When Canon Pro Marketing Specialist, Genaro Arroyo, loaned me the Canon EOS 70D to try out I rolled my eyes expecting the auto focus to work haltingly…second-guessing itself…back and forth.
But after some real world tests I moved from doubter to convert.
Don't get me wrong.
I know nothing can replace a good focus-puller.
Dave Gasperik pulled focus on a Lamborghini speeding at us at f/2.8 and never lost focus. But this Canon EOS 70D breakthrough is remarkable.
“Anna's Walk” – our Canon 70D tests
Testing the 70D
Test #1 – The tests begin with one tracking focus on our gorgeous CineBootCamps actress, Anna Easteden, walking toward camera in a dimly lit restaurant.
She's got Lamborghini moves but is only walking toward camera.
Basically the darker blue and black lines (solid and dashes) indicate contrast, better contrast being along the top. The fainter blue and black lines display resolution. Solid lines indicate at f 8 and dotted lines at wide open aperture. Moving left to right on horizontal axis shows the values from the center of the lens to it's outer edge.
You can see how the 70D's lens has consistently good contrast from center to edge in both tele and wide angle settings. And it's wide open resolution (the solid fainter black line) is also quite good. Better than the 70-200mm (the next chart down) overall. Of course, we're into nit-picking country here. At the end of the day, the success of your film will be determined mainly by whether it's creatively and aesthetically engaging, not whether your lens had slightly better contrast capabilities. Still it's nice to know you're technically doing the best job you can.
Both histograms were virtually identical (the white values just kissing the first vertical line) even though the 70D looks darker in the tests. I used the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM lens on the 5D Mark III.
Next, I had to see if the 60D would deliver even better results with the sharper 70D STM lens. (The lens the 60D shipped with was a EF-S 18-135mm lens but has no step motor and the MTF charts on the 60D's lens are different, so I'm assuming it's different. (see below).
We performed a more challenging “find and focus” test using the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM lens. I panned to objects around the studio. Time and again the 70D nailed focus as soon as I parked on the new shot.
So, the 70D was a perfect match to the 70-200mm. It was like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. (or to the younger filmmakers, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke or whoever that guy was in the BeetleJuice suit. Don't you wonder what went through his head when they first proposed the idea to him? “Okay, so Miley's going to rub your crotch with a foam finger. We think it'll be a huge moment in the history of live television.”
It was huge. But was it a good huge or a bad huge for his career? I think that's the judgement that's lacking in some performers. I digress.)
I panned to objects near and far. Kept it on Auto ISO (which reacted pretty fast as well.) Then, it even grabbed focus on something behind the venetian blinds at our studio that I couldn't even see. You've gotta see this video.
Fact is, the 70D nails focus in three ways – by itself, or wait for you to tap the part of the screen you want in focus or find a smiley face or recognizable pattern to track. (More exact data is here at Canon's Learning site.)
It passed all tests to my satisfaction so I took it on a real world test.
Test #4 REAL WORLD SHOOT
The shoot was a mini-doc about Angel Tree, an organization that arranges gifts to be distributed to kids whose parents are in prison at Christmas.
If you've ever filmed kids you'll know how hard it is staying in focus especially on a long lens. With the 70D all it took to roll focus was a tap on the screen. It found focus positively in one motion…no driving past it and backing up or endlessly searching back and forth.
Canon has solved the number one problem that ruins filmmakers shots, i.e. out of focus.
Canon's already offering the AutoFocus sensor for the c100 cinema cameras. I can't want for the feature to be added to the 5DM3 or perhaps it'll be the step up feature for the 5DM4.
Start saving up. Santa's on his way! This is too good a feature to not roll out.
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)