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Several digital cameras now sport a 3″ touch-sensitive LCD screen. Yesterday, Sony introduced the follow up to its Cybershot DSC-N1, the Cybershot DSC-N2, and a new addtion to its ultra-slim line of cameras, the Cybershot DSC-T50, also with touch-sensitive LCD. Pentax has the Optio T10, which also follows this trend.

Each one of these touch-screen-enabled cameras is a point-and-shoot model a large LCD screen as its only viewfinder. To some users, not having an alternate viewfinder is already disturbing enough. Under bright sunlight, most LCD screens are illegible or severely washed out. Some are better than others, but even the best LCD screen reflects sunlight at some point. Now, add finder-prints and it is quickly over. Some models, such as the Kodak Easyshare One, come with a stylus. However, that becomes difficult to handle since the user is already busy handling the camera.

Camera manufacturers probably started this trend either to save manufacturing costs of external controls or to provide easy access to additional functions. Accessing functions easily is an important goal, but adding touch-sensitivity to a camera’s only viewfinder probably is not the way to do it.

Samsung NV7

This time, it seems that Samsung came up with an innovative alternative which does not have the drawbacks of a touch-sensitive LCD. Honestly, this is surprising because Samsung has rarely came up with anything new, let alone something new and usefull! Sure, this company has a history of producing devices with extreme specifications like its Pro815 camera with 15X optical zoom and a 3.5″ LCD, but that is just pushing specifications.

With the NV7 and NV10, the LCD screens are lined on two sides by a series of unmarked buttons. The function of these buttons is context dependent and is displayed adjacent to it on the LCD screen. This way, each button can be dynamically assigned a different function and labeled by the LCD screen. This gives a flexible user-interface which does not leave any fingerprints on a display which serves as a camera’s only viewfinder.

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