As "Face detection" really a catchy word in Compact camera market, What do face detection perform in a digital camera? what more does this feature do in addition to auto focus system?

And why there is no face detection thing in DSLR world?

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    Modern DSLRs have face-detection too. Please check you facts. – Itai Sep 19 '12 at 13:39
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    @Itai: but the reason they've only added it recently is instructive. – mattdm Sep 19 '12 at 13:43
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    Lots of good explanations on the web – Itai Sep 19 '12 at 13:50
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    @Itai - The problem with that, is that you just receive information about general face detection not specific for why it is in digital cameras. – dpollitt Sep 19 '12 at 14:26
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    @Itai: And...we generally prefer to answer questions here, rather than simply sending people off to a web search. I think Mattdm is right, the reason why DSLR's only received face detection recently is instructive. – jrista Sep 19 '12 at 17:12

The camera doesn't know what the most important parts of the image are, and therefore what you would like to have in focus. Traditionally autofocus systems have simply selected the closest object near the centre of the frame and focussed on that. This can easily fail in the presence of irrelevant foreground details.

Face detection makes the assumption that if the image contains people, you would probably like to have their faces in focus, so by detecting the location of faces the autofocus system can be more accurately instructed.

In order to for such a scheme to work you must have some way of reading the image data continuously and the ability to focus on an arbitrary point in the image. This essentially means you need live view and contrast detect AF for face recognition. This is one of the reasons the feature was slow coming to DSLRs, contrast detect is still slower than phase detect and is thus not the primary way of focussing with DSLRs. Another factor is that DSLR users tend extert slightly more control over the camera's operation and prefer to select AF points manually.

The really interesting development is that the Canon 1DX has a metering sensor which is high enough resolution to detect faces, so it can use face detection in conjunction with phase detect AF.

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    It should also be noted that the 1D X face detection (and possibly face detection in other camera) are not limited to detecting human faces. I've read a few articles where people used the 1D X face detection feature to detect bird and animal faces as well, a rather intriguing capability. – jrista Sep 19 '12 at 17:13
  • @jrista that's probably the result of using a really simple face detection scheme that looks for a round shape with two eyes! But yes I can see how that would still be an advantage to nature photographers. – Matt Grum Sep 20 '12 at 12:27
  • I'm not sure its that simple, as it seems to work in profile... For deer, elk, even bear...that wouldn't really be a "round" face. – jrista Sep 20 '12 at 15:59

Apart from assisting focus, some cameras do not only have face detection but also try to detect the expression, like for auto shooting when people are smiling, instead of taking 10 images to get people to smile. You can even get a rotating tripod for e.g. Sony WX1 that allows you to put it in the middle of the table and have it rotate and snap pictures during a dinner party when people smile at it. It would also be handy for surveillance footage to snap pictures of faces while you are away. From personal experience I haven't used the face detection much on my WX1 save for in the beginning when showing off the camera - I use it mostly to record concerts, and I don't miss the feature on my DSLR.

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    Some of these features even warn you about closed eyes after taking the shot. Also included is setting for smile level treshold, where you can tell the camera if it should take a photo for even the slightest of smiles, or if it needs to be a real wide grin before a photo is captured. – Esa Paulasto Apr 24 '13 at 13:03

DSLRs have face detection too, even the high-end models like Nikon D800.

I suggest you to do a simple Google search to learn more about face detection.

Face detection simply detects the face in the frame and then it set the autofocus and exposure settings to give priority to the face.

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