Tag Archives: AF

Canon EOS 1DX mark II & 5D mark IV Autofocus Systems

Finally.

If you’re like me, you’ve been loyal to Canon for their great lenses and beautiful skin tone.

But that loyalty has come with a price.  Namely, autofocus.  Let’s face it – it’s been crap.

If you’re an f/8 shooter, you’re in great shape.  But if you love your shallow focus with soft creamy bokeh-filled backgrounds, life has been rough for us Canon users.

At f/2.8 or larger, using single-point AF, whether single-shot or servo, and even placing the AF point carefully over an eye with plenty of lighting, the rate at which the camera returns an image that’s actually in focus is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20%-30%.

I’m not saying they’ve been way off, but they’re consistently off just enough.  Web-res is unaffected, but doing larger prints can be tricky when shooting this way.

If you’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with Nikon shooters, you may have even looked over with a little envy at the relatively consistent sharpness they get at f/1.4 and other similar settings.

WELL NO LONGER!!

The 1DX mk II and the 5D mk IV finally incorporate AF systems that can handle shallow-focus shooters.  I’m actually back to shooting at f/1.8 and f/1.6 on a regular basis – and that’s at live events with people moving around like weddings and corporate parties.

I’m not going to comment on auto-tracking or other fancy AF modes designed to figure things out for you.  Frankly I could give a shit about modes like that.  What makes these cameras worth the upgrade is simply this: every single one of my lenses feels like it got a sharpness upgrade, because the damn AF system is actually accurate now.  I get an AF hit rate of 60%-70% around f/1.6.  On my 1DX classic or my 5D mk III, I would have been lucky to get one sharp image out of 10 under these conditions.

So if basic AF performance is key to how you work, go out and get one of these newer Canon bodies.  Finally the wait is over.

Canon EOS-1D X and 5D mk III, Single Point vs Single Point Spot AF

(If you find yourself wondering what the modes under discussion are, refer to the 1DX manual page 69, available for download here.  These exact same features are also available on the 5d mk III.)

I love the single point spot AF modes in Canon’s 5D mk III and 1D X cameras.  If you’re trying to get focus lock on a small point such as a burning candle, and the camera keeps focusing on the background instead of the flame, the spot AF mode can quickly solve this problem.  Another great use is if you’re trying to photograph a face framed by bushes or tree foliage.  In this case the camera often grabs focus on the surrounding leaves, rather than seeing through them to the face behind.  Spot AF can solve your troubles and keep you moving quickly to the next shot.

I liked them so much, in fact, that I started to leave the camera set to this mode all the time.

Then I began noticing a little less consistency when shooting in low light than I’d like, so I gave CPS a ring.  I’ll be going back to the normal single-point (non-spot) AF mode, thankyouverymuch.

The spot mode is great for the specific situations outlined above, but according to the CPS rep I spoke with, I’m also forcing the camera to attempt focus based on one quarter of the information available in the non-spot single-point mode.  This causes more hunting and less overall accuracy.  According to the rep, the spot AF mode was originally intended for macro photographers who routinely work at incredibly close distances.  Yes, it works great under the conditions I outlined above, but other than that it’s best to give the camera as much info as possible.