I’ve always been a fan of the basic and most commonly used half press to focus mode, and re-composing if I need to keep focus, while still holding the shutter half pressed. It’s the world’s standard, and for a reason (it just works!), but I’ve been trying something a bit different lately, and it’s been fantastic!
Before I even start, and I know some are going to mention it, I do not like the back button focus technique. It’s a cumbersome technique that means you tie up two fingers unnecessarily. Holding one button to continuous focus or find focus, and using another to press the shutter button means you’re thinking of more things than you need to. I know others like it, but it’s not for me or my style of photography (I can achieve the same or better results the standard way easily).
So the way I’ve been using and experimenting with can be set up quite easily, and is similar to the way I’ve always done it. However, I set the switch from single focus (locks on once when focused) to continuous focus (always finding focus at the focus point) and I set the focus area to full screen “wide” area for focus tracking. I also leave eye detect on at all times and ensure I’m in the right custom AF settings. Finally also ensuring expose shot only when camera believes it’s in focus is checked.
Using this method, I’ve found I have the best of every mode possible when out and about with the camera. My camera locks onto the subject, and will stick with it no matter what the composition. Plus, I always have eye detect for when people are in the shot. On top of that, if I do want to lock focus for a landscape or anything that’s not moving (and I’m not moving), I can just press the AF-L button which locks focus (and exposure), however I rarely if ever feel the need to do this.
I recently spent a week using this technique for hundreds of photos, taking street photography images, landscapes, birds and of course family, which include two very busy children. Of all my shots, a dozen or so were also taken by my wife, every single one of them hit focus!
Hit rate for me is very important, and I usually allow for one or two missed focus shots, but 100% every shot was in focus blew me away.
Now, before people say anything, this is for general use. Obviously, there are times I might want to switch to a different focusing system. Also, obviously, this technique may not work for everyone as we are all different.
• You have a bigger box focus area to work with, so just position the box over your target area and it will lock on.
• While keeping the shutter you can track your subject or re-compose without loss of focus.
• If a face comes into shot, it will lock on and follow in an instant.
• If you want to lock focus and you’re on a tripod, simply press your AF-L button once and you can leave go of the shutter button until required to press it.
• Just fully press the shutter button at any point to take the photo.
It’s really revolutionised the way I take photos. It’s such a simple change, but it means I can think even less about worrying about focus and concentrate on talking the image! The camera will literally stick the focus to the point you chose, if it’s not moving, or if it is moving in any direction!
I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this sooner. The technology is there, so why not use it? What’s more, it means I can have the benefits of all the other modes (half press/back button/zone etc) in one go, and when I hand my camera to people who don’t usually take photos, there’s no issues as it just works.
Give it a go! It’s fun!