Is Dual Pixel Autofocus coming to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III?

by planetMitch31 Comments

Dual Pixel Autofocus which was originally launched this past July 2013 when the Canon EOS 70D was announced, was recently added as an “upgrade” to the Canon EOS C300 and the Canon EOS C100, so can it be added to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III or other recent Canon DSLR cameras?

Well, I don't know and I'm frustrated because I don't know.

Why am I even thinking about this?

It is very intriguing to me that Canon is able to retrofit cameras that have been shipping for well over a year while the first time we heard about Dual Pixel technology was when they announced the Canon EOS 70D this past July…

So it seemed to me that in order to “add” this to cameras that already shipped, because I believed based on their marketing that it was a sensor level change in the first place, that the Canon EOS C100 and Canon EOS C300 sensors had to be designed that way but yet that they weren't shipped with the capability!

Turns out I was right.

**UPDATE** As Corey R pointed out in the comments below (not in the forum) (and I don't know why I didn't think of the announcement dates) – the Canon EOS C300 was technically announced before the Canon EOS 5D Mark III was announced! Now as I recall, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III began shipping before the Canon EOS C300, but they were in about the same timeframe. Corey also notes tho that all the cameras that are Dual Pixel that have been announced so far are crop sensors, so maybe that's the issue?

Canon EOS C100 Dual Pixel upgrade promo

Canon EOS C100 Dual Pixel upgrade promo

I contacted Canon trying to confirm my suspicions – maybe everyone already surmised this, but I wanted to know for sure as I hadn't seen it discussed.

Here's what I was told:

Questions and Answers

planet5D: I’m really most curious about this upgrade. I thought I understood from the Canon EOS 70D announcement of this Dual Pixel technology that it was a feature of your new sensors. Meaning it was designed in as a part of the sensor. Is that not correct?

Canon: It's correct that Dual Pixel CMOS AF requires the type of CMOS sensor used in the EOS 70D, featuring two photodiodes within each pixel.

planet5D: If it is correct, then doesn’t that mean that the Canon EOS C100 and Canon EOS C300 sensors were designed with this technology in mind? Even tho it wasn’t released?

Canon: Correct. The original Canon CMOS sensor used in the EOS C100 and EOS C300 has two photodiodes for each and every pixel. These dual photodiodes improve the readout speed and effective dynamic range for Cinema EOS cameras. The new feature upgrade service updates the cameras' firmware to add Dual Pixel CMOS AF functionality without replacing the CMOS sensor. In addition to updating the firmware, Canon's service technicians perform calibration adjustments on the sensor to ensure maximum AF accuracy and performance.

So what about the Canon EOS 5D Mark III?

planet5D: So does that mean it will be coming to the Canon EOS C500? (I know your answer will be ‘we don’t discuss future announcements’ LOL)

And I’ve been asked several times — is it possible that there may be an upgrade for this Dual Pixel autofocus for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III?

Canon: Unfortunately we can't comment on future announcements. (sorry!)

Ok, good, so I wasn't crazy!

Tho of course, we don't know if it is going to be added to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III or even the Canon EOS C300 and who knows how long Canon has been putting Dual Pixel capable sensors out… but we do now know that they shipped cameras with capable sensors before they had the firmware necessary to make it all work.

Hmm… I wonder what else the sensors are capable of that we haven't yet discovered?

Maybe the Magic Lantern team will find something we don't know about? They've found so many other amazing things!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments BELOW!

Demo of the Canon EOS C100 with the upgrade

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. Author

    Gosh mitch! This is cool! I can now comment on the blog directly?? COOL

  2. Couldn’t one of the sensors be examined by someone knowledgeable in camera sensors by using a microscope ? It could put this theory to rest.

    1. Author

      I guess – do you know any experts willing to take apart someone else’s Canon EOS 5D Mark III? 🙂

  3. If the Lantern knows something..wish they’d fill us in. But I’m suspecting that this is based on new hardware and not implemented with software. After all the 5DM3 sensor is years old now.

    1. Author

      I agree it is old… maybe it is just dreaming on my part. But Canon did say they were upgrading the firmware on the Canon EOS C100/300 to make this happen, so maybe there’s a software component we don’t know about.

  4. If Canon has the unleashed Dual Pixel CMOS tech in the 5D MKIII sensor already then yes it can be unleashed, but only Canon knows if the sensor does or not. I was thinking about this too when I bought the 70D however it seems unlikely and probably more profitable to slowly release new DSLR’s with the updated sensor. The question for you is how much would you pay to have it in your 5D MKII $500?

    Side note. I like having comments under the post now.

      1. People spend thousands and go through all gyrations to help them find focus now.
        And even then they miss and search back and forth for focus.

        To be in focus instantly and easily is the filmmaker’s #1 responsibility. This advancement will obsolete all current models if shooting video is the person’s main concern. IMHO.

  5. I think that it would have been better to ask if the Canon 5D3 sensor it self is capable to dual pixel autofocus or have this dual pixel tech already in stead of directly asking a firmware upgrade. Because they will not discuss upcoming releases but they might have said something about the sensor, if asked.

    I think that the two year old sensor in 5D3 is simply too old to have this capability of dual pixel af. I would be extremely surprised if that would not be the case.

  6. Well, the 6D came out nine months after the 5D Mk III. Its sensor is a more recent design. Wonder if that has dual pixels. Perhaps more likely than the 5D Mk III.

    Thoughts gents?

    1. Author

      That’s a darn good point Kris – I would def say the 6D is more likely than the 5D3 – I am probably just dreaming about the 5D3 LOL

  7. Hey Guys, I don’t think it’s an age issue as the C300 (Jan 2012) was out prior to the release of the 5d mark3 (announced March 2012) if my memory serves me correctly. The 70d, c100, c300 are not full frame, that would be the factor in my opinion if they add it to a full frame mark 3. I own the mark 3 and c300 and will jump at the chance to update in a few months.

  8. The way to guarantee it…. “I say there is no way Canon put it on the 5dIII”…… I am always wrong 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks for sacrificing yourself Mike! We all appreciate it

  9. Unfortunately, I think the III is just too old. That’s a leading model for them in a number of ways, including video. If it were capable, I would think they would already released the firmware.

    1. Author

      Well I think it is more than just firmware – they said there’s calibration involved which is part of the $500 cost.

  10. So an idea to check how the pixel issues are handled – i.e. Hot or stuck pixels. 70d vs. 5dIII. Anyone have both and can work the issues side by side – might illuminating. What if only one side of the dual goes hot?

  11. From Canons point of view, this upgrade is mostly a good will gesture. The $500 goes towards offsetting the R&D and labor, IMO.
    Now, how many 100/300’s are out there to be modified? Not many compared to the 5DmkIII. What does Canon gain by offering the mod to the 100/300? More credibility and capability in the Pro realm which these are designed for. That is going to go a long ways towards claiming some body sales and ease emotions as to the decision to buy Canon in the first place over some other brand. But more importantly it opens up the door for more VERY expensive lens sales. This IMO is the real motivation. That and their high end stuff needs to perform at a given level and there was this glaring issue that was fixed for little gold or pain.

    IF and it is a big IF, the 5DmkIII is capable of under going this same mod Canon should IMO roll it out in new models now ready to be sold/ being made, and then offer it slowly to units already in the field so as not to overwhelm their staff doing the work. I think the only reason they would do this is if Canon is not going to offer a replacement model for the 5DmkIII for a long time. I also think they would not offer this mod, IF, they are going to offer this feature in the 7DmkII. This could rob sales from the 7DmkII so the 5DmkIII would have to wait for some time for 7DmkII sales to level out before Canon would want to mod the 5DmkIII.

    There is no doubt that Canon is trying to add value to their product all the while holding prices high. IMO they are smart in doing so.
    Does Nikon do anything like this? I don’t know, but if they don’t I would expect them to take a long look at what Canon is doing in this regard.

  12. Generally manufacturers would want you to buy new hardware. Even if the 5D mk III could be retrofitted, I think Canon would rather put it on the 5D mk IV or the sucessor to the mk III.

  13. As one other poster has asked I’d love to know if this is a possibility for the 1Dx, although the AF on it is already excellent.

  14. I’d expect to see a 5D4 rather than canon choosing to apply an update to the 5D3, it would make more commercial sense.

  15. I’m very sure the 5D3 will never have “dual pixel” AF, it sounds like Canon is adding a new layer on the sensor that has microscopic horizontal lens splitters (one for every two “sensel”/”Photo-diode”/”Micro Pixel”, whatever you want to call them), that would give them two of the same image on top of each other that are slightly horizontally separated, which is how phase-detect AF works but “PD AF” uses two separate sensors, so this method lets them achieve a virtual phase-detect with just one sensor.

    That means the horizontal resolution on the senor is cut in half (because every other horizontal “pixel” is used for this AF method), the C100/C300/C500 can afford to lose half its horizontal pixels because it uses an 8 Megapixel (4K) sensor but delivers a 2 Megapixel (HD) resolution image.

    The 70D was specifically designed to have enough to combine 2 horizontal “micro pixels” and still get a 20 Megapixels resolution.

    Since the 5D3 supposedly uses a 3×3 pixel bin to get HD so it could theoretically work with a sensor hardware modification (something like those stories of people removing the AA filters) and a software modification (something like magic lantern) working together; but it is very unlikely that anyone (other than Canon) can pull that off and if it ever happened would very likely mess up your Photo’s resolution.

  16. I’ve just sent my c100 to canon service center for the upgrade and will be getting it back very soon. From what I’ve heard from the engineer, it will only be a firmware upgrade + calibration and they will not physically open the camera to install anything. What a good way to earn our money Canon, it’s usd500 just to do that? I feel that since it is not a hardware upgrade, they shouldn’t charge us or at the most charge a nominal fee. This is not the way to treat your loyal customers, Canon, since the sensor already has the capability to do dual pixel autofocusing.

    1. Yeah, I’ve heard the same. So the lens splitters are already there (for the C100/C300), they just have to enable it? Lame that it’s a paid firmware but It’s similar to the FS700’s 4k upgrade.

  17. Can I upgrade my canon 70D to shoot on 1080p 60/50/30/25/24 on videos like canon 7D Mark II?

  18. gafakassim not that I’m aware of – Canon’s not announced any upgrade process for the Canon EOS 70D – BUT it already has the Dual Pixel sensor – it was the first to get that technology

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