When to use your cameras focusing modes

Autofocus settings can be confusing and you should always read your camera’s advanced manual (if you have one) to understand and get the most out of your camera’s autofocus system.

I am Lumix user and the following settings apply to Lumix cameras but your camera’s autofocus settings may be similiar.

On pro-consumer cameras and more advanced cameras, there are generally four types of focus settings

AFS – Autofocus single
AFF – Autofocus flexible
AFC – Autofocus continuous
MF – Manual focus

Often your camera may have other ways of assisting focus, such as face/eye detection, tracking AF and the ability to select one or more focus points which may be combined with some of the focus modes discussed. These are generally called ‘Auto Focus Modes’ and are not to be confused with Focus Modes

Let’s get the basics out of the way and explain the main use of each type of focus settings and how they differ.

Focus Modes

AFS – Autofocus single is used for still subjects, scenery or food as an example. The focus is fixed when the shutter button is pressed halfway.

AFF – Autofocus flexible is useful when your subject is moving unpredictably, often useful when shooting animals, children. Once set, AFF is Automatically performed when the shutter button is half-pressed. If the subject moves, the focus is reset to get the best results.

AFC – Autofocus continuous is used for predictable types of movement, this might be when shooting sports or trains, cars etc. Autofocus is constantly performed when the shutter button is half-pressed. The camera predicts the subject position at the time of recording.

MF – Manual Focus can be used for still or predictable moving subjects (where you know where the subject will be). For example, you might set your focus on the winning line in a race to capture runners as they pass the finishing line. You usually use this mode when you want to fix focus yourself or perhaps in situations where your camera may be struggling to find focus.

Focus modes basically allow you to choose between shooting a subject by focusing only once on the subject (AFS), If the subject moves you will need to refocus, or from having your camera make automatic adjustments for any subject movement in real-time, (AFF/AFC) i.e. your camera is continually adjusting focus until you fully press the shutter. And manual mode (MF), means that you are overiding you cameras focusing systems to focus manullay on your subject.

Auto Focus Modes

Auto Focus Modes (AFM) on the other hand, helps you ensure that the right part of your subject is in focus by using one or more specified focus-points and some clever technology to make focusing on the right place easier. 
AFM helps the camera more accurately select the area you want to be in focus.

Lets look at each of these in turn.

Face / Eye Detection AF – Most new cameras have this AFM.  If you set this mode on your camera then your camera will look to focus on the eye or face of your subject. If no eye or face is detected, your camera will normally switch to using all its focus points in order to detect and focus on whatever is in the viewfinder.

Tracking AF – Locks on and tracks your subject as it moves, continually adjusting  focus as necessary. 

Custom Multi Area AF – Makes use of all of your cameras focus points and is generally used for scenery or multiple subjects within the same scene. Some cameras allow you to select Multi Area Patterns (blocks of points), this allows you to select a group of focus points rather than the camera making use of all the focus points available.

One area AF – Uses a select number of focus points in a small square as defined by photographer.

Pinpoint AF -Uses a single focus point and is used when you want precise focusing over a certain point of your subject in your camera frame.

Below is an example of how we might combine Autofocus settings and Auto Focus Modes

Combing Focus Modes and Auto Focus Modes


Focus Modes and Auto Focus Modes can be confusing and I hope this article helps explain the modes and hpw to use them. I have done an internet search and found this article from Panasonic, Advantages of the LUMIX G AF System which is very useful in explaining the different modes and supports this article. Evn if you do not own a Panasonic camera you will still find it useful.

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