Canon has always been one step ahead of the pack when it comes to putting video in DSLRs. But the new tech in the Canon EOS 70D could change things forever.
The Canon EOS 70D uses a new 20.2-megapixel APS-C sensor. That spec might not sound all the remarkable from the outset, but the sensor’s architecture is completely new, which allows the camera to achieve the fastest and most precise continuous autofocus while recording video that we’ve ever seen.
Let’s back up. On the entry-level 650D ast year, Canon started using a hybrid autofocus system that used a combination contrast and phase detection autofocus system so that the camera could focus continuously while recording video.
When recording video, DSLRs use sensor-based autofocus, rather than the optical autofocus sensors that you use when you’re simply shooting photos using the viewfinder. Initially, sensor-based systems where just too slow to work continuously because they only used contrast ratios to find focus. By sacrificing a couple of photodiodes on the sensor to phase detection, the new hybrid system was able to do the work of finding focus fast enough that it was reasonable to call it effective.
Or that was the theory anyway. We tested the system a couple fo different times on both the 650D and the mirrorless Canon EOS M, and we weren’t blown away. I worked — yes — but it was still too slow to be reliable.
Now this year, the 70D introduces a new phase-detection only system Canon calls Dual Pixel CMOS AF. That sounds fancy, and actually, it is. The new CMOS sensor’s 20.2-megapixel resolution has been divided into 40.1 million-photodiode architecture so that you’ve basically got two diodes capturing light for each pixel.
Why? Because now there is a phase detection diode at every point on the sensor. Instead of just a few scattered about you’ve got a sensor peppered with phase detection sensors. (The two diodes at each pixel point synthesize, so you’re not losing light sensitivity — at least, that’s what Canon tells us.)
In practice, this new AF system is pretty remarkable as far as we can tell from the evidence so far. We tried out a near-production version of the 70D at a briefing in New York, and the speed and precision of the autofocus during video was fast and precise.
One of the ncie things about the tech is that it gets rid of the old “focus hunt” that inches closer and closer to focus. Instead, the 70D’s focus algorithms find the focus super fast and then slides the focal point smoothly into place.
The Canon EOS 70D swoops in above the Canon 60D in the line, although the 60D isn’t going anywhere just yet. Similarly, Canon wanted us to be clear that its not exactly a replacement for the 7D either.
The 70D offers a few improvements over its predecessors, including new articulating, three-inch capacitive touchsceen, and faster seven frame-per-second continuous shooting.
Amongst the drawbacks of the camera are that it doesn’t have a headphone jack for monitoring the audio that you’re recording through the mic jack or built-in microphone, which is sad, considering the strength of the camera’s video features.
We’re still waiting on prices and release date for Australia.