Focal Areas

Modern autofocus cameras don’t just provide one central focal area as early cameras did, but a multitude of focal areas (e.g. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III - 35 focal areas). This results in improved image coverage by focal areas (e.g. important for images of sport) and more convenient and accurate focusing using the automatic focal area option.

When using multiple focal areas, it is important to ensure that the focus complies with your own vision. This difficulty was already outlined in previous chapters about focusing using image examples. Cameras usually show the focus area on the display or the viewfinder by means of small colourful boxes or borders. If they do not meet the desired focus requirements, the photographer can choose the focal area before capturing the image using manual focus or a setting an autofocus meter.

The following image was changed spontaneously whilst being captured as the man in this picture moved in front of the object the focus was on. Originally, the camera was focused on the central focal area. The aim was not to unnerve the person. This might have happened if the central focal area had been adjusted to focus directly on the person. Using the focal areas determined by the camera, the red marked area was chosen.
You should familiarise yourself with the focal area options your cameras has to offer so you can react quickly to changing subject situations. Manual focus, which is described in the following chapters, would have worked well in this situation.  

Example of how focal areas are displayed on a digital SLR camera with 9 available areas
Aktives Fokusfeld

In most other cases it is sensible to activate the central focal area as the standard setting and to set the focal position on the desired object before capturing the image. When the shutter release is depressed, the image is captured in the chosen focus setting. This is a good option even if the main focus point is outside of the focal areas.

Example of a main focus point outside of the focal areas
Hauptmotiv ausserhalb der Fokusfelder

However, this technique only works when the camera focussing process is completed and the camera doesn’t re-focus. In order to achieve this, the autofocus operating mode “single“ has to be activated. It stands in contrast to the al servo autofocus, more about them in the article „Al servo / Single“.

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