What is Deep Learning AF: how does Canon's AI-powered autofocus work?

Canon's Deep Learning AF: how does AI-powered autofocus work?
The AF unit inside the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III contains the Deep Learning magic (Image credit: Canon)

Canon has made a lot of noise about its new Deep Learning AF system, which sits at the heart of the manufacturer's latest flagship professional camera. It sounds incredibly clever, but there are plenty of questions – what is Deep Learning? Who does the teaching? Does the system learn as you shoot? Is it really artificial intelligence in a camera? Does it actually make the autofocus any better? 

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.