Canon Patents

Patent: The return of eye-controlled focus, but for mirrorless cameras

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Keith over at Northlight Images has uncovered a USPTO patent that shows eye-controlled focus for mirrorless cameras. This has been a requested feature for quite some time and we have seen in the past on film cameras such as the EOS 5, EOS 3 and Elan IIE. It was always a mixed bag when it came to its effectiveness, some people loved it, others hated it.

From USPTO Patent US 2021/0051265

An image capture apparatus detects a subject in a captured image. The image capture apparatus further recognizes its user based on an eyeball image of the user. The image capture apparatus then selects a main subject area from among the detected subject areas, based on information regarding subjects captured in the past and stored being associated with the recognized user.

There was a patent for this back in 2019, but Canon has added to the technology by adding user identification and remembering what you looked at previously. It sounds like the “AI” fun may hit an EVF near you someday.

snapshot

5d2,5d4,r5
CR Pro
Jul 24, 2020
21
12
in my experience with the elan 7e which had 7 autofocus zones and the 5d2 i replaced it with that had 9 autofocus points in a diamond, i could use the 5d2's joy stick to get the focus point just as fast, and more reliably than the eye controlled focus thing.
 
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bluezurich

5D3 Curmudgeon
Dec 17, 2013
4,338
2,435
Ironically, it worked better on my EOS 5 than on my 3, other than that the 3 was the far better camera body. My favorite film camera. Must have been the close spacing of the AF points.
 

Berowne

... they sparkle still the right Promethean fire.
Jun 7, 2014
298
151
I always wondered, if eye-controlled AF is save and could not cause any damage to the retina.
 

amorse

EOS RP
Jan 26, 2017
756
969
www.instagram.com
Really interesting. I never had the pleasure of using the system previously, but it sounds like there are some mixed reviews on past iterations of the system based on comments in here?

I wonder if there could be some really great synergies with the current eye detection systems in mirrorless bodies already. For instance, a modern eye-tracking system may not need to be used for selection of a specific autofocus point, but rather subject selection. If you're photographing a crowded space with lots of people in it (i.e. maybe a sports field or a street filled with people and lots of faces), I could see a ton of value if you only had to look at the subject you're after and the camera would find that subject's eye/face. That could make switching subjects real fast, one would think.

Neat!
 

Kit.

EOS 5D Mark IV
Apr 25, 2011
2,067
1,417
The camera on the drawing clearly has a mirror.

And yes, I had an Elan IIE (still probably have it lying somewhere), and its eye autofocus did not work reliably with my eyes.
 
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Joules

doom
CR Pro
Jul 16, 2017
1,481
1,773
Hamburg, Germany
The camera on the drawing clearly has a mirror.

And yes, I had an Elan IIE (still probably have it lying somewhere), and its eye autofocus did not work reliably with my eyes.
If you mean the diagonal labeled 15, that's a beam splitter, making it possible for the user to look at the EVF and a camera to look at the user's eye. This is not a DSLR body. But sure, it is not strictly speaking mirrorless, if that was your point.
 

Joules

doom
CR Pro
Jul 16, 2017
1,481
1,773
Hamburg, Germany
So they light up your eye with infrared LEDs and take a picture of it using a small dual pixel AF sensor in the top of the EVF.

They seem to go way deeper than just AF control with this. The patents talks about identifiying different users based on their iris signature and saving user specific subject preferences. If I understand it correctly, you and your partner could share a body. When one of you prefers taking pictures of flowers, flowers will be recognized as the most likely subject in a scene when this user operates the camera, and if the other user prefers birds for example, those will be their default subjects. Which also implies that the bodies will have greater subject recognition capabilities in the first place.

Wasn't there a thread just a while back about people wishing for more security on their devices? Seems like with essentially an iris scanner built into the EVF, that might be another application they could look at since they process that information anyway.
 

becceric

EOS M50
CR Pro
Oct 30, 2016
36
73
While I enjoyed using my Elan IIe, the eye controlled focus did not enjoy my rather thick eyeglasses. Still a great camera though.
 

Chig

Birds in Flight Nutter
Jul 26, 2020
129
102
Orewa , New Zealand
I have an EOS 30v (Elan 7NE/7S) which is my favourite film camera and the last film camera Canon ever made (2003)
It works well including the eye controlled focus (for me anyway) and I found this feature works best if you use a large eye cup which holds your eye in a fixed position such as Hoodman's (which are also much more comfortable than the awful standard ones)
I believe people with low contrast irises had poor results though.
Just imagine how well it could work today especially in combination with DPAF ii and using the initial selection by your eyes followed by the automated eye tracking.
Great security feature too which could unlock your camera at the start of each session
Really hope this is included on the R7