Friday, February 28, 2014

Autofocus Evolution

By David Schloss Published in Advanced Camera Technique
Autofocus Evolution
All that's needed now is an electronic viewfinder (EVF) good enough to replace an optical one, and the SLR space is going to radically and quickly change.

EVFs first showed up on mirrorless cameras because without a mirror there's no way to have an optical viewfinder. The early EVFs were really terrible, but in just a few short years, they have progressed quickly and now some of them have beautiful image quality and high resolution.

Electronic viewfinders also allow for "heads-up"-style data displayed over the image, perfect for things like real-time histograms and horizon-level display.

That means that the Canon EOS 70D isn't just an SLR that's designed to provide excellent video and Live View use; it's a camera designed to move photography to a new place, a world where cameras with full-frame sensors and high-end lenses are free of mirrors. Expect to see full-frame sensors in professional cameras with optical viewfinders hitting the market very soon.

Double Vision

The stunning thing about digital photography is that the seemingly simple addition of phase-detection sensors to an imaging sensor isn't just changing what we know about autofocus technology; it's changing what we know about cameras.

The competing needs to develop contrast-detection and phase-detection systems forward is bringing huge benefits to the consumer. Micro Four Thirds cameras provide some of the fastest focusing times ever seen, and they do so with a contrast-detection system.

Meanwhile, phase-detection systems have moved on-chip with the imaging sensor and stand ready to revolutionize the shape of professional-grade gear.

The takeaway, then, is this: Phase- and contrast-detection systems are both incredibly capable and incredibly powerful, when done right. If Canon's EOS 70D is an indicator, in a few short years we may even see contrast-detection systems largely abandoned.

The changes in AF technology are moving two different types of cameras toward one destination: a high-speed, mirrorless world. Compact mirrorless cameras are marching steadily toward full-frame performance and features while full-frame cameras are moving toward a mirrorless design.

Just like the waveforms used in phase-detection systems, at some point, these cameras are going to overlap perfectly and the future of photography will snap into focus.

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