Photography Tutorials and Articles

Digital Camera auto Focus

Understanding your digital camera’s Auto Focus system

Photo Tip 

Have you ever wondered why your camera doesn’t always focus on your subject? Or thought there was something wrong with the AutoFocus function of your camera?

Is there something wrong with my digital camera autofocus system?

In this article, we are going to look at Auto Focus features for new digital cameras. There are several options available for Auto Focus, and we cover most of them in our Digital Photography Bootcamp classes. Still, for this article, I discuss two different settings that can affect your digital camera’s autofocus performance.

In single Auto Focus mode you can select the focusing point

In single Auto Focus mode, you can select the focusing point.

Auto Focus Auto or Auto Focus Single

By default, almost all digital cameras are set to Auto Focus Auto.  This means your camera “sees” the scene and compares it to its memory bank (not the memory card, but the information manufacturers add to camera processors) and decides where to focus. That doesn’t seem good. So why do manufacturers set Auto Focus Auto as the default setting? Because they think their cameras are more intelligent than we are!

In Auto Focus Auto your camera may select any of these focusing points.

In Auto Focus Auto, your camera may select any of these focusing points.

How does Auto Focus Auto work?

In this mode, the camera has a wide focusing area and searches for items inside that area to find the main subject. Manufacturers make different data available to enable a camera to recognize possible main subjects; some examples are Face recognition, Contrast priority, Brightness priority, Distance, etc. It will select one object in the scene as the main subject for focusing; usually, it’s the closest, most contrasty and brightest item. If you want to take a photo of your child in a park and no one else in the scene, the camera will do a decent job. What if there are other children in the scene and your child is furthest away from the camera? Here comes room for focusing error: your camera does not know your child, so it focuses on the nearest kid with a brighter T-shirt!

What is Auto Focus Single?

Autofocus Single is the setting I recommend in our photography classes, as cameras don’t have the brains or talent to recognize photographers’ focal points. In Autofocus Single, your camera still focuses automatically, but you control where it should focus. Autofocus single allows your camera to focus faster (it’s not searching for data) and more accurately (it’s using your choice of subject).

How does Auto Focus Single work?

It is straightforward. You select the focusing point, and your camera will focus on this point regardless of brightness, contrast, or even face recognition system. So you are in full control!

That is all for now. Every Monday, I post a new PHOTO CLUE. Stay tuned for my next photography Tips. We love to hear from you. Let us know if you have any questions; feel free to send us your questions, and we will be more than happy to answer them.

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Ted and the Omnilargess Team

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

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