Why I use one focus point
Cameras are becoming very sophisticated with their focusing systems. The new Sony A9 has 693 points and is said to be the fastest system in the world. Other camera producers have made huge strides in focusing systems.
Why then do I continue to use a single focus point?
Before I give my reasons, I will acknowledge that there are times when more focus points are a huge advantage. For instance, when using a wide angle lens and trying to recompose the image, there may be problems. There may be forms of photography that I have never been involved in that would need multiple AF points. But I still choose this as my focusing system of choice.
I have become quite adept at it because of repeated practice, just as practicing computer games increases skill. I can track moving objects successfully. I feel confident that I will get the image I want this way. This short article is not written to convince you to follow in my simple and outdated footsteps, God forbid that you should do so. But it is given as a way forward to some photographers who have torn their hair out on occasions and would have done well using one simple point.
So, what’s the point? Let me tell you…
How does one change to a single AF point?
If you are not sure how to set your camera to one center AF point, the simple answer is to Google it – just Google “how to change to a single AF point on a [name and make of camera]” and you should find it. This is where I find it on my Canon:
On most Canons, this interface is found by pushing the button with the magnifying glass with a “+” – sometimes located at the back and on the right. Don’t forget to press “Set” when you have found it.
So then, what are my reasons for using one AF (Automatic Focus) point?
Firstly, the centre point is normally the most sensitive AF point and for this reason alone it is a good idea.
Secondly, accessibility is a good reason. Often I am found in the situation where the AF points cannot make up their little tech brains where I want them to focus and for this reason, I have sometimes been known to pull tufts of hair out.
Have a look at this image:
Settings ISO 1600, 400mm, f/5,6 and 1/200 sec
This little sugar bird was a couple of inches long and he was found amongst other plants – their leaves were everywhere. You can see a red blossom at his tail, in front of the tail, blurred out because of a narrow depth of field. If I had used multiple AF points, it would only have been an accident if the bird was captured in focus. The AF points would have been having a complete nervous breakdown trying to work out what I wanted. By using a single focus point, I was able to place the red square over his eye, recompose and shoot.
How to recompose and shoot …
So how does one recompose after finding focus?
It’s so easy and it becomes second nature before you can say “Bird’s your uncle.” This is what you have to do: Focus the one AF point over the eye of the subject by depressing the shutter button half way down.
Once you have found focus, keep it depressed and move the camera to recompose the image; after all, you don’t want the bird in the middle of the composition necessarily. Once you have recomposed, then SHOOT! By keeping the shutter button half depressed, you LOCK the focus in position.
Here is another tip for One AF people (and remember, you are the most skilled photographer on the planet if you learn these skills) …
Use back button focus
Use your back button to focus.
You don’t have to, but by using the back button focus on your camera, (on my camera, the button is called AF-ON) you will make it easier to push the shutter button without running the risk of altering the focus you have achieved. The shutter button will become just that – a shutter button, and the back focus button will be just that, a focus button.
The shutter button will cease to have two functions: focus and releasing the shutter.
Try it, it’s another way of being more simple – and in my opinion, it’s more effective.
ISO 1600, 400mm, f/5,6 1/500sec
The image above is another example why I use one central focus point as this enables me to control every situation with accuracy. This Strelitzia was found entangled in other shoots and the possibility of getting a good focus on it with multiple focus points was fairly remote.
Please do not think that I am a critic beating the drum against those poor engineers working tirelessly day and night to produce amazing focusing technology. It is just that, amazing.
One also has access to touch focus on screen, and face recognition technology brought to us by the kind CIA in America. At the end of the day though, I have trained myself to be like the sharp shooters, a cowboy who loves to fly by the seat of his pants and to use simplicity as my mantra.
I am a one AF point man and always will be.
If you would like to submit an image a week to our Facebook page, then click here to see the various themes you can participate in. You will receive FREE weekly critiques (there is no charge at all and this is not aimed at sucking you into a commercial thing. I hate that.) People from all over the world participate at the moment and our critiques are very kind but aimed at your improvement. We take anyone’s work, and even allow cell phone camera work.
If you live in South Africa, and have loads of money, and want some accelerated learning, you can do one of the PhotoCoach courses on this website.
Cape Town, South Africa.