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Testing the E-M5's Face Priority AF

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Jman, May 5, 2012.

  1. Jman

    Jman Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 20, 2011
    Columbus, OH
    Ok, I tested out the E-M5's 'Face Priority Autofocus' mode today. It's an interesting mode. In normal everyday usage, AF will work just like normal...select a focus point, and it uses that point. I have single point focus, usually at the center, but I'll use other points as well as needed. Anyway, everything will work just fine with that. Then, if it detects a face, it will override your focus point and focus on the face. If it can detect the eyes, it will focus on the near-side eye. (you can also set it to do Right or Left eye as well).

    So, I tried it out today. Essentially no false positives (as in, it didn't switch to non-face subjects in normal shooting...it stuck to my selected focus point). When it found a face, though, it worked pretty darn well. I was shooting with my Leica 25/1.4 at f/1.8, so relatively shallow DOF, and I thought I'd try it out while my daughter and I were playing Moon Dough. Because her eyes were down most of the time, it did not find her eyes all that often. (though when it did, it correctly locked focus on the near eye). It did find the face, though, and lock on. When only finding the face, it tended focus deeper into the face than the near eye, in order get as much of the face in focus as possible. This worked fine for the 25mm, but may not be so good withe tight headshots with the 45/1.8...though in that case, it would likely find the eyes and focus properly right on the near eye. It hovers a box over where the face is, and a tiny box will appear on the eye when it finds an eye.

    Here's a series. For these shots, it's horrible overhead mixed light from the 3 lamp chandelier directly over the table we were at, so no artistic judgments (there's lamps of two different color temperatures in the chandelier right now, so light quality is awful...the worst in my house)...The first and last shots in this series are individual shots, but all the ones in the middle were taken one after another as my daughter was mugging for the camera and rapidly changing position. The center focus point was active. As you can see, it tracked her face, and nailed it. There would be no way to get all these shots without some sort of face detection, as there was no time to focus/recompose, and you couldn't switch focus points this fast. Because it doesn't false positive much, I think I'm going to leave this on a good part of the time, though with less motion-happy subjects, I'd prefer to set focus exactly where I want.

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  2. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Cute daughter Jordan! Great photos! And thanks for the writeup regarding face detection on the OMD.

    That's one of those features that I used to think "that's for the point and shoot crowd." But now I have really come to appreciate it, specially when using fast lenses with shallower DOF. Assuming that it's a reliable face detection system, it sure beats focus and recompose (which can through the focus plane off) or taking the time to move the focus point around the screen.

    I guess with a great touch screen shutter like the OMD and the EP3, you can just quickly touch the face too.

    Believe it or not, the face detection on the OMD is one of the reasons I am placing a great deal of value on the OMD!
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  3. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Well, I'd say it worked quite nicely, judging from the output! It's interesting how many of these features start off as odd curiosities and over time grow to become nearly indispensable. It seems like face detect is moving in that direction.

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  4. bitmatt

    bitmatt Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 7, 2012
    This is a feature I didn't even think much about until I had the camera, and now I can't imagine not using it. One of my kids is non-verbal autistic and rarely holds still long enough to get a decent picture. We have so many "just missed it" shots in our photo archives- either missed the smile or he zips out of focus just as we are shooting (he does not pose for pictures). With the eye priority focus my hit-to-miss ratio is improving greatly. That combined with the zippy autofocus and I've actually gotten some nice candids!

    Another interesting thing about eye-priority- it seems to also work when the subject is in profile to the camera. Not all the time, but enough that I'm sure it is actually working and I'm not just getting lucky.

    Casey (all on eye-priority)-


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  5. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    I will preface my comments by stating that I've used face/eye detect with my OM-D.

    It works fine when there is only one face in the frame, and possibly when one face is much larger than others, but with more than one person, or if the face is a small part of the frame, it isn't very reliable. It may randomly pick one face over another, or no face at all. Like most features, its usefulness will depend on what you're doing.

    There will be times when touch screen focusing will work better.
  6. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    I think you should be able to assign priority to particular faces, no?
  7. vinay

    vinay Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 18, 2012
    Interesting. The E-P3 does the opposite - a selected focus point overrides face detection.
  8. VisualFeast

    VisualFeast Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 14, 2012
    Does it work with animal faces or just human?
  9. DekHog

    DekHog Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 3, 2011
    **Prepares for 100 cat shots**
  10. Agent00soul

    Agent00soul Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 22, 2010
    And how does it work with the face in profile (seen from the side)?
  11. bitmatt

    bitmatt Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 7, 2012
    Quite well- better than you'd expect, anyway. It seems as long as there is enough of an eye in view for the camera to be able to recognize it as an eye it will follow it. It is not close to 100% accurate though, and it helps if the subject is not at a full profile, closer to 3/4 is better.
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