Join Date: Jan 2005
My Ride: Suburban LT 4x4
"It's become increasingly rare for any manufacturer to show us technology that's genuinely innovative and unique, but that's exactly what Canon has done with the EOS 70D and its 'Dual Pixel CMOS AF' sensor. It's fair to say that on-sensor phase detection AF has so far shown lots of promise without necessarily being truly transformative to the shooting experience of most the cameras that use it, with Nikon's 1 System cameras being the most obvious exception. But while these offer exceptional focusing performance in good light, especially with regards to tracking moving subjects, the AF system can struggle the moment you try shooting indoors with a zoom lens.
Canon's approach of splitting every single pixel on the sensor into two separately readable photosites promises, in theory at least, to overcome the biggest problems that have afflicted on-chip phase detection systems to date. We're certainly excited by what it claims to offer in principle - the ability to work across a large area of the frame, at apertures down to F11, and in low light is a pretty compelling combination. Throw in such goodies as face detection and tracking, and focus point selection by touch, and on paper the EOS 70D looks like it could offer the best live view autofocus of any camera on the market, bar none.
We've only had limited time with the 70D, though, which means it's too early for us to say how well its live view AF system works in practice. But based on what we've seen so far we're pretty optimistic - it's certainly streets ahead of anything Canon users have experienced so far. If it works consistently in a wide range of real-world shooting situations, and with the majority of popular lenses, then we think Canon could well be on to a winner.
We're also pleased to see Canon cramming in all the best features from its other cameras. The touchscreen interface that the 70D borrows from Canon's Rebel series is, we think, just about the best in the business. It complements the new AF system in offering focus point selection by touch, along with the ability to 'pull' focus from one subject to another during movie recording simply by touching the screen. Meanwhile the on-board Wi-Fi offers genuinely useful features, including the ability to use your smartphone as a remote control (complete with live view), and to browse and rate your images on a tablet. These may not be features you use all the time, but they expand the possibilities of what you can do with the camera.
Ironically, those who choose mainly to shoot the EOS 70D as a conventional SLR using the optical viewfinder will benefit least from all this technology. But even then it's a pretty compelling update to the EOS 60D - indeed despite how similar the cameras look externally, in spec terms the 70D now comes very close indeed to the EOS 7D. It has the same AF and metering sensors, and at 7fps shoots almost as fast. It also regains certain features that were lost in the step from the EOS 50D to the 60D, for example autofocus microadjustment. This all promises to make it one of the most capable all-rounders in its class.
Until we get a fully-shootable 70D, however, much of this remains conjecture. But there's a real chance that it could be the first SLR which genuinely works just as well in live view as it does using the optical viewfinder. And however much purist photographers may scoff, if you walk around a city like London in the middle of the tourist season, it's clear that this is how a great many people use their cameras. Quite simply, the smartphone generation has become used to composing on big LCD screens.
Finally, we're also really interested to see what happens when Canon - as it inevitably must - puts its new AF technology into a mirrorless camera. An 'EOS M2' with Dual Pixel CMOS AF and more enthusiast-oriented controls could completely transform Canon's fortunes in this sector, after the lukewarm reception received by the EOS M. This could also substantially negate one of the biggest disadvantages of mirrorless cameras so far - their relatively poor focus tracking capabilities - raising further questions about why you'd still bother with the bulk of an SLR. But that's an argument for another day."
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