Join Joseph "PhotoJoseph" Linaschke for an in-depth discussion in this video Autofocus modes, part of Photography 101.
- The autofocus capabilities of today's modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras is nothing short of remarkable. Not only do you have your basic focusing modes, but you can get into things like focus tracking and facial detection and more. It's really quite remarkable. Now we're gonna go through a lot of different modes in a couple different cameras here and you may or may not find these same functions on your camera. It just depends on what you've got. You may also find functions on your camera that we don't cover here. We can't cover them all, but we wanna make sure we get through the basics. And we're gonna start with one of the most basic, basic functions and that's difference between autofocus single and continuous.
The idea behind single focus is when you push the button halfway down, the camera focuses, locks, and then doesn't change. This is ideal if you're shooting a picture of something that isn't moving. So if I point the camera at something, push the button down halfway, it focuses, locks and stays there. Until I take my finger off of the shutter button and put it down again, the camera's not gonna try to refocus. On autofocus continuous mode is where the camera's gonna continuously try to refocus. This is of course ideal if your subject is moving. So whether you're shooting a picture of a leopard running across the Serengeti or your kid running across a soccer field, those subjects are moving so you want the camera to track them and focus as they go.
Now some cameras are better focus tracking than others, but they all have these modes. So let's take a look at how to get into these modes from one of the older cameras we have here and then we're gonna jump into something more modern and see what it has to offer. This canon five D mark two has a dedicated AF button on it. You push that and you can choose between one shot, AI focus and AI servo. Now the one shot is what we talked about where the camera will focus, lock and not move. Both the AI servo and the AI focus are different modes that will do the follow tracking where it will continuously refocus.
The AI focus is the one that will always keep tracking. The AI servo is kind of a hybrid mode where it will focus and lock, and then change if it thinks your subject is moving. So which should you go with? If you know your subject's not moving, again just go with the single shot. There's no reason for your camera to try to refocus. If you know your subject is moving, go for the AI focus one where it is constantly following. The AI servo is really there if you're not sure if a subject is going to move or not. This can be good if your kid is standing still and you're about to take a picture of them, and then the kid bolts off. Kids are pretty unpredictable, so you might wanna use that mode so if the kid moves, the camera will try to refocus.
It just depends on what you're shooting and you need to get used to those modes on your camera. Now on this camera here, the Lumix, we have the same type of choices. You have an AFS or AFF so that's autofocus single or follow. Same idea, it will either focus and lock, or focus and lock and then maybe change its mind if the thing moves. And then you have AFC for AF continuous, and that's the continuous focus. You also have on here manual focus, of course. So if you wanna go manual, you can do that as well. Back into the standard AF modes, this is not where the story ends on the more modern cameras.
On this mirrorless camera, for example, you not only have the single and continuous modes, you also have face detection and a whole lot more. So let's take a look at those modes in the settings. If I push this button here, it brings up a menu where I can choose the AF mode. It starts off in face slash eye detection and this is pretty remarkable, when you point the camera at someone, you're gonna actually see a box over their face with a cross line over their eye. The camera identifies the eye and locks onto that. If there's multiple people in the shot, and depending on the camera you're using, you might actually see boxes over each individual face.
It works incredibly, incredibly well. Next up you have tracking. And again this is a mode that you may find on your camera or you may not, but tracking on this camera works much like a missile tracking system. Where you'll actually see it grab onto a subject and then you'll see as that subject moves, the tracking dot follows them around and that's where the camera is focusing on. Then you have something called 49-Area focus. This depends again on the camera. Some have 49, some have more, some have less, but this allows you to basically look at the entire scene and lets the camera try and figure out where it wants to focus on.
You can do the same thing as the 49-Area, but under a custom multi where you decide what region of the area, what region of the scene you want the camera to look at. So it's not defining a single point, but more a region. The left side of the scene, the right side, the lower right corner and so on. After that, you get into your one area and pinpoint focus modes. These allow you to be very precise of where you want the camera to focus. This can be really handy if you know you want your subject on a particular area of the scene, even if you're moving the camera around. For example, let's say you're shooting horse racing and you've got a horse that you always wanna make sure is off to the right hand side of the screen.
So you put your focus point on the right, you position the horse there as you're shooting, and the focus is always gonna be maintained on that position on the screen. So lots of different options and again, it's gonna depend on the camera that you have what you'll find in there. But as you can see, on modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras, there are a plethora of autofocus options. You just need to play with your camera and see what's in there.
- Adjusting aperture, shutter speed, and ISO
- Controlling autofocus
- Using buttons to change focus, metering, and shooting modes
- Carrying a camera like a pro
- Stabilizing the camera
- Working with flash
- Thinking creatively and changing your point of view
- Buying new gear