With a technology that plays into Canon’s upcoming focus point eye-tracking to be released with the new R3 camera, Canon applied for a patent (Japanese), covered by CanonWatch.com, that would integrate this sort of area-of-attention information with the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system. Where normally, IBIS systems merely attempt to stabilize relative to the stationary ground, this technology would allow for the recognition that the subject was moving, and then make the sensor track that subject and stabilize relatively for that subject.
Canon’s R3 is to come out with a viewfinder sensor that tracks the photographer’s pupil to make a good guess at what that camera operator wishes to photograph. This results in a focus point selection that moves with a user-tracked object, not simply an object identified by a deep learning algorithm and chased – as is the case with all of the most recent top-end camera offerings.
IBIS typically is useful for slow or still objects, because it has always been – to date – focused on stabilizing the image relative to a theoretical fixed point of reference. The exception has been where “mode 2” panning settings may allow for IBIS to turn off for the axis in which the camera is being panned. With the new technology, the IBIS would not turn off, but would instead calculate what it would need to do on that axis to perfect the panning rate, and then send signals to the hardware behind the sensor that shifts its angle very slightly to accommodate those adjustments.
The end product would theoretically render sharp extremely fast selected objects, and create a “panning effect” through the rest of the frame. Visually, this could lead to some types of pictures photographers haven’t been able to capture to date. For instance, a picture taken with a slow shutter speed, focusing on one player on a distant soccer field, could draw a viewer’s eye to an individual player because even with a slow shutter speed, the distance would allow for a relatively large sensor angle of view movement to keep that player in focus. Think of the Flash series, where the superhero would become a blur around a still background of other actors; except it would be reversed, so that the subject would appear clear among a set of blurred people and objects.
This sort of capability would allow for less expensive, higher aperture lenses to be used for applications previously not practical: like non-pro indoor sports events in terrible light. The little non-price-related criticism Canon’s R mount lenses have been getting among users has been their willingness to put out high aperture “L” lenses, such as the 100-500 that reaches f/7.1, and the DO primes recently released that have a fixed f/11 aperture.
Canon is typically among the top patent applicants in the world every year, and has been for decades. They protect their intellectual property in a phased sequence, first relying on trade secrets law, and then after further development, patents. That this application was filed yesterday, within days or weeks of the R3 launch, could indicate that the launch itself may have been waiting until this date of precedence was set in the patent system prior to release. This is less than likely, as it appears that the camera has been seen in the wild enough that this would present a liability for patent defense. More likely, this technology would be seen in a future camera, and perhaps most likely, this is one of the very high percentage of patents that Canon covers off, but never develops.