Sony cameras, continuous autofocus and facial detection features

Saying that a photographer should always keep their subjects in focus is like saying a driver should always keep their eyes on the road: It’s a no-brainer. And today’s cameras, with ever-improving autofocus and automatic detection systems, are better than ever at helping you achieve that focus — so that you can keep your eye on being creative, without having to worry about what’s in focus or about fiddling with your lens.

Let’s dive into two features that help today’s photographers, both amateur and professional, deliver great shots over and over: Continuous autofocus and facial/eye detection.

What is continuous autofocus?

Continuous autofocus is all about keeping moving objects in focus. It’s a feature that automatically focuses your lens on a specific point — and then keeps the focus locked on that point, even if the subject moves, or if you’re moving.

What is continuous autofocus for?

As you would expect from the above description, continuous autofocus is a great feature to have and use anytime you’re shooting something that’s moving! For example:

  • Sports photography: Keep your focus trained on a single hockey player as they skate down the ice, avoid the defense and line up a shot on net.
  • Wildlife photography: As you track a bird in flight you can easily lose it as it moves, but not if your camera is locked on the subject.
  • Kids and pets: Your smallest family members are often in constant motion; continuous autofocus helps keep them in focus until just the right moment.

What is facial/eye detection?

Facial detection, as the name suggests, is a feature that allows your camera to find human faces in any scene you’re shooting, typically by looking for the shape of the human face (eyes, nose, mouth, chin), and automatically making the face the primary focal point of the image. Face detection technology has been around for about 10 years and has continued to improve, both in accuracy and speed of detection.

What is the difference between facial detection and eye detection?

Eye detection works on the same principle as facial detection, but allows you to specifically focus on your subject’s eyes. Some models even let you switch the focal point from one eye to the other.

Continuous eye focus: When facial/eye detection and continuous autofocus work together

Cameras that feature continuous autofocus and facial or eye detection typically allow the two to work seamlessly together — typically known simply as continuous eye focus. This means, once you lock in on your subject’s eyes, the camera will continuously focus on that face or eyes even if the subject is moving. Continuous eye focus can help keep the subject’s eyes as the focal point even when the subject blinks or closes their eyes!

Ultimately, these two features working in concert help make for great photos of people on the move, whether it’s an NBA point guard in game action or your toddler shooting hoops on their Fischer-Price net in the backyard.

The best continuous autofocus camera to buy

There are plenty of options when it comes to cameras with continuous autofocus and facial and eye detection features, from all of the major manufacturers. But Sony eye focus took a big step forward with a recent firmware upgrade, which now allows for animal face and eye detection.

The new firmware works with both the Sony a6400 and the Sony a7 III, either of which is a great choice for a mirrorless camera with top-notch continuous eye focus. Both cameras are compact and easy to handle; the ASPC-C a6400 is the more affordable entry-level model, while the full-frame a7 III offers the latest tech, including a newer sensor and a newer image processor.

When it comes to auto-focus, the a7III features what Sony calls “4D Focus”, which allows for 693 phase-detection autofocus points; the a6400, by comparison, offers 425 phase-detection AF points. A full range of Sony a7 III lenses also rounds out the a7 III offering.

Depending on your budget, either the a6400 or a7 III make for great options if you’re planning to shoot on the move!

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