Using LiDAR to Add Autofocus to an f/0.95 Manual Focus Lens

Filmmaker Josh Yeo of MAKE.ART.NOW. recently tested DJI’s LiDAR Focus module for the new RS 2 gimbal to see if it could accurately focus his manual Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 III lens. If it can handle this, that means you can pretty much add autofocus to any camera and manual lens combination you want… and the results look VERY promising.

Using LiDAR time-of-flight sensors for autofocus and depth mapping is hardly a new idea. Smartphone makers have been using these sensors for a few years, and a LiDAR sensor is one of the major features added to the new iPhone 12 Pro. The 3D Focus module that DJI released for the new RS 2 gimbal simply turns LiDAR into an optional accessory… and a pretty cool one at that.

“Autofocus for any camera and any manual lens combination?! You read correctly,” explains Yeo. “This is an add on to the RS 2 bundle, it requires the focus motors bundle, and is $170 and gives very fast and pretty damn good autofocus to any manual lens using LiDAR [Time of Flight] T.O.F. sensor technology. Mind is blown.”

Of course, there are some limitations—read: reasons this doesn’t already exist as a built-in feature or add-on module for every camera on the market. You have to re-calibrate the sensor with each lens you attach, the focus target has to be in the center of the frame, and it’ll only work up to about 22ft from your camera… just to name a few issues.

But if your subject is close enough, this idea does promise to add highly-accurate distance-based autofocus to any lens in your bag regardless of light levels. For video shooters, this could be an indispensable piece of kit. For photographers, at the very least it sounds intriguing as a hot-shoe mounted accessory that can drive you focus in special circumstances like a dim wedding reception.

Check out the full video up top to see the module in action and hear Yeo’s thoughts on the speed, accuracy, pros, and cons of using a LiDAR module for autofocus, and then let us know what you think in the comments down below.

(via Sony Addict)

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