New Canon Autofocus System

I wrote about the introduction of the new Canon flagship EOS 1D X digital SLR a couple weeks ago.  As I mentioned, I don’t typically discuss $6,000 professional cameras on this site – if someone is trying to decide if they need a 1D, well, they probably don’t need a 1D!  If you need one, you already know that you need one…

Anyway, I think it is well worth looking at the new autofocus system that the 1D X introduces as it will eventually find its way, in some form, into the pr0-sumer cameras such as the Canon 7D Mark II and hopefully the 5D Mk III.  While those cameras won’t offer the 61 AF points and huge variety of customization options, they may incorporated the increased precision, low light sensitivity, better tracking speed, and the new algorithms that coordinate with the exposure system to detect and better track a subject by brightness, color, and even facial recognition (yes, even pros can use face-detection now!).

canon autofocus af system
Screenshot from Canon 1D X video (link below) explaining new autofocus system – image by Canon Europe

What will will certainly see in the newer cameras is the redesign of the menus, incorporating an Autofocus tab and AF tracking presets!  These are highly desirable features, as anyone who has attempted to fully take advantage of the 7D AF system knows how challenging it is to go between the AF menus and the Custom Functions to change to the desired settings while trying to decipher the cryptic C.Fn option names.

The EOS 1D X has a single AF tab in the menu, containing 5 AF sub-menus.  One of the most helpful sub-menus is going to be the AF Config Tool menu that contains the “Case Study” AF presets.  Instead of trying to recall how to set each Custom Function such as AI Servo Tracking Sensitivity and AI Servo AF Tracking Method to best track a subject and respond to loss of the subject or interference of an object between the camera and subject, one can now choose from preset options with helpful descriptions such as “Continuous shooting, ignore obstructions,” “Subjects that accelerate or decelerate quickly,” and “Instantly refocus suddenly with obstructions.”

The 1D X offers six AF “Case studies” presets, and there is no reason not to include all of these with the 7D replacement, since it too is a camera designed for sports and motion.

If you intend to purchase the 7D Mk II or whatever it will be called, it is worth your time to have a look at this page and video from Canon and begin to become familiar with what you will want to learn and take advantage of in the near future with the likely-to-be-improved 7D AF system and menus: