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Autofocus basics

From: Shooting with the Canon 5D Mark III

Video: Autofocus basics

Your camera has an autofocus feature, and for most of your shots, it will provide faster, more accurate focus than you'll ever achieve using manual focus. However, autofocus is not completely foolproof. You still have to use it properly to get good results, and you can learn everything you need to know about how to get good results with autofocus in my Foundations of Photography: Exposure course. For right now, there are some very simple things that you need to know about autofocus. First of all, your lens can be switched between Auto focus, and Manual focus.

Autofocus basics

Your camera has an autofocus feature, and for most of your shots, it will provide faster, more accurate focus than you'll ever achieve using manual focus. However, autofocus is not completely foolproof. You still have to use it properly to get good results, and you can learn everything you need to know about how to get good results with autofocus in my Foundations of Photography: Exposure course. For right now, there are some very simple things that you need to know about autofocus. First of all, your lens can be switched between Auto focus, and Manual focus.

There's a switch right here on the side that says AF, and MF. You want to be sure that it's set on AF for autofocus to work. We are in Scene Intelligent Auto mode, which limits our autofocus choices, and that's fine for right now, because there are some basic things that you really need to spend some time learning. Using autofocus is very simple. You frame your shot, and then you half-press your shutter button. Now, there is a halfway spot as you press the Shutter button down, and when you get there, the camera will go through its autofocus process. It autofocuses, and then once it's achieved focus, it beeps.

You'll also see, in the viewfinder, a little circle light up that shows that autofocus is locked, and you'll see a bunch of squares appear on your image. Don't worry about those squares right now. The point I want to make is, now I've got focus. I have half-pressed my shutter button, and my image is in focus. Now I press it the rest of the way, and the camera takes my shot. It is critical that you go through this pre-focusing step; this process of half-pressing the shutter button. A lot of times I have students come up to me, and say, well, you know, my camera is no good, because when I press the shutter button down, it doesn't take the picture right away, and I miss my shots.

Well, that's because if you just mash the button down all the way, the camera has to autofocus, it has to meter, it has to calculate white balance, it has do some other things, and those things take time. So it goes through all those calculations, and then when it's ready, it takes the shot. So you might miss the moment while it's doing all that. If you half-press, then it gets the chance to do all those things, and tell you that it's ready. Then when you press it, you get an instant result. This is absolutely how you have to use autofocus, and this is true on any autofocus camera, not just the Mark III.

This must become second nature to you. There's no way to cheat this, or think, well yea, yea, I can work differently. No, you can't. This has to just become a habit that any time you're framing a shot, you half-press the button to get the camera ready. Otherwise your camera is going to go slow, and you're going to miss shots. Now let's go back to those dots that appeared in the viewfinder. When you focus, what you're actually doing is calculating a distance to your subject, and setting your lens to focus at that distance. When I half-press the shutter button, inside the viewfinder, I get that focus confirmation light, and I get those dots all over my image; those squares.

Those squares are showing everything in the image that will be in focus, and if you pay attention to them, all the dots are probably in the same plane. So in this case, I am going to see dots on the camera. If there were other things in other parts of the image that were at the same distance those would have focus point squares on them also. The important thing for you to do at this point is make sure that squares are lit up over your subject. If they're actually on the subject's elbow, or on something behind the subject, then you have a problem. Your camera has not picked the right thing. It's not focused properly.

So the autofocus habits that you need to develop are making sure you always half-press the button to pre-focus, and then if you're in a mode where you're seeing lots of focus points, you need to make sure that some of those little focus point squares are in the right place. Your 5D Mark III has several different focus modes. When you're in Auto mode, when you're an Intelligent Auto mode on the camera, the focus mode is set to AI focus. Now, we'll be looking at all these different focus modes in more detail later. AI Focus is a good general purpose focus mode.

In this mode, the camera tries to determine if your subject is moving, and if it is, then it will track it, and keep it in focus. Now, in this case, I have a non-moving subject, so it doesn't have to do that; it just lights up the appropriate focus squares. If you half-press the shutter button, and you don't see the autofocus light, but you hear a persistent soft beeping, that means that the camera has decided your subject is moving, and it's tracking it. You can actually go ahead and mash that button down the rest of the way to take the shot, and you're just never going to get an actual lock, and an actual focus confirmation light, but your subject should be in focus if the camera has done its job properly.

When I say mash down, I don't mean mash down; obviously, you don't want to shake the camera. It's a process of half-pressing the button, and then giving it a gentle squeeze to take the picture without shaking the camera too much. Your Mark III has very sophisticated autofocus options. We're going to be returning to autofocus in great detail later in this course. For now, you've just really got to work on getting the habit of half-pressing, and paying attention to the focus confirmation light, and the autofocus squares that light up to show where your camera has chosen to focus.

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This video is part of

Image for Shooting with the Canon 5D Mark III
Shooting with the Canon 5D Mark III

108 video lessons · 21128 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 10m 29s
    1. Welcome
      2m 16s
    2. What is an SLR?
      5m 28s
    3. A note for 5D Mark II users
      50s
    4. Using this course
      1m 55s
  2. 35m 44s
    1. Exploring basic camera anatomy
      5m 28s
    2. Attaching a lens to your camera
      4m 3s
    3. Examining batteries and media cards
      8m 35s
    4. Powering up
      1m 49s
    5. Exploring the menu system
      2m 53s
    6. Clearing all settings
      2m 5s
    7. Setting the date and time
      1m 55s
    8. Setting the language
      1m 42s
    9. Formatting the media card
      3m 4s
    10. Holding the camera
      4m 10s
  3. 25m 6s
    1. Setting Scene Intelligent Auto mode
      1m 28s
    2. Exploring the viewfinder display
      5m 51s
    3. Touring the LCD screen and the status display
      2m 22s
    4. Exploring the top-mounted control buttons
      1m 42s
    5. Autofocus basics
      5m 7s
    6. Metering basics
      1m 42s
    7. Reviewing images
      2m 59s
    8. Working with image playback
      3m 55s
  4. 39m 32s
    1. Exploring Program mode
      41s
    2. Working with exposure compensation
      5m 2s
    3. Using the lock switch
      1m 21s
    4. Revisiting metering
      1m 43s
    5. Changing the ISO
      2m 14s
    6. Looking at ISO speed settings
      4m 36s
    7. Exploring long exposure noise reduction
      2m 53s
    8. Exploring high ISO noise reduction
      1m 40s
    9. Using program shift
      2m 11s
    10. Exploring image format and size
      3m 59s
    11. Using the Info button
      2m 4s
    12. Examining level and grid display
      3m 45s
    13. Using the Quick Control screen
      1m 35s
    14. Setting the color space
      1m 25s
    15. Configuring multiple media cards
      3m 24s
    16. Using the feature guide
      59s
  5. 23m 15s
    1. Exploring focus modes
      2m 25s
    2. Selecting autofocus areas
      3m 54s
    3. Exploring other autofocus options
      3m 44s
    4. Customizing servo auto focus
      4m 49s
    5. Exploring autofocus custom functions
      4m 50s
    6. Using manual focus
      3m 33s
  6. 10m 31s
    1. Using auto white balance
      1m 48s
    2. Exploring white balance presets
      3m 7s
    3. Using manual white balance
      5m 36s
  7. 10m 47s
    1. Exploring Drive mode
      4m 52s
    2. Using the self-timer
      3m 38s
    3. Using remote controls
      2m 17s
  8. 52m 26s
    1. Exploring metering modes
      3m 26s
    2. Using exposure lock
      1m 22s
    3. Working with focus points and metering
      3m 47s
    4. Exploring Aperture Priority mode
      3m 0s
    5. Using the depth of field preview button
      2m 40s
    6. Using Shutter Priority mode
      3m 26s
    7. Using Manual mode
      3m 27s
    8. Using auto exposure bracketing
      6m 3s
    9. Exploring Bulb mode
      2m 34s
    10. Working with the Auto Lighting Optimizer
      1m 40s
    11. Correcting lens aberration
      2m 46s
    12. Exploring Highlight Tone Priority
      2m 25s
    13. Understanding high-dynamic range (HDR)
      7m 5s
    14. Creating multiple exposures
      6m 25s
    15. Using the mirror lockup feature
      2m 20s
  9. 27m 38s
    1. Modifying LCD brightness
      3m 27s
    2. Rotating images
      2m 36s
    3. Using the playback grid
      42s
    4. Enabling AF point display
      1m 18s
    5. Rating images
      3m 4s
    6. Protecting and deleting images
      4m 40s
    7. Using Quick Control during playback
      1m 17s
    8. Exploring file numbering options
      2m 43s
    9. Creating folders
      1m 10s
    10. Changing file names
      3m 12s
    11. Adding copyright information
      3m 29s
  10. 7m 57s
    1. Defining picture styles
      2m 0s
    2. Exploring predefined picture styles
      2m 1s
    3. Adjusting predefined picture styles
      1m 56s
    4. Working with the monochromatic picture style
      2m 0s
  11. 22m 28s
    1. Activating Live View
      7m 16s
    2. Focusing in Live View
      5m 32s
    3. Focus manually in Live View
      1m 25s
    4. Working with aspect ratio
      2m 33s
    5. Exploring other Live View options
      3m 36s
    6. Reviewing the drawbacks to using Live View
      2m 6s
  12. 12m 16s
    1. Shooting video in Auto and Program modes
      6m 39s
    2. Shooting video in Priority or Manual modes
      3m 35s
    3. Exploring movie playback
      2m 2s
  13. 13m 0s
    1. Exploring custom modes
      5m 38s
    2. Using the custom menu
      2m 56s
    3. Exploring custom controls
      4m 26s
  14. 8m 57s
    1. What are custom functions?
      35s
    2. Working with exposure level increments
      1m 34s
    3. Bracketing auto cancel
      53s
    4. Changing the number of bracketed shots
      1m 5s
    5. Changing ISO speed setting increments
      1m 34s
    6. Exploring the Live View shooting area display
      40s
    7. Enabling safety shift
      2m 6s
    8. Clearing all custom functions
      30s
  15. 8m 16s
    1. Camera and sensor cleaning
      3m 12s
    2. Using the Battery Info command
      1m 45s
    3. Looking at operating conditions and temperatures
      2m 3s
    4. Getting firmware updates
      1m 16s
  16. 15m 10s
    1. Exploring focus and composition
      5m 31s
    2. Using an exposure strategy
      5m 11s
    3. Controlling exposure through Program mode
      4m 28s
  17. 23s
    1. Goodbye
      23s

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