch panel can be completely enclosed within the camera shell, it does not need the moving parts or perforations in the camera body required by a shutter button. In turn, this means that both the weather sealing and ergonomics of a camera body can be improved. 

"The present invention relates to an electronic apparatus and a method of controlling the same, and more particularly, to a technique for performing control according to a pressing force of a touch operation," reads the Japanese patent (JP-020-201756), as spotted by Canon News. 

Canon's design for the "front touch operation" panel that could replace the traditional shutter button (Image credit: Canon / JPO)

Point 61 of the diagram refers to the touch panel. "The front touch operation member is an operation member configured such that a part of an external casing of the digital camera can be touched, and includes a touch operable portion. 

"As described above, since the front touch operation member is constituted by the outer casing, it is not necessary to provide a hole or the like for the button installation in the outer casing, and thus it is possible to improve the degree of freedom of the dust-proof and drip-proof performance and the appearance design. 

"Further, by providing the front touch operation member at a position where the index finger is naturally placed when the user holds the digital camera, it is possible to always maintain a stable grip state even when changing the camera setting. As a result, it is possible to provide a digital camera which is good in operability and is difficult to pick up a critical moment."

Of course, this isn't the first time that Canon has designed a touch-sensitive input. The Canon EOS R (in)famously features the M-Fn touchbar, which proved incredibly divisive and was ultimately removed from all future EOS R cameras. And obviously the best camera phones use touch input to operate their shutters.

So, is this the future of shutter buttons? It's one possible future. However, Canon files hundreds more patents than it ever brings to market. There's no guarantee that this will ever see the light of day, but we'd be very intrigued to see it become reality.

Read more: 

Canon EOS R review
Canon EOS R vs RP
Best Canon lenses

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.