For years I’ve been rocking the same DSLR bodies as my main cameras — a Nikon D750 and a D700. They’ve never been wanting for anything I shoot. But recently I had the occasion to spend some time with the Canon EOS R and I discovered the one major advancement I’ve been missing out on as a DSLR shooter: Eye-Detection AF.
Some of you are welcoming me to five years ago, but it’s not like I haven’t used Eye AF before, I just haven’t experienced it ever work so well, for me at least. It’s been more of a novelty feature in cameras I used like the Fujifilm X-T30, where it worked well enough, but was limited in selecting eyes on the fly and I found myself going back to my tried-and-true manual focus point selection.
Canon added the ability to use Eye AF in AI Servo mode for its EOS R, and this for me was the game changer. I shoot portraits of my kids all the time, and I usually end up with hundreds of photos for each shoot, just to make sure I not only get the moment, but also have an in focus shot. With the squirrely nature of toddlers, I usually get a 75-80% hit rate on the autofocus, which I’ve considered to be pretty good. With the EOS R on the last shoot, the hit rate was almost at 100%. I could even choose which eye was in focus.
What’s more amazing is that I didn’t think about all of the other things I did to get the hit rate I did with DSLRs, such as adjusting the aperture to get a little more depth of field and sweating the plane of focus of my subject to make sure it lined up with the camera. The Canon EOS R kit I was using came with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R which I took the liberty of hooking up to the wonderful Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens. I shot the entire shoot wide open at f/1.4, something that would be a scary prospect before. Call it a leap of faith, one that worked:
It was quite the liberating edit to get the depth of field I wanted and the proper focus in almost every shot.
When I returned the camera, I realized something: Eye AF was the first thing in years that’s ever made me think about upgrading my cameras. The EVFs of mirrorless cameras haven’t swayed me (in fact, I still view them as a demerit,) and while things like dynamic range improvements and more megapixels are always welcome, real-world usability improvements like these are the kinds of changes camera manufacturers need to make to keep people buying real cameras.
What’s a real-world improvement that’s gotten you to think about upgrades? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.