Digital Camera Focus Modes

Digital Camera Focus Modes

Although the least expensive and simplest point and shoot cameras only offer one mode, auto-focus, or a fixed focus, most digital SLR cameras offer three or more modes of focus. These are typically called manual focus, auto focus, and continuous auto focus. This article will briefly discuss all three.

Manual Focus

During manual focusing the photographer is making all the decisions, the camera’s electronics has nothing to do with it. The lens is focused using a focusing ring that is around the lens, or by pressing buttons to focus the lens in or out.

Manual focus gives the photographer complete creative control.

Single Auto Focus

During single auto focus the camera focuses automatically for a single frame, or shot, when the photographer press the shutter. Typically pressing the shutter release button down half way locks the focus, and pressing the button all the way down captures the image.

This is the mode that most photographers use regularly, it’s perfect for photographing static (or nearly static) objects.

Continuous Auto Focus

During continuous auto focus mode the camera works to keep the subject in focus as its distance from the lens is changing. Just as the mode implies, the camera is continuously focusing.

This is the mode to choose when you are photographing action, like sports or a NASCAR race.

By pressing the shutter release half way and moving the camera so you can follow the subject in the view finder, the camera will continue to keep the subject in focus until you fire the shutter.


As with all the other features on your camera, each focusing mode has it’s pros and cons.

The first thing to do to take advantage of each focusing mode is to learn how they work and what situations they were designed to be used in. Then, experiment photographing using each of the modes with different types of subjects to learn how your camera behaves. After you do that you will be able to choose the best focusing mode instinctively for every photographic situation.

Please use the comments section below to share your focusing tips with us.

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