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Canon reimagines the shutter button: say hello to the 'shutter touchpad'

camera shutter button
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A camera's shutter button is the most ubiquitous part of a photographer's life. You can't take a photograph without that button, and it's also the one camera element that hasn't seen any innovation in decades.

Canon, however, is looking to change that. A new patent application discovered by Canon News describes a touchpad that can potentially replace the traditional shutter button. If the tech described in the filing eventually comes to fruition, it could be as big a game changer as the touchscreens we've now gotten used to on modern cameras.

The patent, which was filed in Japan last week, details a touch-sensitive surface that's capable of identifying both direction of movement as well as amount of pressure applied. And, if the diagram below is anything to go by, this touchpad will sit where the shutter button is usually positioned (see area 61).

Canon patent for shutter touchpad

(Image credit: Canon/JPO)

According to the filing, this touch panel will be able to determine the duration of pressure, so it's possible it could identify a half press to find focus, and then a full press to release the shutter.

And since a surface like this can be integrated into the body of the camera without the need for moving parts that require a hole to be fitted into, it would likely improve a camera's weather sealing.

A whole new way to snap

Another advantage a shutter touchpad could have is the ability to change shooting settings without having to move your finger to control dials on the camera. However, if Canon doesn't get the sensitivity right on a touchpad like this, things could go awry.

We're already able to tap-and-shoot using a camera's rear LCD display these days (including on recent Canon cameras), so it's not too far a stretch to imagine a shutter button being replaced by a touchpad. But considering the shutter button is the one common factor binding every kind of camera across all brands, it might take users a while to get used to an innovation like this.

Professional photographers, especially, are very particular about the feel of a shutter button, so this tech could divide the photography world. That said, this is only a design patent, so there's no guarantee this new shutter touchpad will see the light of day.

If it does, though, it would completely change the way we use a camera and take photographs.

Sharmishta Sarkar

Sharmishta is TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (yes, she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, she's also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she's not testing cameras and lenses, she's discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She also contributes to Digital Camera World and T3, and helps produce two of Future's photography print magazines in Australia.