Have you ever tried to make sense of the Auto Focus alphabet soup on the back of your camera? You aren’t alone. This frustrates so many DSLR shooters, yet it is something we need to master. Very often, the right setting here is the difference between getting blurry images and sharp images.
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The squares you see when you look through your viewfinder are your focus points. They tell you where the camera will focus.
Single Area Focus Mode
Known as One Shot AF on Canon and AF-S on Nikon. You pick on focus point on a stationary subject, and the camera will lock into focus. Your camera will not focus on a moving object in this mode.
Continuous/AI Servo Focus Mode
AI Servo on Canon cameras and AF-C on Nikon cameras is used to track moving subjects. Lock in focus on the puppy and the camera's autofocus tracks your subject as it runs toward you.
Single Continuous Hybrid Mode
AI Focus AF on Canon or AF-A on Nikon is a hybrid between single and continuous autofocus modes. You lock in focus on a stationary subject, and if it starts to move, your camera will continue to track it.
Single-Point AF-Area Mode
When you choose the single point on Nikon or Manual AF Point on Canon, the camera uses only one focus point that you choose. This allows you to be specific about where the camera will focus.
Dynamic AF-Area Mode
In AF Point Expansion on Canon or Dynamic on Nikon, you choose the focus point, and the camera will acquire focus using that point. If the subject moves, the camera will use surrounding focus points to help keep your subject in focus. This is great for fast-moving subjects like birds.
Auto-Area AF Mode
The Automatic AF Point Selection on Canon or the Auto-Area AF on Nikon is your point-and-shoot method of choosing your focus point. The camera analyzes the scene and decides where it should focus. It will recognize skin tones and faces and prioritize the people in your scene. If not people, it will usually focus on the closest and largest object in the frame. This is the least interesting option for me, because I always want to choose my own autofocus point.
Back Button Focus
Normally we learn to focus by depressing the shutter button on the front of the camera. Back button removes that focusing feature from the shutter and lets you assign it to a button on the back of the camera. Use the AF-On on Canon and professional Nikons. You can also use the AEL AFL button.