Which Brand Has the Best Eye Autofocus: Canon, Sony, or Nikon?

No doubt, one of the most useful advancements mirrorless cameras have brought is eye autofocus, and in the past couple years, the technology has seen some major improvements. Now that Canon, Nikon, and Sony all have advanced mirrorless cameras, it is time to reevaluate just how good each brand's version is, and this helpful video does just that. 

Coming to you from Jared Polin, this great video takes a look at the latest eye autofocus capabilities in the Canon EOS R5, Sony a7R IV, and Nikon Z 7. Up until last year, Sony was pretty much the undisputed champion of the technology, but Canon and Nikon have made some major steps forward in the past year, and Canon in particular is highly impressive, even possibly pulling past Sony. No doubt, eye autofocus is incredibly useful and can make your life as a wedding or portrait photographer much easier, and what is even more impressive is how it can now be used for continuous tracking in addition to single-shot scenarios, helping you to bring home more keepers and freeing you up to focus your attention on other things while shooting. Check out the video above to see how each camera performed in the tests. 

Alex Cooke's picture

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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Wow, impressive Canon. Impressive.

Sony, you gonna let Canon get away with this? You might want to trickle down some of that a9 tech. :D

So is the Nikon, wow, impressive. I see them on pair throughout, in a shortest time they both Canon and Nikon brought us new generation AF. I failed to see justification to Fro's constant naming Canon+Sony, and skipping the Nikon.

Hmmm I am not seeing the same thing as you are. Canon and Sony achieve eye AF at at a much farther distance than the Nikon.

But, sorry, isn't that so that with larger distance depth of field is bigger, thus the strict eye focus is increasingly irrelevant? Most likely the entire head will be in focus. Maybe that's just an intentional algorithmic decision in the V3.0 firmware in Z7 ?

Nikon sucked in these tests. So, no, not impressive. He put them through very similar tests and Nikon just couldn't keep up. Go download the images.

That Nikon is two years older than the Canom and a year older than the Sony.

That's their latest model. Are people supposed to wait and hold-off on reviews/comparisons until they catch up?

I did downloaded them. That's why I do not understand the conclusion.

Come on man. It’s pretty clear the Nikon was no where near. Don’t get me wrong it has come a long way. But it isn’t there yet.

Obviously, it was not clear to me. Could you pint to a specific timestamp in the video where I failed to see the 'pretty clear' difference?

Interesting how Canon is making progress and possibly surpassing Sony. However, I recently started testing the Sony A9, not on people, but on brown bears. I was dumbfounded how the A9 was able to track the very small, dark eyes of brown bears running and splashing through water. It was impressive, to say the least. Here's a few samples.

Great photos!

Curios what lens you used and how far away were you?

No bears in any country I've been to so far, though shooting bears is on the bucket list... Next wild animals for me though will be Wagglers Viper. Proboscis Monkey and probably Orangutan. Still, one day...

Distance changed constantly. Was using the Sony 200-600mm lens.

That's the lens I purchased for my Borneo trip (that never happened)... Love that lens.

What sort of minimum distance, if you don't mind my asking.

Typically I like to maintain at last 20 yards but there are times it's less. Thankfully the coastal brown bear, the bears in these photos, has evolved in places, the coasts of Alaska and Canada, with lots of food. They are what I call fat and happy bears. That's not to say you can't find one that doesn't fit that mold. But in general, they're much more amiable creatures then say the bears that I sometimes see in the Rocky Mountain West, interior Alaska, and Canadian west. Interior grizzly bears have far less food and are always stressed making them what I call crabby bears. This is the reason virtually all of my grizzly bear photography is done with coastal Brown Bears in either Alaska or Canada.

Cool shots Daniel, good job!

Those are wonderful shots, question for you, did the eye AF box go right over the bears eye? I thought Sony's animal eye AF only worked on dogs and cats.

To the camera, it was a really big dog.

joking joking joking :D

Yes, the little white AF spot would just dance around the eye of the bear as it charged around for salmon. Even with the splashing water. It was impressive. My first experience with the A9 was two years ago on puffins, sample below. I had shot Nikon for 35 years and was always happy with AF capabilities of the top-end Nikon cameras, D3, D4, D5 etc. But the A9 takes AF to a totally new level.

I have never seen a puffin shot like that one, congrats!

What the hell are we going to do when all the excuses of a badly taken photograph are no longer there? I guess then people will have to stop focusing (pun intended) on camera tech and get more creative with their work. Otherwise who needs you? Don't hire a photographer, hire a camera. The future of cameras may just be the end of Photographers. Think about that the next time you ask for a camera that does it all so you don't have to.

Look for new features coming soon:
Camera will alert you to bad composition and auto adjust on the spot
Auto adjust for perfect white balance and exposure
Camera will take multiple images so software will let you change focus after (better than what Canon tried)
Camera comes with built in Instagram filters and the most popular lightroom presets
Camera will fit on keychain while including non overheating 24k video in raw

You forgot one: A camera that will identify Polin as a loudmouth and won't take his picture.

Thanks again for the non post Alex!

Try a Snickers. 😊

Alex, you made me LOL at my desk for the first time today! TY!

Or maybe some original content.

Interesting that in the thumbnail of the video, only one camera is correctly focussing on the eye it should be on. But anyway, I spent my evening testing my new EOS R for portraits in backlit conditions and it’s a game changer. I was astonished. Blew my 7d mkii out of the water. It was nailing the focus time and time again. That being said... canon might have caught up to Sony with human eye af but I’m sure Sony is still likely ahead with animal af.

Regarding Animal eye focus on the R5. Be ready to be blown away