Canon 650D: has Canon revealed its mirrorless technology?

Canon EOS 650D: front view

Amid persistent rumours of a Canon mirrorless camera in the works, could the technology in the new Canon 650D hint at what’s to come? Angela Nicholson, our head of testing, asks the question over on our sister site, TechRadar.

Canon EOS 650D: front view

The Canon EOS 650D/Rebel 4Ti debuts a couple of new technologies for Canon that could be used in a mirrorless compact system camera (CSC).

For a start, the EOS 650D is Canon’s first DSLR to feature full-time autofocusing in Live View and video mode. Both of these modes require the reflex mirror to be lifted out of the way, so the camera in effect emulates a mirrorless model.

Full-time focusing is enabled by the new Hybrid AF system that combines the benefits of phase detection and contrast detection, using information drawn from the imaging sensor. It also enables the Live View AF to be much faster than normal.

We have seen hybrid AF systems before in mirrorless compact and compact system cameras such as the Nikon J1 and Nikon V1.

Dedicated pixels
Like other Canon DSLRs, the Canon EOS 650D has a separate dedicated autofocus sensor that works when the reflex mirror is down and reflecting light towards it. However, when the mirror is lifted for Live View or movie recording, the camera uses dedicated pixels on the imaging sensor to facilitate hybrid autofocusing.

According to Canon UK’s David Parry, in Live View and video mode the Canon EOS 650D uses the phase detection part of its hybrid AF system to get the subject close to being sharp, and then the contrast detection part to get the focus spot-on.

Phase detection AF systems are generally faster than contrast detection systems, not least because the camera knows which way to adjust the lens to achieve focus.
Contrast detection systems adjust the lens to find the point of highest contrast but they don’t know which way to move the lens, and as a result, although more accurate than phase detection systems, they are usually slower.

Combining phase and contrast detection should enable faster, more accurate autofocusing than using either method alone. Both of these points would benefit a mirrorless camera.

One of the major benefits of a mirrorless camera design is that they can be made smaller than the average DSLR. However, this can make finding room for large control buttons and dials tricky. One solution is to use a touchscreen that enables camera settings to be adjusted via the screen.

The Canon 650D is the first DSLR to have a touchscreen, and our experience with a pre-production sample indicates that it has been implemented extremely well.
Although the Canon EOS 650D’s screen is accompanied by the usual array of DSLR direct controls, just about every feature can be controlled by touching the screen. It’s even possible to use pinch-to-zoom control when examining images.

Could Canon be testing the water before it launches a mirrorless camera with touchscreen control later in the year?

Read Angela’s hands-on Canon 650D review over on TechRadar.


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