Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus, apart from being bit of a mouthful, is possibly the most significant and definitely the most underrated development in camera technology since Canon angered photographer’s by slapping Full HD video into the full frame EOS 5D Mark II well over a decade ago. If you are going to buy a camera do yourself a favour and make sure it has Dual Pixel AF.
Having spent the last six years working in a marketing role with Canon, I thought I knew all there was to know about the significance of Dual Pixel AF. I may have known all about the technology, having each pixel on the sensor performing two roles when it comes to focusing. God knows I’ve seen and presented enough on this topic to last me a lifetime. However it was only after the launch of Canon’s EOS M100 (about 1 week after I left Canon for new adventures in Digital Marketing) that I found myself fully appreciating the significance of this slick feature.
A little bit of camera history 101 – Dual Pixel AF first arrived way back in 2013 in the EOS 70D. It was later added into the EOS Cinema range of professional camcorders and currently is found a broad rabge of entry level to high end cameras in the EOS DSLR and Mirrorless series (EOS 800D, 77D, 80D, 7D Mark II, 6D Mark II, 5D Mark IV, 1Dx Mark II, EOS M5, M6 I tried to resist listing them all but alas I couldn’t ).
Currently I’m shooting quite a bit of photo and video content for use mainly on websites and social media. Despite having had no shortage of access to the best kit money can buy during my Canon years, I opted for an EOS 80D as my current weapon of choice. This is for 3 reasons : Flip Out Screen, Headphone Socket and Dual Pixel AF. Now that I am once again using cameras to tell stories rather than to sell them, I can fully appreciate how good Dual Pixel AF is. There is nothing like real world experience. When shooting stills in Live View Mode or shooting video, it’s slick and smooth to the point that you can get sucked into just changing focus points to admire the smoothness of it, there is a funny kind of calming quality to this. If you don’t believe check out the original Dual Pixel AF sample video below:
Finally, getting back to my recent moment of clarity on this topic. I was reading about the EOS M100 and saw a pretty harsh review from Gizmodo highlighting how apathetic and behind the times Canon seem to be. The article concludes that the M100 is just about a match for the Sony A6000 which was released 3 years ago.
This is a point I’ve seen repeated constantly by people championing Sony over Canon due to the fact Sony have 4K video in most of their lineup as standard now. This struck me as a slightly sloppy piece of tech journalism by the very fact that there was no mention of the significance of Dual Pixel AF. Not much was made of the fact that this is now becoming the standard AF system in all new Canon models across the range. So whilst Sony can give you an advantage if you want to shoot a video resolution that let’s be honest most of us still can’t playback in full quality, Canon offers the best autofocus technology for combined stills and video shooting currently available. Whether simply using the touch af to shift focus, tracking a moving face or even shooting handheld selfie style whilst Vlogging to camera, it is almost impossible to lose focus with this system.
This brings me back to my opening point, if you walk into a camera shop you may very well get bamboozled looking at the options from Canon, Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus as well as the sleeping giant that is Nikon. So when the eager sales person is listing spec after spec, from my experience there is only one question you need to ask…. does it have Dual Pixel AF?