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One of the biggest leaps towards tack sharp images you can take is using single point auto focus to hone in on your subject and nail the shot. Using the automatic grid focus system can sometimes be like throwing a handful of darts and hoping to hit the bullseye, especially when shooting at an extremely shallow depth of field like f/1.4. In fact at f/1.4, if you’re subject is 5 feet away and you’re shooting with a 50mm prime, your depth of field is only 0.09 feet! Do you want to leave .09 feet up to a handfull of focus points? No, I didn’t think so!
If nailing focus is important (and it always is) then you need to start using single point auto focus. I touched on this method briefly in my past article Advanced Tips for Tack Sharp Images, but in this article I’m going to expand upon this method and give a new tip to make things a bit easier (Note: This tip was taken from my ebook over at Flatbooks.com Tack Sharp – A Step By Step Guide to Nailing Focus)
NOTE: The camera used in the examples below is a Canon 5D Mark II. Most Canon cameras will have very similar menu options. For Nikon users, I’m not sure this will work. If you’re a Nikon user and know if there’s a way to do this, please let us know in the comments.
A lot of photographers don’t even know there’s a way to use a single AF point rather than the entire grid. Of those that do know, I am going to guess that about 80-90% of them use this method here to select a single point. It doesn’t involve any custom functions or anything like that. Simply hit the button (step 1) to activate the entire grid, then move the joystick (step 2) in the direction of the focus point you want to use. Once this is done, hit the AF- ON button and you should see the AF point you chose flash red in the viewfinder and focus on whatever the point is hovering over.
Method 1 isn’t bad or evil but I do believe method 2 is much easier, much faster, and much more useful than the former. Method 2 involves going into your custom functions and changing some things around a bit. When you select the proper function, you will essentially disable the grid focus button as a means to selecting focus points. Now, instead of using step one to activate the grid for selecting focus points, just move the joystick at anytime to select the focus point you’d like to use. If you want to go back to the entire grid, that’s when you hit the focus grid button.
To set method 2 up for use, go to the custom functions located in the second to last section of menu options. Select ‘C.Fn III:Autofocus/ Drive.’ Be sure to hit the set button on the control wheel to the right to go into the next menu.
The default setting here is “0:Normal,” which means that you have to hit the grid button on the upper right part of the camera back, then select a focus point using the joystick. To change this to method 2 just scroll down to option 1 (Multo-controller direct) and select it using the SET button. Once you’ve done this, look through the viewfinder and move the joystick around. You should be selecting a new focus point each time you move it. Voila!