Sony has announced that Animal Eye AF will be rolled out to its most recent full-frame mirrorless cameras, but what is it and why should you care?
Back in September 2018 at Photokina, Sony announced that it would be introducing Animal Eye AF in the near future. What it didn’t say was if this would be as a firmware upgrade or with a new product. I pressed them on the matter in an interview but they would not be drawn.
Now we have the answer and it’s good news. In addition to giving the newly announced A6400 Animal Eye AF, Sony is going to roll it out to the Sony A9, A7R III and A7 III. That’s great news. It’s not just that the cameras will get extra features, it’s a signal that Sony wants to look after its existing customers.
What is Sony Animal Eye AF?
Sony introduced Eye AF in 2013, but it only really became something that photographers took notice of when it was made to work in continuous AF (C-AF) mode. When it’s active, it enables the camera to identify an eye in the scene and focus on it. In C-AF mode it will track the eye around the frame and keep it sharp.
Eye AF is really useful for social and wedding photographers as it enables them to ensure that the most important part of the subject is sharp. It also means that photographers can shoot at wider apertures because they don’t need the security of the extra depth of field when they know the eyes are sharp.
Currently Eye AF only works with human eyes. It’s an evolution of face detection that sees a mouth, eyes and nose and then focuses on the crucial area. Developing this technology to work with animals is a big step forward.
Of course what we don’t know yet is the range of animals that it will work with. The faces of dogs, elephants and dolphins, for example, are very different. That makes identifying the face and finding the eyes on all of them a challenge.
Why we want Sony’s Animal Eye AF
Extending the Eye AF functionality to animals should make wildlife and pet photography a whole lot easier! Instead of having to pinpoint the eyes with an AF area, or hope the Tracking system detects roughly the right area, it should home right in on them.
The AF system is Sony’s most recent cameras is brilliant, but the tracking tends to target the closest moving subject. With a dog, that night be its head, but it can be its nose. If you’re shooting wide open to separate your subject from the background, that can make a big difference.
It’s going to be helpful for wildlife photography, but also for the legions of photographers like me who love to photograph their dog!
Owners of the Sony A9, A7R III and A7 III will soon be able to add this functionality with a firmware upgrade. It’s nice to see one of our Christmas wishes coming true!