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[Other] Laser AF, PDAF, CDAF, DUAL PIXEL AF Explained: Which is Better?

2018-04-05 14:51:37
26324 10
Dear Mi Fans,
We all know that technology is evolving quite fast, and sometimes its hard to distinguish this from that, especially in the field of camera where all those terms are so advances, PDAF, CDAF and all those other jargons that mere ordinary users cannot even understand. We now hereby, try to breakdown all those terminologies into simpler explanation hoping to clear the air for most users.


We all know what does we mean by saying a focused picture. Well, if you don’t know, look at the below image. Clearly the picture on the right looks more pleasant and clear to our eyes while the other picture seems blurred.

There are two ways we can adjust the focus.
1. The manual focus adjustment.
2. Autofocusing systems.

In manual mode, focal length of the lens is adjusted manually by hand so as to get a clear picture. In autofocusing systems, we rely upon electronic-mechanical systems to adjust the lens focal length. If you have ever used a magnifying glass to get the focused image, you will get this concept easily. To get a clear image, you will have to adjust the lens up and down. Indirectly you are doing the autofocus. It is your brain (eyes are the sensors  and controller the brain) telling you to adjust the glass.

Most common autofocusing systems are:
  • Phase detection auto focus (PDAF)
  • Contrast detection auto focus (CDAF)
  • Laser auto focus (LAF)
  • Hybrid auto focus (HAF)

Among these, PDAF and CDAF are the most popular autofocusing methods.

This system relies on the contrast of the image which it is received. Sensor detects the contrast of the image in first lens position, and moves the lens forward or backward to get the contrast of the image in the new position. Then it compares the first result and second result and hunts for next possible best position of the lens. You might notice some sounds coming from the camera while it performs these, even from smartphone cameras which employs this.

  • Simple technology
  • Good enough for static pictures

  • It takes some time for the system to find the best position for the lens, probably even few seconds
  • It fails on a moving object, results in poor focusing
  • Not an ideal solution for videos

Due to the disadvantages of contrast detection AF, PDAF is introduced

This type of autofocus is usual in today’s smartphones. PDAF relies on image processing more than mechanical adjustments to get the correct focus. It splits the image into 2. Then the system internally tries to move the image and align the lens accordingly. When it is aligned we get a focused image.

  • Mechanical elements are not involved in focusing, making it faster than CDAF.
  • It is good at focusing moving images and videos

  • Certain percentage of the pixels in sensor will be allocated to focusing.

Today’s smartphones and and DSLR’s are using dual-pixel auto focusing systems. Example : Samsung Galaxy S7

With PDAF, only 5 % of the available pixels were part of focusing. But in Dual pixel focusing, a phase detection photo diode is embedded into each and every pixel on the camera sensor.

Dual pixel focusing systems are superior than PDAF and hybrid systems.

This system employs a small laser transmitter and a receiver. It sends a laser beam to the subject and it bounces back to reach the receiver. Using some mathematical algorithms, It calculates the time taken for the beam to hit the subject and come back.

  • It is the fastest autofocusing
  • Works in very low lighting

  • Fails to focus subjects on the long distance as the laser transmitter is not a powerful one.

Some cameras employ multiple focusing systems to minimize the disadvantages of both the systems. For example, many of the SONY sensors are using both PD & CD together. Another example would be Google Pixel, which uses PDAF and Laser autofocus.

Hopefully at the end of this article, I hope you can understand these terms.



Number of participants 3 Experience +12 Pack Reason

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2018-04-05 14:51:37
Favorites8 RateRate

Semi Pro Bunny

Mer Vlnts | from Redmi 5 Plus


Thanks for the info...
2018-04-06 05:06:12

Pro Bunny

Herman Cruz Jr. | from Redmi Note 4


wow this really clears my questions on this focussing terminologies
2018-04-10 08:25:21

Semi Pro Bunny

Jojo casin | from MI 6


very informative. thanks
2018-04-10 17:55:43
Good share. A very informative article. Thank you bro!
2018-04-11 10:25:32
Thanks, very informative details.
2018-04-15 10:49:14
Dark Humorist
I'd go with Dual Pixel Auto Focus as the Redmi Note 5 have it and it performs well side by side against a Samsung S7 since they use the same sensor tech with their cameras. :)
2018-05-10 00:39:18
Nothing endures but personal qualities
Good Article. Thanks for the brief explanation!
2018-05-11 17:13:27

Semi Pro Bunny

Reikapoka93 | from Redmi Note 3


This is very informative, for better purchases
2018-05-12 12:37:09

Rookie Bunny

6270098219 | from app


I just have a question tricking my mind, why would a Smartphone company use both PDAF and LAF Sensor in a same smartphone? And was there any LAF in S7 Edge with DUAL PIXEL SENSOR?
2019-11-27 13:57:13
Laser AF can be in some cases dangerous for the eye, this is the only thing hardware wise that forbide me to get a Xiaomi phone, I hope they will drop this AF on the incoming models, dual pixel and pdaf are more than enough
2019-12-04 18:58:03
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