Dual Pixel Autofocus – What It Does & 15 Canon Cameras Offering It
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In 2013 Canon introduced the Dual Pixel Autofocus to the world, and the number of autofocus users has only risen.
With this technology, even beginners can achieve great focus results without spending years perfecting the manual settings!
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What is dual pixel autofocus?
Dual pixel autofocus was invented by Canon and implemented into most of their cameras since 2013.
The Dual Pixel Autofocus sits in the camera's CMOS sensor. The easy explanation is that the DPAF quickly finds out how to achieve focus. And not only that. It also produces sharper images and has better low-light performance.
This technology is also used in smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy and Huawei phones.
The Dual Pixel Autofocus is not necessarily interesting to portrait photographers or landscape photographers, as they get better results manually setting up their camera settings.
However, if you're an avid user of phase-detection or autofocus, you should consider getting a camera with Dual Pixel Autofocus.
What does dual pixel autofocus do?
The technical explanation of DPAF is that it ensures that every pixel in the sensor captures two sides of each photodiode and combines them into one for the best result.
In previous systems, they used some pixels to achieve focus and the remaining pixels to capture the image, but there was never any system that utilized a pixel for both things. That's until the dual pixel autofocus system was released.
A photodiode is a semiconductor that converts light to an electrical current. The smaller the photodiode is, the faster the response time is.
Essentially each pixel is split into two photodiodes, one left looking and one right looking. The DPAF uses micro-lenses to perform this. The processor analyzes each pixel, which ultimately combines all of the signals into one to complete each pixel on the image.
Better low-ligt performance with double photodiodes
Because the dual pixel autofocus takes more readings than other types of autofocus, it has much better low-light performance. It will quickly focus on your subject, even in dark environments.
That's why dual pixel autofocus has been especially popular to implement in smartphones. The small phones, relative to a regular camera, meant that the sensor had to be smaller.
As we know, the smaller the sensor, the less light is let in. To counteract the poor low light performance, some smartphone manufacturers started using dual pixel autofocus to utilize the phone's software to create better picture results.
And you might be wondering why every camera doesn't just have this feature if it's so good?
Well, first of all, it's expensive. And since it analyzes each pixel, the higher the megapixels are, the more expensive the feature is to produce.
Dual pixel autofocus for video
Dual pixel autofocus might be a game-breaker for videographers.
In the past, any professional videographer has manually focused, which can become quite a pain. Each videographer would set the focus before each shot. While autofocus exists for video cameras, it just isn't reliable enough for top-level videography.
However, with the introduction of dual pixel autofocus, videographers might want to reconsider their stance on autofocus. With DPAF, you can simply tap on the camera's touchscreen, and it will quickly achieve the focus that you want.
The camera is also far less likely to lose focus than previously, regardless of something entering or crossing the shot, blocking your view from your subject.
Furthermore, DPAF is amazing at focusing on moving subjects/objects, both in terms of finding and maintaining them.
Canon cameras with dual pixel autofocus
As mentioned earlier, Canon was the first to implement dual pixel autofocus in their devices, but that doesn't mean that every Canon camera comes equipped with this feature.
We've highlighted some of their most notable cameras that have DPAF equipped.
C100, C200, C300 cinema cameras
The C-series are known for their remarkable cinema recording capabilities. And they don't come cheap!
The EOS C100, C200, and C300 are all equipped with the dual pixel autofocus feature, and despite filmmakers, hesitance to use autofocus, plenty of filmmakers have enjoyed using this feature.
All of the cameras are digital cinema cameras, meaning all of the footage goes directly into a memory card.
Some filmmakers prefer using old-school cinema film, but most have moved on to digital. Their relatively small size and compact design make them perfect for things like documentary filmmaking.
While you as a filmmaker will mostly try to rely on manual focus, the C-series' owners can benefit from the DPAF in situations where you're following your character in complex environments.
If you're having trouble getting the focus to get right, the dual pixel autofocus will be an immense help to you. This especially goes for those who are planning to shoot a documentary, as it often leaves little to no time to mess with the focus.
By having a system that can automatically focus, you will be sure that you're ready to capture anything at any time!
M5, M6, M50 mirrorless cameras
The Canon EOS M series is a series of mirrorless cameras that can boast that they possess the DPAF feature.
The EOS M series is known for its compact design, fantastic image quality, and easy-to-use auto settings where the DPAF fits perfectly.
The M series is great for beginners, as you will be able to achieve results right away, but still leaves room for you to improve and do so in your tempo.
The cameras come with great low-light performance so you don't have to invest in a bunch of lights for your shoots. If you want to do videography, the M series is more than capable to shoot Full HD video.
1DX Mk II, 5D Mk IV, 6D Mk II, 7D Mk II, 70D, 77D, 80D, 800D, 200D DSLRs
Last but not least, plenty of Canon DSLRs come equipped with the dual pixel autofocus feature.
All of the above-listed cameras have it, and they range from beginner to professional level.
So whether you're a complete rookie or a professional photographer/videographer, there are plenty of options for you to consider!
Rent a Canon camera
I hope this article helped you understand the dual pixel autofocus feature and everything that it can do for you!
If you want to try it out yourself, you can rent or subscribe to various Canon cameras on Wedio and save money on your next project!
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About the instructors
What is dual pixel autofocus?
The dual pixel autofocus is a feature that quickly finds out how to achieve focus and sharp images.
What cameras have Dual Pixel Autofocus?
Canon EOS C100, C200, C300, M5, M6, M50, 1DX Mk II, 5D Mk IV, 6D Mk II, 7D Mk II, 70D, 77D, 80D, 800D, 200D.
How do I use Canon dual pixel autofocus?
You have to enable the touch and drag autofocus options, and you should be good to go!