A First Look at Sony's Impressive New Autofocus System

Sony recently announced the a6400 and along with it, major autofocus upgrades for the a7 III, a7R III, and a9. This great video will show you the new autofocus system in action on the a9.

Coming to you from Patrick Murphy-Racey, this video shows Sony's latest autofocus system on the a9. This new tracking feature uses artificial intelligence that takes advantage of a combination of all sorts of data, including color, subject distance, brightness, and face and eye detection (for humans and animals). The system is in the new a6400 already. The system will be available in version 5.0 for the a9 (March 2019) and will also include features like Real-time Eye AF and image quality improvements. Version 3.0 for the a7 III and a7R III will be out in April 2019, bringing along with it Real-time Eye AF improvements and the ability to use it with animals. Time-lapse capabilities will also be added. As the mirrorless camera wars continue to heat up, Sony's continual autofocus advancements and other innovations should keep pressure on Canon and Nikon, particularly for those who shoot in genres that depend heavily on them. Regardless of what you shoot, it's pretty neat to watch the system in action.

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Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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I see the software tracking at that speed, but can a lens mechanically change focus that fast? Sincere question, I shoot with a lot of older lenses.

I would be curious as well. I think this might actually be one of those instances where having an f/1.8 lens with less glass and lighter glass might be an advantage in an ironic twist... lol

I think the focus shifts are quite small hence this should not cause too much physical problems for most modern lenses.

Nevertheless it’s very good question for both modern and old lenses.

PS it’s a shame to use slow or „bad” lenses with a9 or other top models that will have that system

I may be wrong, but i believe the green indicator only shows when the lens already focused

The camera can’t confirm focus if the lens isn’t physically in focus. This is almost certainly only available on new lenses and I’m sure the old screw drives won’t keep up at all if that’s how old you’re talking

I do love my screw drive lenses. Much cheaper to service. That’s my big question I guess. Was the video showing focus conformation or just the tracking speed of Face Detection?

It should be both. The green on the face and eye mean the lens is in focus and I believe those are all the captured frames on burst mode, so you’re essentially watching a movie at around 20 FPS on a camera that can track in real time.

I have some screw drives and while they get torqued around on new cameras, they’re a bit behind. Image quality is still very respectable with them though.

That's some absurd tracking...

It’s interesting. Boxing is also an interesting case example because the person never faces away from the camera. It does seem like it loses focus when a punch goes in front of her face. I would be interested how well it re-acquires faces with more dynamic movement. Also the spotlight on her face gives a heck of a clear target.

Would be great to see the samples to see the ratio of AF hits and misses.

this is so jittery it feels like having a seizure

this is awesome!

This appears impressive with the fast flailing hands but the head (that’s being tracked) doesn’t move that much and there’s obviously a gridded light just on the subject’s face to help the face detection. Let’s see what it can do in actual low light motion.

Damn - no firmware update for the A7RII, eh? My one complaint with that camera is the autofocus can be wildly inconsistent. Lately the eye autofocus simply doesn't work, either - even with bright studio lighting it will sometimes just focus in and out rapidly while trying to lock onto an eye rendering it completely unusable. It's not enough to make me invest in upgrading gens yet, but still - this is some small amount of salt in that wound. (Otherwise I love that camera.)

As being someone coming from Canon and planning to switch to the A7III and finally testing both in store and loving how the eos r feels but I'm torn and for focusing I'm leaning towards the A7III. What should I do? They say eos r is getting a firmware update. But not holding my breath.....