AF Points - How important?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by joe.cavers, Mar 26, 2009.

  1. joe.cavers macrumors regular

    Sep 16, 2008
    Hey people,

    Ok so I'm gonna buy an SLR in the next couple of months. I've been comparing the Canon EOS1000D and Nikon's D60. I've done a lot of research and the only thing I can see that's a negative point for the D60 is the fact it only has 3 AF points. I've tried to look around on the net to see how this actually affects the camera in use but I can't seem to find any info.

    Can anyone shed any light on this?

    If it's a real negative I'll probably go for the 1000D.

  2. TheReef macrumors 68000


    Sep 30, 2007
    NSW, Australia.
    I only ever use 1 AF point: center - to focus, then compose the shot. (a way to do this is use AF lock or if the camera has a detected focus button you can use that and disable focus on halfway press.).

    I find it most accurate and useful for 95% of the time.

    More AF points I would imagine would be better in sports or bird photograph or other fast moving subjects when you don't have time to recompose after using fixed center focus. Birds against sky is fine, BUT you have almost no control over what is focused on in a busy scene on auto AF - best to stick to single center focus so you can be 100% sure.

    It depends on your main shooting habits, but generally it doesn't matter a great deal…

    That said…

    I don't use focus on half way press, but in this mode, I'd imagine it'd be more convenient to use any auto focus point than use single focus + lock and compose all the time (more points would be more accurate).
  3. taintedwheat macrumors member


    Oct 29, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I agree. I've played around with Canon and Nikon cameras side by side before to compare the auto focus capabilities; there doesn't seem to be much of a difference to me. I believe that Canon is better for auto focusing in low light because it uses the pop-up flash where as Nikons use a small lamp on the body.
  4. joe.cavers thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 16, 2008
    That's something fairly important to me, still life shots and outdoor shots done at dawn/dusk are shots I definitely want to do.

    I didn't really mean this to turn into a Canon vs Nikon thread...

  5. AxisOfBeagles macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2008
    East of Shangrila
    Personally, I manually focus 90% of the time. When I do use autofocus, it is as someone else suggested - with the center AF spot.

    If were judging two cameras, I would evaluate three different focusing capabilities;
    * Ease of manual focus
    * Ease of setting AF to single spot
    * Speed of AF, in all light conditions
  6. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    the real negative of the D60 is the lenses it can't use with autofocus. you're not gonna get accurate manual focusing with a consumer-level body. spring for a D80/90, or go to another manufacturer.

    AF points are more important for fast-moving objects. you can use them for off-center composition, but their use is limited to good light only.
  7. cube macrumors G5

    May 10, 2004
    If the D80 is above your budget, a used D50 will give you 5 AF points and the very important AF motor.
  8. QuantumLo0p macrumors 6502a


    Apr 28, 2006
    I use the center point 99.9% of the time. The only time I remember using other focus points is for a few specific shots using a tripod and remote release.

    If you don't have a big need for many focus points I would not lose sleep over it.
  9. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    I'm going to buck the trend and say that having more AF points is quite important. Once you get more AF points, you wonder how you ever got by without them.

    My old 10D had 7 points, and I usually stuck to the centre one to focus, then re-composed. This was fine for most things, but I got into trouble when using big apertures due to the tiny DoF.

    On my 1DmkII, I use whatever AF point I need (and sometimes more than one at once), and my keeper rates with large apertures has gone way up.

    AF is important, and while you can get by with only one point (and many people do), having more is not a bad thing, and can actually be very useful in many (most?) occasions.
  10. gangzoom macrumors member

    Aug 8, 2007
    I don't quite understand what your saying, personally i find focusing using the center point essential when shooting with a large aperture/Shallow DOF, since i cannot trust the AF to pick out the specific subject i want to be in focus....infact since i've got my Canon 450D i've never used anyother focus point other than the center...
  11. pcypert macrumors 6502

    Jul 19, 2006
    Center point works great...until = you use a 1.2 lens. Close shooting distances and small movements here with a focus recompose will have you losing your tack sharp spot.

    For me I'm 100% with my thumb on the dial to select focus point as I'm shooting. Center just doesn't cut it for me.

  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Some point like having many AF points. But most of us can focus using one point, then re-compose then trip the shutter. In fact no matter how many point there are what are the chance one will perfectly alighn with you subject? Wil having more means you move maybe less to re-compose.

    What matters more then the number of AF points is how well each of them works. How much subject contrast is required and how much light and how fast is the AF system. All these matter more and typically don't show up in the specs.

    That is one difference between Canon and Nikon. Canons are designed to do well on paper spec sheets. But these specs sheets never capture what really maters. Hense the common advice to try out the camera hands-on

    When you select the camera you will ALSO be locking yourself into a brand of lenses (Canons take Canon lenses, Nikons take Nikon) and worse, the body will be replaced/upgraded in a few years and you will need to go with the same brand if you are to be able to continue to use your lenses. What if come upgrade time in four years the Nikon happens to have more AF points? Switch brands? An SLR is a "system" composed of lenses, bodies, flash units and maybe others parts and the system will outlast any of the parts. Chose which system to buy based on some broad and long lasting goals. Most people stay with a camera brand for decades

    So you will based all future lens and body purchaced based on such a small feature as AF point
  13. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???

    Large apertures mean shallow DOF, which means focus/recompose doesn't work, which means you need more AF points.
  14. gnd macrumors 6502a


    Jun 2, 2008
    At my cat's house
    Or, you focus manually.
    How many people use AF with macro shots?
  15. soLoredd macrumors 6502a

    Mar 12, 2007
    I think people fall into using autofocus too much. I admit, I am one of them. It wasn't until I recently was messing around with my 450D did I realize how much I was missing by NOT manually focusing.
  16. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    Or you focus manually. Always an option.
  17. pcypert macrumors 6502

    Jul 19, 2006
    I shoot in macro mode maybe 5% of the time and then it's great...I have the Tamron 90 2.8 with convenient pull/push MF option. Just pull the barrel and dial it in to what I want and pop it back into place and go on shooting. Easy.

  18. Dmac77 macrumors 68020


    Jan 2, 2008
    I use a D60, and I rarely use more then 1 AF point. I prefer to manually focus. AF points aren't that important unless you're going to be shooting fast moving objects. As to the comment, that manual focusing on a D60 is inaccurate, I don't get what you're saying. The lens handles focusing on a SLR, not the camera body.

    This shot was composed with one AF point, and was then manually focused. This was done on my D60.


    Attached Files:

  19. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Yes, the re-compose does change the subject to sensor plane distance slightly but with three AF points you should never have to re-compose very much and the effect is very small. It is really only a problem with macros

    Even with 12 AF points you will have to recompose slightly, either that or just live with a not perfect composition. The number of focus points only determines the amount of re-composition required not if you have to do it or not.
  20. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2004

    A different post had a similar thread going my response:

    1. The glass you shoot with is critical (I know, captain obvious here)--if you are looking at buying into a brand then take a look at their lenses. If you find that you have a passion for photography then your lens purchases can make your camera body purchase look like nothing. In short--look into the entire system, not just the camera body.

    2. Find a camera that just gets out of the way and lets you do what you want. Need to dive into 10 different menus to get to some settings? Do you want to dive into ten different menus???

    3. Unless someone comes out with something that is truly groundbreaking, then you won't be switching systems willy-nilly down the road. Think about it, the more you invest in your equipment, the more painful the switch to a different system (again with the captain obvious, I know...) The camera body purchase is just the tip of what can be a staggeringly expensive iceberg.

    4. Do your research, take your time. Listen to others and their experiences. Rent the cameras and gear that you are interested and then play and experiment before you buy.

    5. Oh...and the AF thing? Unless you are doing straight macro (or something similar) work it is VERY important. Depending on the situation and what I am shooting I have from 11 to 51 AF points up. I'd lose clients if I didn't have a fast, flexible, and reliable system.

    Good luck! Whatever you decide you will find that Canon and Nikon are very good for each other and very good for you (the consumer).
  21. BertyBoy macrumors 6502

    Feb 1, 2009
    I see so many asking about the consumer "DSLR"s. A few offer profound advice, which most of us photographers without unlimited budgets have followed for many years, even before the digital revolution, buy 2nd hand.

    Buy the best you can 2nd hand. Nikon D200's go for about the same 2nd hand as a new D60. And it's a professional camera, it's in a different league to any of the consumer offerings from Nikon / Canon.

    And it will have been well looked after. You may struggle to find one with a lens (but at least look), a D200 owner will have upgraded to a D300, D700 or D3 keeping maybe all their lenses.

    Even a D100 (I have one of these, and a D300, and a D3) will be on a par with the top end consumer cameras. Of course, go Canon if you want.

    A good professional camera will give you a lot more options for your photography, better results for low-light when you up the ISO are a life-saver, more AF points (51 on my D300 - invaluable with a tripod).
    A large choice of AF points is pretty much useless, until you need it, like multiple subjects I was shooting today.
  22. digitalfrog macrumors regular


    Nov 26, 2007
    Funny how spread the answers can be ....

    I (almost) NEVER use the central focus point on my camera. The immense majority of my pictures will have the subject away from the center and I don't see why I would have to bother with the center + focus lock when I have plenty around.

    To me the number of focus spots and how spread they are is critical in my work.

    There are situations where focus lock is useless, like fashion shows.
  23. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    I used both as needed. For example, mostly use center focus point for macro shots, or for a moving subject (car on the track, horse, bird, etc.), or any time that I want to pick a specific part of a subject to be in focus. If I want to pick a duck out of a flock of ducks, the center focus point is what I use.

    Landscapes? It does not matter, since I use narrow apertures from f/11 to f/16 with wide angle lenses.
  24. termina3 macrumors 65816

    Jul 16, 2007
    What do you want to shoot?

    I shoot primarily sports (selling photos, so professionally?) and rarely will use the center focus. I need the autofocus programs (tracking, 3-d tracking, etc.) for quick turn and shoot. (I know shooters have used manual focus in the past...*but they didn't get as many shots as easily as we can get them today.) These programs work much better with more points.

    That said, my D300 has 51 points. If you have fewer than 9, the program thing doesn't come into play.

    The decision between these cameras should not be the number of focus points. There are much larger factors involved.

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