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Camera Controls


Design Philosophies

The idea behind this design was to create purely physical controls for a digital camera. Something able to suit a variety of shooting styles, without the need to delve into a menu if the situation changes slightly. Attempting not to be influenced by modern dials that are an evolution of legacy controls due to familiarity, nor old film cameras for the sake of retro visuals.

During this thought process the biggest realization was a need for flexible and independent limitation options. An easy and visibly clear way to switch from fully manual to fully automatic, as well as many states in between.

Feature List

  • Physical dials for 'Shutter Speed' (SS) and 'ISO' control (can be seen/changed easily, even if camera is off)

  • Physical dials to control the limitations of 'SS' and 'ISO' (can be seen/changed easily, even if camera is off)

  • Switches to enable/disable limits of 'SS' and 'ISO' (can be seen/changed easily, even if camera is off)

  • Dials sit flush with the surface when disabled / in auto mode - visually more basic/tidy

  • Shutter and ISO values remain from previous setting when returning to manual mode, can always be seen

  • Dials don't have to be turned when switching between auto and manual modes (like retro system)

  • No need for fiddly dial locks. Manual mode won't be engaged accidentally when removing camera from a bag

How It Works...

The following is an explanation of how the system works with all the necessary dials and switches.


With the dials clicked down they are flush (smooth) with the top-plate. This means the camera is in Automatic (point-n-shoot) mode . 'Smart Auto' functions can be enabled by moving the switches behind them and then their limitations can be molded to the photographers shooting style. This is how the 'Smart Auto' functionality works:

  • The Shutter Speed dial (right) has a minimum value indicated on its outer ring*. When the Shutter Speed drops to this limit it will lock and the ISO value will increase instead. ISO warning light turn on.

  • The ISO dial (left) has a maximum value indicated on its outer ring. When the ISO value raises to this limit it will lock and the shutter speed will reduce further than it's limit. Shutter Speed & ISO warning lights turn on.

* The Shutter Speed limit can be set to a specific value, or it can be set to the FOV of the lens (50mm = 1/50th second). This value can also be compensated from -2 to +2 stops using the values printed outside the ring.

Functionality Notes

  • The aperture ring (the physical dial on the lens) can be set to a specific value or Auto, which is independent from the 'Auto' functions on the camera's top plate. (I forgot to add an 'A' on the aperture ring)

  • Each dial is enabled (Manual mode) or disabled (Automatic mode) by pressing it down, it would then spring up if it was down, or click and lock down it is was up

  • The min/max values (outer dials for each) can be moved at any time

  • The lens is a 50mm f/1.0, it manages to stay relatively small due to a curved sensor design, which adapts the curve shape for each lens / focal length.

Mode B - (MANUAL)

If either main dial (SS / ISO) are protruding from the cameras top-plate (in the 'up' position) they are in manual mode. This makes it easy to see which mode the camera is in from a quick glance. If the dials are up (and in your face), you need to do something about them. If they're down (and out of sight) then you can ignore them - the cameras top-plate is then neat and tidy.


Dial Movement

When the main dials are turned (in manual mode) only the outer part rotates (the red part). It rotates independently from the inner (numbers) and the outer, limiter dial (the blue part). These two dials never rotate together. Although it may look like the teeth on the main dial connect them to the outer dial they do not, this is purely for grip when raised (manual mode). 

The Numbers

One thing to note about the values on the dials is that they're always facing the photographer. This is because they do not turn. Only the outer part of the dial turns and this is simply a marker to the value (on the inside). The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly it means that the main dial and the limiter can use the same numbers as a static reference. The second reason is that the shutter limit dial has two sets of figures to point to (the main, inner values & the outer 'FOV' values), so the limiter needs two sets of static reference.

Other Images

Here are the same images as above but with some colours applied (and without arrows and text), plus some other angles.



If you have any feedback about this design please drop me a message in the contact section (top left). I hope to do another (different) design one day and to make the 3D model's materials in substance Designer and thus hopefully it will look more realistic than this viewport screengrab.

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