Patent: Eye-controlled autofocus for mirrorless cameras

amorse

EOS 7D MK II
Jan 26, 2017
487
486
www.flickr.com
I think people are misunderstanding what this will do. It won't move your focus point like a joystick or like the way the old EOS 3 did, it will simply feed back to the AI within the camera to help guide it to automatically detect what object you want in focus and where to start hunting for eyes, etc. You might even be completely unaware that it's doing anything, it will just 'magically' be able to focus on things properly. This is why it's only for mirrorless and won't work on a DSLR.
See, now that makes sense and could be really useful. I can't imagine that eye detection would be useful for moving individual focus points with so many of them available. If it was only moving the focus point and not feeding info to the AI, I imagine the selected AF point would always be lagging just a bit behind where my eye was looking (especially if I'm looking around quickly) which would become really annoying really fast. This makes much more sense.
 
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Mar 15, 2018
42
39
United States
It's not a released feature yet, but this might be Canon trying to both change the conversation (here's a feature no one else has!), and also reducing the workload on the AI autofocus, which is an area they're probably very behind in. If the AI can be directed to evaluate a portion of the image frame with eye focus, instead of trying to search the entire image for eyes, faces, birds, etc, this could offer easy gains in speed and performance.
 

edoorn

EOS RP
Apr 1, 2016
242
162
I would say a feature like this also requires some processor workload so not sure it’s used to reduce that. Once an initial lock has been made, the camera still has to track the subject. I suppose next gen processors will be better anyway.
 

PerKr

EOS T7i
Jul 11, 2018
71
64
Sverige
Amount of af points isn't the issue (we won't be going back to 3 or so anyway), it's that you need to be able to compute accurately where the person is looking at. If you can manage that then the more af points the better.
The problem is the points are so close together with image-sensor based AF requiring higher precision in determining exactly where a user is looking.
 

canonical

EOS 80D
Jul 3, 2019
103
85
Technical reasons – as pointed out above, size of the needed sensor and EVF.
good point.

while the patent drawing included with article may only be an indication, it shows that an "ECF v2019" system would indeed consist of a number of components that need some space in cameras' "EVF hump": a partly transmissive fixed mirror (so much for mirrorless :) ), at least 1 or even 2 (?) image sensor/s, an illumination source and lenses for a second lightpath in camera tracking pupil or ideally direction of optical axis of user's eyewith sufficiently high resolution.

plus additional power requirements to drive the system and processing of that data and interface loop with camera's AF system (= stronger or dedicated AF processor).

and then there's always Canon's evident propensity for "marketing differentiation" independent of any technical facts.

but atm we can only speculate if and in which camera/s Canon might include "ECF reloaded". It might not come first in a high-end flagship camera, but in a more modest model until technology is totally reliable and fully "field-tested" by buyers of lower-end cameras.

But if done right, ECF would certainly be a major asset and USP in any Canon camera and could well be a significant enough reason in itself to get nee customers and make a good portion of existing customers upgrade from a previous model.

I would. Getting camera to focus exactly where i want it within the selected frame and/or start tracking of moving subjects/elements from there in a most intuitive, quick and simple way without having to fumble around with control elements like joysticks, buttons or touchscreens would be much appreciated and help me with each and every image, especially in challenging/critical situations.


TL;DR: I do hope Canon will finally (!) follow my longstanding recommendation :p and include "ECF reloaded" in future camera models.
 

canonical

EOS 80D
Jul 3, 2019
103
85
The problem is the points are so close together with image-sensor based AF requiring higher precision in determining exactly where a user is looking.
yes, absolutely. patent drawing suggests a complete, secondary optical lightpath in camera with 1 or even 2 (?) image sensors (essentially a second phase-detect system focussing on user's eye) not just a simple "pupil detecting IR sensor" as used in the old ECF implementation.
 

Aussie shooter

@brett.guy.photography
Dec 6, 2016
495
499
First camera many years ago was an Eos 5. Loved the ECF. Would love to see canon bring it back if they can deal with having to pick accurately out of so many points instead of just 5.
 

mb66energy

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 18, 2011
1,298
205
Germany
www.MichaelBockhorst.de
I think people are misunderstanding what this will do. It won't move your focus point like a joystick or like the way the old EOS 3 did, it will simply feed back to the AI within the camera to help guide it to automatically detect what object you want in focus and where to start hunting for eyes, etc. You might even be completely unaware that it's doing anything, it will just 'magically' be able to focus on things properly. This is why it's only for mirrorless and won't work on a DSLR.
Yeah - it's like using your eyes which are focusing automatically on the object/subject of interest (at least up to ~50 years of age :).
IMO a new dimension of intuitive use of cameras and that linked with exposure control (like the eye-brain-system) would be phenomenal.
 

mb66energy

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 18, 2011
1,298
205
Germany
www.MichaelBockhorst.de
I would say a feature like this also requires some processor workload so not sure it’s used to reduce that. Once an initial lock has been made, the camera still has to track the subject. I suppose next gen processors will be better anyway.
If you can build a chip which just puts out coordinates calculated from your eye position you have only a little bit processor workload namely to read two 16bit values 10 times a second which is 40 bytes per second compared to 300 000 000 bytes per second throughput for e.g. raw files @ 10 fps.
And I think they will put the "intelligence" into the eye position detection subsystem - which needs to exchange larger amounts of data only during calibration. The calibration might work like that of a pen enabled display: In the display you will see different crosses and you have to look at them + confirm if you have positioned your eyeball correctly. After 10 positions the system might have enough data to shift/scale/rotate the eyeball data to match the AF point and the eye postition detection system can operate independantly delivering data to the CPU.

Sam with these switches between EVF and TFT: I suspect it is a small LIDAR ranger besides the ocular lens which measures the distance and only sends the distance data to the CPU which switches between both display systems according to a distance threshold. This works with all objects hence my idea of a LIDAR ranger (e.g.
GY-VL53L0XV2, I tried it with arduino and it works very well up to 100mm with objects of different color within a 3mm error).
 
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mb66energy

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 18, 2011
1,298
205
Germany
www.MichaelBockhorst.de
Why 4 posts? I am really excited about the last bastion to make focusing more intuitive. Maybe we will see this feature in an entry level camera, maybe M50 mark ii or mark iii for the "advanced Joe Average" because it makes taking social photographs much easier while being interesting for almost ALL photographers and almost all fields of photography.
 

M_S

EOS 80D
Jul 31, 2013
158
10
I am not sure how that feature would make sense to me, at least for now. I am constantly looking around, so I have to stare in one direction to tell the camera I want focus in that area? The FRO would focus all over the place with his rapid eye movement.:)
Since I love more the tactile nature of taking pics, a working touchpad or dedicated focus-button would be enough at least for me. If that feature is manageable via a menu (ON / OFF) yeah sure why not, could give it a try...
 

justaCanonuser

Grab your camera, go out and shoot!
Feb 12, 2014
460
271
Frankfurt, Germany
The original version was so good that many claimed it was telepathic. I think Canons’ got this one in the bag. I can’t wait to see it in a pro body.
Not for those who wear glasses. I never got Eye control in my EOS 3 to work properly, so I switched it off. Would be great if Canon could revive it in a much improved version.
 
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Aug 22, 2010
1,621
317
48
Uk
www.GMCPhotographics.co.uk
I would not complain one bit if ECF came back. Loved it on the EOS 3 and Elan 7e.
Yep, I had and still have a 7e/ elan 33. It kind of works pretty well. But that was with only 7 point AF and it was a little hap-hazard. It mostly worked if you calibrated it regularly. I wonder if Canon have advanced the tech since then and made it more accurate. I also wonder if it's works but moving the points about using eye movement gestures...much like swiping. As opposed to the look at this point and hopefully the system will select the same point....
 

canonmike

EOS 80D
Jan 5, 2013
119
55
I so loved the eye control focus feature that was prevalent on the EOS-3 body and have missed seeing it on any subsequent camera(s). Calibration for user's eye was simple, even for eyeglass wearers and for me, it just worked. I have been disappointed that, for years now, Canon has chosen not to include this great feature. I, have no doubt that many CR readers are not familiar with this feature set. I, for one, was always amazed at how well it worked. It was an available option on the EOS-3 and Elan 7e bodies, but you did not have to employ it, opting instead, if you chose, for regular auto focus. Yes, please make it available again, Canon. I miss it.
 

canonmike

EOS 80D
Jan 5, 2013
119
55
Not for those who wear glasses. I never got Eye control in my EOS 3 to work properly, so I switched it off. Would be great if Canon could revive it in a much improved version.
Sorry you had problems, as an eye glass wearer, getting it to work. I, also wear glasses and never had a problem calibrating it while wearing my eyewear. Don't know the reason for our different experiences but I had two EOS 3 and one Elan 7e bodies and the feature worked in all three for me. If they offer eye control focus in a future Canon body, perhaps, as you say, it will be much improved in the newer version.