Canon Might Bring Back Eye-Controlled Autofocus

Canon Might Bring Back Eye-Controlled Autofocus

Back in the days of film cameras, a few select Canon bodies had a very interesting feature: autofocus points controlled by your eye. The feature never made it over to the digital side of things, but that may change soon enough, with a new patent showing Canon researching the possibility of adding it to its mirrorless line of cameras. 

Northlight Images recently found a new patent that improves upon a previous 2019 patent for eye-controlled autofocus by adding the ability to identify the specific user and subject memory. The feature, seen in the past on cameras like the EOS 3, followed the user's eye in the viewfinder, determining where in the frame they were looking and using that information to choose the closest autofocus point to the subject. It worked surprisingly well (and certainly, with three decades of improvements, would likely work even better today) and had many very devoted users. Of course, it was not for everyone, but one could simply turn it off if need be. I could certainly see it being useful for a wide variety of situations, such as for sports shooters or photojournalists covering very fast action that moves about the frame rather quickly. Like any patent, its existence does not mean it will eventually make it to a consumer product, but it sure would be neat to see! 

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9 Comments

Mike Shwarts's picture

I'd prefer they bring back DEP mode. Not to be confused with useless A-DEP. I'd like to see all cameras get a version of DEP mode.

Thomas H's picture

I second that. Dealing with depth of field is for me the most complex and difficult aspect of photography. EOS-3 used to have it and I used it frequently. The Eye-Focus never worked for me, but maybe because I wear glasses.

Dg9ncc /portable's picture

Gear down, it's just an patent application, an "A1". Let's see if it's really containing a novelty & pass through to a "B1". For us as customers it's a very interesting nice to have, but no need to get crazy about.

El Dooderino's picture

This is really intriguing! I'd love to see it "at work"!

Technology continues to advance, so it will be interesting to see if this is something we'll see in the near future as a standard option on some cameras.

Pavlos Honderich's picture

My Elan 7e had that.

Rich Umfleet's picture

My 16 year old Konica-Minolta a7D DSLR (Maxxum 7D or Dynax 7D outside of Japan) has eye controlled focusing and IBIS. I will use the IBIS, but not the eye focusing. If you glance away or your eye twitches, it will focus on something else. Minolta was lightyears ahead of everyone when Sony bought out their camera division. Then, Sony did nothing with it.

Rich Umfleet's picture

The eye focusing is good for fast moving situations, like sports or running animals, but with the old screw drive, on camera focusing motors, it is noisy. Camera needs to be in constant focus mode for eye track focusing to work. And, it kills the battery.

Salman Akhtar's picture

The Minolta 7 had simply a sensor to detect that the eye is the finder and automatically activate the AF, not eye control focus like Canon EOS 3,5 or 7

JEREMY MOORE's picture

When I started selling cameras, this was the ONLY thing I liked about Canon cameras and not putting it in DSLRs was a surefire way to keep me from pushing them on customers. They're recently pretty great across the board now and this would just add to that.