Touchscreen interface

Although touchscreen interfaces are becoming more common on mirrorless models, the EOS 650D is the first 35mm-style DSLR to include this technology. For several years now, most user interaction with cameras at this level has been via the rear LCD, with active control panels that allow settings to be changed via external buttons and/or dials. So it seems a logical progression for the screen to be made touch sensitive. And we suspect a touchscreen also goes a long way towards making users of camera phones and photo-capable tablets feel right at home.

Virtually every aspect of the EOS 650D's operation can be controlled via its touchscreen. The aperture setting display shown here is accessed through the Quick Control display in A and M modes; you simply drag the scale to change the aperture.

Canon has wholeheartedly embraced the touchscreen concept. Rather than opt for just a few features like AF point selection or shutter activation in this first SLR iteration, Canon has made just about everything controllable through touch. In live view you can set the focus point, fire the shutter, zoom and scroll through the preview. In addition, you can access the Quick Control screen which - like in the EOS 600D - provides easy access to image shooting parameters. Touchscreeen functionality even extends to all of the camera's menus and submenus.

The screen itself is of a capacitive type - like a smartphone - which means it is contact, rather than pressure sensitive. The upside is that the screen is very responsive to even the slightest touch. This also means, however - as any iPhone owner knows - that you can't operate it with traditional gloves, which presents an issue when shooting outdoors during the winter months. Wiping the screen with a lens cloth or a shirt sleeve will activate touchscreen controls, however. Here in the dpreview office, we've found that the fabric needs to be folded on itself in at least a 3-ply layer to avoid inadvertent touchscreen operation.

Integrating touchscreen control is one thing. Designing an interface which is both easy and efficient to use is quite another. We're happy to report that Canon has done an outstanding job of combining form and function, with a clean, intuitive interface that in many instances lets you accomplish tasks faster than using external controls. And rest assured, that if touchscreen operation holds no appeal for you, you can simply ignore it and use the physical buttons as you always have.

You have the option to completely disable touchscreen operation via the setup menu, enabling the 650D to perform much the same as its predecessor, the 600D.

As you can see here, the menu tab icons across the top of the screen are closely spaced, which can make them a little tricky to select by touch.

It should be clear already that we're quite impressed with Canon's touchscreen implementation on the 650D. The screen is responsive, supports common smartphone-style gestures and has been integrated with the icon design in a way that makes touchscreen use both intuitive, and in many cases more efficient the the camera's traditional controls.

By default the camera beeps at every press of an onscreen icon. On a less responsive system where you're frequently wondering if your press has registered, this may make sense. Because the interface is so well-designed, however, the audible confirmation feels unnecessary. Fortunately you can mute this sound, while retaining the AF confirmation beep, which we do find extremely helpful.

The 650D's touchscreen interface can be found on Canon's new EOS M mirrorless camera and we wouldn't mind seeing such well-implemented touchscreen interfaces from other DSLR camera in the near future. If we have any complaint, it's that the main menu icons, particularly the tabs along the top are a bit small and too closely spaced to accurately activate by touch. It takes more concentrated effort than we'd like to press say, the third Setup menu tab instead of the second one. In these situations we often find ourselves reverting to the main control dial and 4-way controller.

Overall though we can't help but applaud Canon for taking such a committed approach and implementing it so successfully. Even if you're not a smartphone aficionado, the touchscreen can, in many instances offer a faster way to work.

Quick Control mode

In the sections that follow, we're going to look at what we consider the touchscreen's greatest strength; its integration with the Quick Control menu, a feature that in and of itself is not new to the Rebel lineup. In combination with touch-sensitive buttons, however, it is one of the operational highlights the 650D.

Quick Control menu in viewfinder mode

In the traditional through-the-viewfinder shooting mode, the information display shows the status of nearly all shooting parameters you'd likely change between shots. Once you press the 'Q' button, these settings (and a few additional ones) become touch sensitive, as indicated by the round-cornered boxes surrounding each of them.

This is the rear screen information display for normal eye-level shooting. By default, only the 'Q' icon at the bottom corner is touch sensitive, as indicated by the round edged rectangle. Tap this or press the camera's external 'Q' button, however... ...and the entire screen activates. You can then either navigate functions with the 4-way controller and change them with the rear dial as before, or tap an onscreen function button... bring up a screen of options displayed as well-spaced, easily selectable touch buttons.

The 'back button' icon at the bottom returns you to the previous screen.
Parameters that fall along a range of values, such as aperture, can be adjusted either by pressing the onscreen arrows, dragging your finger along the scale or by simply touching a specific value. The 4-way controller and main dial can still be used as well.

Wide ranging parameters such as aperture (shown above) and shutter speed are displayed using a horizontal scale. Making a selection on designs such as these is a bit fiddly, particularly when trying to set in-between values. From these screens though you are still able to use the main control dial which we found to be more precise when moving in 1/3 stop increments.

For nearly all other settings though, using the touchscreen to change Quick Control settings is very fast, requiring no separate confirmation step. You press your desired setting value and you're done. One thing that can slow you down considerably though is the Feature guide, which is enabled by default and provides very basic tips on the selected image setting. All but the most inexperienced shooters would do well to turn this feature off for a more fluid touchscreen experience.

Quick Control screen in live view

In live view, the camera's exposure settings can be changed via touch-enabled icons. Activating the Quick Control menu provides access to eight additional shooting controls; AF method, drive mode, image quality/size, flash control, WB, Picture Style, Auto Lighting Optimizer and metering mode. It's a bit of a shame that the camera's noise reduction settings are not available here, but Canon has at least seen fit to unearth it from the custom function menu (where it was on the 600D) to one of the main menu's shooting tabs on the 650D.

In live view shooting there are touch buttons along the bottom of the screen for shutter speed and aperture (M mode) exposure compensation, ISO and magnification. The bottom icon at far left enables/disables touch shutter capability. Press the onscreen (or external) Q button and you have access to eight separate shooting parameters. Each is represented by an icon located in one of two vertical rows.
The available options are displayed in a row along the bottom of the screen. Press on one and the live view updates to preview the effect. Parameters with secondary options, like the Picture Styles shown here, can be adjusted further by pressing the onscreen (or external) Info button.

Quick Control screen in playback mode

Playback mode likewise offers a similar-looking touch-sensitive Quick Control screen. Not to be overlooked is the ability to use two fingers gestures in playback mode for more efficient image review.

Here you get the option to protect, rotate, resize, or rate your images (0-5 stars), and apply Creative Filters in post-processing. Among the seven Creative Filters along the bottom of the screen is a Toy Camera option. Pressing the Set button (either onscreen or external) gives access to the three toning options, all selectable by touch. You also get an immediate preview of the final result.
You can also configure the 'image jump' setting. Options shown here include image count, date, folder, movie files, still images and rating. Once configured, you trigger the 'jump' either with a two-finger swipe, or more conventionally, by rotating the main dial. If you're in the habit of rating your images, you can setup the camera to jump to any rated images or even just those of a specific rating.