Focus Modes vs Focus Areas






I know just how messy Focus Modes vs Focus Areas can get in one’s head. I think back to my early days with camera in hand... so many things to remember right? Well I am here to hopefully provide simple clarity.

The two (modes & areas) are very different concepts in photography. Focus Modes refer to the different autofocus modes that determine how the camera focuses on the subject. The most common focus modes are Single, AI Focus, and AI Servo.

Focus Modes

Focus Areas







Focus Areas, on the other hand, refer to the specific areas within the frame where the camera can focus. These areas can be selected manually by you or automatically by the camera. Focus Areas can be represented as dots, squares, or zones within the frame. The number and shape of the focus areas vary depending on the camera model.

In general, the focus areas determine where the camera will focus, and not how it will focus (that's focus modes job), when you take a shot. When you select a focus area, the camera will focus on the subject within that area. This allows you to control the focus and ensure that the subject is in focus even if it’s not in the center of the frame.

I know this can be confusing but thing is, Focus Modes vs Focus Areas are two important concepts in photography that work together to determine the focus of your shots. Understanding these concepts will help you control the focus of your camera and capture the perfect shot.

In this blog, I’ll be explaining the focus modes in detail. For a more in-depth understanding of focus areas and how I like to set my camera up; follow the link below to a blog I wrote a while back;

Reading the above will allow us to scrap the whole Focus Modes vs Focus Areas thing and only focus understanding the modes.

Single shot, AI Focus, and AI Servo are three autofocus modes that allow you to capture the perfect shot with ease. Let’s explore each mode in detail to help you understand the differences between them and when to use each one.

Single (AF-S

This mode is designed and best suited for still subjects where you want to lock the focus on a specific point. In this mode, the camera will focus on the subject you have selected and hold that focus until you release the back button or shutter. The camera will not readjust the focus if the subject moves. In saying that, this mode is ideal for portraits, landscapes, and other situations where the subject is not moving.

I never use this mode in my work.

AI Focus (AF-A)

AI Focus mode is a hybrid between single and AI Servo modes. It automatically switches between the two modes depending on the movement of the subject. If the subject is still, the camera will focus and lock the focus as in single mode. If the subject starts to move, the camera will switch to AI Servo mode to track the subject's motion. I am personally not a big fan of this because after all… Technology = love hate relationship…

As I shoot wildlife for the most part, I feel the camera taking the time to think of, is the subject moving or not, is wasting time.

That said, depending on the nature of your photography, AI Focus mode is ideal for situations where the subject may move, but it’s difficult to predict. I just feel it can lag a bit with fast moving wildlife.

AI Servo (AF-C)

This mode is ideal for moving subjects where you want to continuously track focus. The camera will continuously adjust the focus as the subject moves, ensuring that it remains in focus even if the subject is moving towards or away from the camera. This mode is perfect for sports, wildlife photography, or any other situation where the subject is in motion.

This is the mode I use all the time because for the most part, my subjects are always moving. But what if they not moving you may ask… Well, if you followed the link I shared earlier in this blog and watch the last video in that blog, you will see just how I can manipulate AI Servo to work like single shot mode.

HPW TO SET IT UP VIDEO, Olympus, Canon, Nikon, SOny

How To Change your focus modes

That’s about it for the three autofocus modes that allow you to capture the perfect shot but understanding and choosing the right autofocus mode for your needs is crucial.

As a reminder, it is also very important to understand the differences between focus modes vs focus area as this too is crucial for achieving accurate focus and capturing the best shots.

If you still have questions and/or if something is still unclear, please feel free to reach out.

Until then, happy snapping and keep focused!

Michael Laubscher

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