was the eye control system pioneered by Canon in film cameras like the
EOS 5. This semi-professional camera featured five eye-selectable focus
points overlaid in the SLR viewfinder. A small camera pointed back at
the users eye and recognised the position. It would switch the focusing
system priority and highlight the selected focus point overlaid upon the
view of the real world through the SLR pentaprism.
Here's a little information.
None of Canon's digital SLRs feature this technology. The last camera I
remember with eye controlled focus was the Canon 3. There were 45
focusing points dotted around the centre area of the viewfinder.
Selecting one of these quickly would be impossible without the speed of
eye control focus.
I suspect the reliability was the problem. Some users report flawless
performance but others found the right point wouldn't be selected and
for professional photography - especially news, wildlife or sports
photography - this means missing the prize-winning shot.
The latest high end Canon digital SLR, the EOS 7D., features 19 focusing
points and a sophisticate manual selection system and a polymer network
LCD screen. The display can hold much more information and can display
new features such as a tilt sensor.
For professional photographers a reliable focusing system is more
important than the convenience of an eye controlled focusing system how
technology has evolved significantly in the decade or more since the EOS
5 was launched.
I can't perceive how the professional SLR is going to evolve. The EOS 5D
MkII now offers video so the blur between professional video and
photography devices is blurring. In fact the quality of the Canon 5D Mk
II as a video camera is so high it's being used by lots of production
houses as the second camera. Professional photographers demand the best
quality and superlative performance in many respects. Reliable
eye-selection of focusing point should be possible for a modern DSLR
though I wonder if the problem is packing the sensor around the very
large pentaprisms found in professional cameras (to give the maximum
field of view).
professional cameras still rely on high quality, large heavy optics and
I'm not aware of any technologies that are going to make these smaller
so I suspect that cameras will stay bulky. They may become hybrid
still/video devices. The consumer compact camera is likely to face a
death from the onslaught of the mobile phone as models will come out
combining the features of both. Advanced amateurs who bought prosumer
compacts such as the Canon G-series might be dissuaded thanks to the
image quality achieved by phone cameras and simple editing options
available in software such as Google Picassa. Phone's will start chasing
the megapixel count just as digital cameras did and many users aren't
fussed about quality. Most don't get prints either but those that do
will start to see the difference but it will only be a matter of time
before the phone starts catching up with compact cameras and taking away
The professional SLR is still safe as is the medium and large format
digital camera simply because of the quality of lenses being so
important. The massive resolutions offered by high end Hasslebald
digital backs and other medium format manufacturers is being equalled by
full frame digital SLRs however nothing beats a proper Zeiss optic so
the top echelon of professional photographers may still stay loyal to
the inconvenience of working with larger sensor cameras.
But for the life of me I can't think why, with all the advances in
eye-controlled focus, Canon haven't reintroduced it on their new cameras
like the EOS 7D which has 19 focusing points. Perhaps it's the
psychology of failure and the original eye controlled systems ended up
being a gimmick which many professional photographers eschewed however
the potential for the technology is very high and the market value also.
Professional sports photographers spend thousands of pounds of a camera
they may only use for two years. In fact even if the product's came out
every year they'd end up buying the latest equipment to get the edge.
Eye controlled focus gives them that edge. The preorders alone whenever
an EOS 1D is released (Canon's professional sports cameras) likely pay
for the research and development that foes into fitting them with the
cutting edge of technology which then filters down into
semi-professional and amateur SLRs. This market force should be enough
for Canon to re-release the technology.
There may be a technological barrier related to the design of these
systems such that they can't yet be sued. Perhaps it's simply a case of
real estate. Professional digital SLRs are crammed with the latest
hardware and there may be little room for the eye sensor and additional
processing hardware for a technology that Canon may have deemed a
failure. This is perhaps the element of psychology. It's the failure of
the eye control systems when they were used on digital cameras which
stymies the project buy in to re-release them in the latest tranche of
professional digital cameras. It's not always technology or design
barriers that stop something useful existing. There are often human