Does This Patent Show the G7x III and Its New Killer Feature?
Good morning RDC readers! The cogs of the big Canon design machine never stop turning (last week it was new prime lenses with apodization filters) and today we are giving you an exclusive look at a very recently updated patent document which details a new, exciting lens barrel design for a Canon Powershot camera! The barrel and its killer new feature aren’t the only interesting information on display here either, Canon have been kind enough to include an easter egg of sorts in the document, in the form of what might be the first glimpse of a new Powershot camera which could be the G7X III.
A lens barrel that is capable of miniaturizing and thinning an image pickup apparatus by enabling to switch manual lens drive and electric lens drive with a simple mechanism.
Manual Zoom Control
The first two lines of the document detail exactly what we are looking at today, a barrel design which allows the shooter to quickly switch between electronic and manual zoom. The wording is typically clumsy but ‘miniaturizing and thinning’ refers to the physical change in size of a camera (referred to here as an ‘image pickup apparatus’) when the lens elements are moved to achieve zooming.
The document goes on to describe how Canon intends to allow the user to operate the zoom lens ‘manually’ using the lens control ring (referred to below as the ‘operation member’), now a staple of Powershot camera designs:
1. A lens barrel mounted on an image pickup apparatus that supports an operation member rotatably, the lens barrel comprising: a drive barrel configured to engage with a lens holding member that holds a lens and to drive the lens holding member in an optical axis direction by moving in the optical axis direction while rotating; a motor configured to transfer rotation to said drive barrel through a transfer mechanism; and a switching mechanism configured to switch lens drive between electric lens drive that drives the lens holding member in the optical axis direction by transferring rotation of the motor to said drive barrel, and manual lens drive that drives the lens holding member in the optical axis direction by transferring rotation of the operation member to said drive barrel via an elastic member that rotates together with the operation member, according to a user’s operation, wherein said drive barrel engages with the elastic member while shifting from a non-photographing area to a photographing area in the optical axis direction so as to allow the rotation of the operation member to transfer.
The G7X II does allow the control ring operate zooming, but without diving into the camera’s menu system to tweak a few key settings it can only be used to ‘step zoom’ to pre-set focal lengths. The Switch currently mounted on the front plate of the G7X II merely toggles the tactile ‘click’ of the control ring on and off.
The new design proposes a system which allows the control ring to manipulate zooming fully at the flick of a simple two position switch (labeled 102 below). With the switch in the ‘manual zoom’ position, zooming is controlled by the control ring (Labeled 101 below) and when in the ‘electronic zoom’ position zoom is controlled by the zoom lever (labeled 105 below).
The ability to use the lens control ring for full manual zooming allows for much more nuance and flexibility than using the control lever mounted around the shutter button. ‘Manual zoom’ operation is much more like using a traditional zoom lens, allowing finer adjustment and faster manipulation of focal lengths and so far this is something we have only seen in the Fuji X10 and X20 when it comes to smaller cameras.
It is also worth noting that we haven’t yet seen an update to the original G3X, so it’s also possible that a similar system could appear in Canon’s next iteration of the super zoom G-Series variant for its 24-600mm lens.
Since the patent relates to the zoom mechanism itself, it’s always possible that the physical camera design in the document is something of a generic Powershot platform for this purpose, but either way, it seems that Canon is certainly working to add this interesting new feature to future Powershot cameras in some way.
 Accordingly, a third aspect of the present invention provides a lens driving device comprising a motor, a gear train configured to transfer driving force of the motor, a drive barrel on which a gear part that is able to mesh with the gear train, that rotates when the driving force of the motor is transferred to the gear part via the gear train, and that moves a plurality of lens groups in an optical axis direction by rotating, and an operation member that is provided on the circumference side of the drive barrel so as to be movable in the optical axis direction and to allow a rotary operation, and that engages with the drive barrel in a rotation direction and the optical axis direction so as to be detachable. The drive barrel meshes with the operation member in the optical axis direction and moves in the optical axis direction together with the operation member so that the engagement between the gear part and the gear train is released and the drive barrel engages with the operation member in the rotation direction and rotates together with the operation member, when the operation member is moved in the optical axis direction.