Touchscreen cameras out of touch with the real world

by , Editor, Which? Computing Technology 19 November 2010
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Noticed the recent explosion of touchscreen cameras? Manufacturers have started to discard all buttons in favour of touchscreen controls. Is it just me, or are they completely out of touch with what we want?

Person using touchscreen camera

Let me start this off by being very clear on something – I love my touchscreen phone. It’s a joy to use, the apps are brilliant, and I’d sulk if I had to go back to a traditional keypad phone.

But there’s one thing I loathe on my phone – the camera function. Try as I might, I cannot stand taking photos on a touchscreen. That’s why I end up rolling my eyes when more and more camera manufacturers end up releasing touchscreen cameras.

Touchscreen cameras march on

Ok, so scrolling through your photos with the touch of a finger is fun. And spot-focusing, where you tap the part of the screen you want the camera to focus on as it takes a shot? That’s a neat trick. But would I swap a responsive array of buttons and dials for a modern touchscreen? Absolutely not!

Yet that’s exactly what Panasonic has just done with a new model, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2. Its predecessor, the GF1, had a function dial on the top and plenty of buttons on the rear. These features have now been stripped away and replaced with a touchscreen on the GF2.

Now, to access the cameras functions, you have to delve into the screen with your finger – this is nowhere near as intuitive as flicking a dial or pressing a button.

We’ve also tested compact cameras that completely lack buttons on the rear. Some of these even expect you to zoom using the touchscreen, which I’m sure you’ll agree, is far less intuitive than using a regular zoom toggle.

The downsides to touchscreens

I’ve written before about how frustrating LCD screen technology can be when you’re taking photos, but with a touchscreen, things get even worse.

Not only does the screen pick up greasy smears in no time at all, but the drain on battery life is considerable – as any iPhone owner will attest.

Personally, I suspect that manufacturers are only putting touchscreens on new cameras because one, they’re in vogue right now, and two, they’re getting cheaper to produce.

Maybe I’m out of touch myself – but if I wanted to take a snap in a second, my finger would rather reach for some actual buttons than a touchscreen any day.

13 comments

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Richard Jennings

Thank you thank you thank you – this is what needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

I am horrified to hear the lumix GF2 has gone touch screen!
It’s bad enough everything is resolutely menu-driven. Give me some good old fashioned dedicated controls. I don’t want to be peering at invisible menus on a pokey screen on a suuny day. I’ve ditched my new phone and gone back to a lovely old Nokia 6310i, and how I chuckle when I see people huddled into doorways, trying to read what’s on their phones/cameras/pdas etc. How I love a simple black and white backlit LCD!!

I’m with you on this Rich. In fact, I don’t have any more to add beyond my backing. Using the touchscreen to access features just doesn’t work for me. When taking snaps you’re taught to exhale and squeeze the camera to depress the shutter – this optimises stability. Try keeping your camera still when poking it with your index finger on the rear to take the shot. It’s tricky. Perhaps we’re supposed to depress the shutter via the touchscreen using our thumbs. Even so, I’m not impressed. As Richard Jennings noted, dedicated controls are easier to access. The body might look a bit cluttered – and even put off some users who are after simplicity – but I want quick access when shooting, not a minimilistic fashion accessory.

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Steve Riddell

Hear hear to all of the above. I can’t understand why viewfinders seem to be dying out. Anyone who’s tried to take photos using a screen in bright sunlight knows how difficult it can be, without having to use it for zooming and focusing as well. Manufacturers; viewfinder and buttons please!

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MrBeck

Not just cameras, I want keys on my phone. I’m down to two vendors of smartphones that sell versions with keypads of some sort, Nokia and RIM. I’ve bought a spare Nokia just in case they convert completely to fondle slabs and make it impossible to operate a phone with one hand by touch.

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Ray French

I considered buying a GF2 when Which first advised subscribers, but when Ii learned that it had a touch screen I decided definetely NO.

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Apple Mac

Buttons please and view finders too.

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PMM

“Not just cameras, I want keys on my phone” – me too…

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grumpyrod

Hear Hear. Panasonic claims to listen to its customers, but that’s a fib. Try contacting them with a suggestion and see what response you get, i.e. none.
It would be great if digital cameras could be designed to duplicate (as far as possible) the manual operation of an old film camera, on which, when you were used to it, you could set aperture, shutter speed and focus, and fire off a shot in five seconds or less, instead of the interminable fiddling with menus etc which is the only alternative to the fully automatic setting on today’s cameras.
Also, can we please have small compact cameras with wireless shutter releases? I had one on a Canon APS film camera and used with a mini tripod it was excellent for group and candid shots, and great fun to use.

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Bobbie Dickie

I am in total agreement with the writer of the article and all the comments. I think that the touchscreen camera is aimed at people who aren’t really interested in the quality of the shot but, instead, want to have the most up-to-date version – even if it is fiddly to use. Of course, camera manufacturers have to keep people buying their cameras so they are capitalising on the fashion fad. My sentiments about viewfinders are well expressed in the comments. Cameras without viewfinders are another fashion fad. It’s unfortunate that those of us who are not susceptible to commercially driven fashion are, unfortunately, at the mercy of this.

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Jim

Viewfinders in basic point shoots is dead. The bodies are so small it’s hard to fit them in. They really weren’t used by the vast majority of users. It’s a piece of hardware they could eliminate and get costs down. Same with this touch screen. It eliminates hardware and moves design to software. The result sounds like a camera that lacks usability and ergonomics.

To grumpyrod, have a look at the Pentax W90. It has a remote release available and it’s programmable green button gives quick access to controls. Pentax point and shoots are very user friendly and ergonomic.

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trishem

I agree with Rich .. no touch screens and please let us
have viewfinders again.

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Mookie

Well I don’t agree with the above . I have a iPhone iPad all touch screen and love them I want a touch screen camera to . It’s what we call moving with technology .

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DF

I’m needing a new compact camera and just as I thought I’d found the one I moved on to look at touchscreen. I’m so glad I found your report. I’m going with my initial thoughts and forget the touchscreen.
I do wish they’d bring back the viewfinder though

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