What Are Auto Focus Area Modes?
Basic Photography
Amit K Srivastava
October 19, 2016

Good photographs and motion photographs requires you to be very familiar with focus settings, specially your Area Modes. This is an important chapter for mastery of your DSLR. So grab your camera and let’s start focusing!




DSLRs offer various modes of Auto Focus Area, the important one’s being

  • Auto Area Auto focus
  • Single Point Auto Focus
  • Dynamic Area Auto Focus,
  • Group Area AF Modes and other new modes.


These modes are engineered and designed to let you handle any shooting scenario. So all you need to understand are the different modes and when to use them.


The Auto Area AF in Nikon or Automatic AF Point Selection in Canon Mode 

also known as “point-and-shoot†method. Auto Area AF uses colour information and special facial recognition algorithms to focus automatically on your subject. This comes in handy when there is no time to select a focus point.


Single Point AF in Nikon or Manual AF Point in Canon AF Area Mode

When you select this mode to obtain your focus, the camera will only use one focus. So if you direct your focus point up, down, left or right, on your selected subject, the camera will detect contrast using either cross or vertical type sensors. Single Point AF ensures the most important element in the composition. You can use this mode for photographing stationery subjects, landscapes and architecture.


Dynamic Area known as Dynamic in Nikon or AF Point Expansion in Canon 

You choose one focus point and the camera will acquire focus on that particular point. However, once the focus is locked, and your subject moves, the camera will adapt to the surrounding focus points to track your subject’s motion and lock it. All you need to do is keep a track on the subject by panning the camera along and making sure your subject stays close to the primary selected focus point. If your camera selects a different AF point, it will not be visible in your viewfinder, but only after the image is taken.


Group Area AF Modes 

The new range of Nikon DSLRs like the D810 and the D4S comes with a new Group Area Autofocus. Compared to the single point AF mode, Group area AF will activate five Auto focus points to track your subjects. This area focus mode is great for initial locking of your focus point and tracking your subjects when compared to the Single Point or Dynamic AF, especially when shooting smaller birds or flock that fly erratically and are really hard to focus on. In such situations if you are looking for better accuracy and consistency from shot to shot, the Group area AF mode will mostly give you better results than Dynamic AF.

Newly released DSLRs have varieties of Auto Focus Area Modes like Wide area AF, Face priority AF, Subject tracking AF and Normal area AF for use in video or motion photography. Going forward, these modes are going to be available in all future Nikon DSLRs with motion photography capability. Canon also has some Auto focus Area Modes like the Spot AF mode, where the photographer can fine tune focus inside a focus point. These extra Auto Focus Area functionalities are specific to very few set of Canon cameras like the 7D.

Basic Photography
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About Author
Amit K Srivastava
A Photography Enthusiast motivated to empower individuals in photography
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