Last Updated on 05/11/2023 by Chris Gampat
Eye detection is arguably one of the most significant autofocus technologies to emerge over the last decade. But Canon’s flagship camera can now recognize specific faces, automatically picking out a friend among a crowd of strangers without manually choosing which face to focus on. The feature, called people priority, is part of firmware 1.4.0 for the Canon EOS R3. So we’ve updated our review accordingly.
The R3 is, in my opinion, one of the most intelligent autofocus systems today. The people and animal eye AF systems are intelligent and fast, keeping up with fast-moving subjects. When I heard about the R3’s new ability to recognize specific people, I knew I wanted to try it out. I added the following to our Canon EOS R3 review:
Update May 2023
The new people priority autofocus prioritizes registered people when more than one face is detected. The Canon R3 already does better than some other systems at switching between faces — just one tap on the joystick will move over to the next face in auto-area AF. But, the new feature increases the chances of focusing on the right person the first time.
The new feature is located in the AF menu, tab number five. After turning the feature on, the process simply involves photographing the person face-on or choosing an existing photo to save that face. The menu also allows you to change the priority of the faces, with up to 10 slots available. Other options include the ability to delete all faces and the option to load previously saved faces from a card.
When the Canon R3 recognizes a person, it automatically selects that face over any others. A person icon pops up next to the AF boxes on the face, letting you know that the camera has recognized that person. It’s still possible to select someone else instead, using the joystick. The feature won’t work when the face is partially blocked or turned to the side. I also had to re-add my son to the list of faces because I took the reference photo with a hood on, and once he took the hood off, the R3 no longer prioritized him. But, when the camera first recognizes someone face-on, I was impressed that it indeed seemed to stay with that person even as he did his best Zoolander impersonation. Sadly, Canon says the feature isn’t designed for action. But, when the R3 found the prioritized face before the action started, it kept up pretty well.
I can see people priority AF being a helpful tool for weddings — adding the bride and groom — as well as taking portraits in crowded locations. If people priority came to more affordable cameras like the R50, I could see photographers adding their family’s faces — but most who pick up a camera as expensive as the Canon R3 aren’t just taking photos of their own family.
If you want to buy the Canon R3, you can pick one up from Amazon.