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The Canon 70D’s new auto-focus feature actually looks pretty good

I recently started shooting a new documentary project for a local burlesque troupe (nice work if you can get it) and while I was filming my first rehearsal I realized that my DSLR just wasn’t going to cut it this time.  The depth of field was just too shallow and the performers were always going in and out of focus as they moved around the stage.  So I’ve started shopping for a new camera that’s good in low light and can auto-focus.  I haven’t made up my mind yet but I’m probably going to go with the Canon XF100.  All the I’ve seen looks really great and all the reviews say it’s perfect for documentaries.

But the other day, a photographer friend told me I should check out the new Canon 70D.  He said it was supposed to have a “revolutionary” new auto-focus feature.   I wasn’t expecting much from the camera because my Canon T4i was supposed to have a pretty good auto-focus too.  But I’ve found the feature to be totally worthless.  In Auto-mode the T4i is always loudly zipping in and out of focus and can never make up its mind about what it should concentrate on.

I figured the 70D would feature a slightly improved version of the T4i’s auto-focus.  But based on the camera tests I’ve seen, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Here’s a review from a sorta-kooky camera vlogger named .  He does something great in this video; he first demonstrates the auto-focus features of a few different DSLR before finally showing us how the 70D performs.  The 70D footage starts at 4:50:

Compared to those other cameras, the 70D’s “Dual Pixel” auto-focus really does look revolutionary.  The camera never has to hunt for the primary subject and it also never does wild, blurry focus re-sets.  And the motor is whisper-quiet which is another huge plus.  The auto-focus isn’t 100% perfect but it looks like a skilled camera assistant is pulling the focus as the subject moves around the room.  The image kind of looks like someone stuck a DSLR lens on a regular camcorder.

Here’s another good test video that features some sketchy eminem-looking dude creeping around people’s backyards.

Again, the autofocus wasn’t perfect but it’s certainly good enough for low budget documentaries or video contest entries.  If I were to buy a new DSLR right now, this would be the one.  I think I paid like $900 for my T4i kit last year and the D70 (body only) is currently going for $1,200 on amazon.  That’s a damn fair price.  So if you’re thinking of upgrading (maybe before you shoot your Crash the Super Bowl entry) you may want to check out the 70D.


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4 Responses to “The Canon 70D’s new auto-focus feature actually looks pretty good”

  1. Shane Free says:

    i’m shooting a feature doc on a Canon xf-100 as my A camera and also use a 7D for a second camera for interviews. The XF100 is awesome, and it looks great.

  2. Shane Free says:

    DSLR’s aren’t good for docs because its best not to shoot in long clips on them

  3. says:

    Check out the Sony a99, I just got it, and it’s autofocus system is pretty great. But you also need to check the limitations of this stuff – like on the Sony, you’re stuck at F3.5 no matter what. I think some of the other cameras have similar limitations, like they might let you move the F stop, but it actually only is capable of working in a super limited range. Be sure that’s something you want. Instead of googling “canon autofocus” try googling stuff like “canon autofocus limitations” or “problems.”

  4. Lorence says:

    Canon’s 70D has by far the best auto focus I’ve ever used and it’s pretty easy to control as long as you know what to point the focus on. Slider shots and glidecam work has never been easier. When there’s multiple subjects, face detect focus will start to jump from face to face but again, as an operator you need to be on top of that. Recording time on IPB compression is 30mins but broken up to 2 files/4gb. On screen audio meters when set manual so at least give you an idea what your audio levels are. Liveview autofocus to my experience doesn’t have to hunt at certain f/stop because it’s using dual pixel phase detection, not the cross type points compare to previous DSLRs.

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