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5DMkIV AF Settings for Swim Meets


I have been shooting indoor high school swim meets for 6-ish years with a 70-200 f:/2.8L IS on a 7d (using AI Servo). The 7D has provided very good hit rates, with two exception; low-light capability, and sometimes focusing on water splashes in front of the swimmer's face. 

I recently (two days ago) acquired a 5dMkIV and decided to get serious about understanding AF. 

1. After reading the first 160 pages of the manual, it appears my best bet for swimming is AI Servo, Case 2?

2. I can't decide which AF Area to use. I always used Single Point, but after reading the manual, am undecided. Everything from Zone, Large Zone to Automatic look like good possibilities.

3. Then I read about iTR with Face Priority and they all look even better.

Does anyone have significant experience with using the MkIV for swim meets and an opinion? Thanks!




Canon has published lengthy “Auto Focus Guides” that explain the entire AF system, including Case settings.  Maybe someone can post a link to one.  Case Settings are really nothing more than a Preset for a few AF sensitivity settings.


No one can tell you what settings to use.  Most of the final result is up to your skill with the camera and lens.  The case settings make the assumption that you have multiple AF points enabled, as well as AF Assist points.  Using just the center AF point defeats the purpose of most of the AF sensitivity settings.


One setting that I do recommend changing from the factory default for action photography is 1st Image Priority and 2nd Image Priority.  I would advise setting these to full Focus Priority.  


If the camera is focusing on water splashes between you and the swimmer, then the camera is simply doing what it knows best, which is focus on the nearest subject to the camera under the active AF point.  With just the center AF point active, then it will focus on whatever is covered by the center AF point.

Activating multiple AF points, say the center zone, allows the camera to detect a moving subject.  In this case, “moving subject” usually means a subject whose distance to the camera is changing.  When you are panning, it can take on a different meaning because of the Case Settings.

I do not advise tracking faces of swimmers because it may only confuse the camera.  But, I think the camera can track a colored object, just like it would a face, without you doing much of anything, except activating AF Assist Points.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

Here is the link to the 7D Mark II, which is similar to the 5D Mark IV.


But, the 5D Mark IV has an AF system that is more similar to the 1Dx Mark II, with all of the f/8 AF points.


Hope this helps.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

Thank you Waddizzle! I will try a couple settings tonight (I'm on my way to a meet) and let you know what works best for me. 

Venue had really crappy lighting. ISO to 6400 to get 1/200 or 1/320.

I started with Automatic selection AF and initial focusing was way too slow and my hit rate was << 70%. I changed to AF Point Expansion (9 points), which was much faster, but my hit rate was still around 80%. Images that were in focus looked great, with minimal noise and nice detail. Color saturation was a little light, but I'm used to the settings on my 7D, where I bumped up contrast and saturation a notch. I had already set 1st and 2nd Image Priority to Full Focus.

I will try out single point tomorrow at practice, but that will probably just get me more water drops. There will be tons of lights and natural light, so I will revit the others, too. 

Lots to learn and much playing to do. I will be studying the manual and the AF Guides.

Thanks Again!



Swimmers are relatively slow moving.  I would use a single center focus point and put it exactly where I want it.  I also would use One shot, not Ai-servo. I don't think this calls for extraordinary focus methods so simple is better.  Sometimes it is better to not over think things.

I would like to know if the face recognition works in this case.  Sounds intriguing.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

Did you try iTR ??   I am a new buyer and really trying to find out how iTR works.    

I had iTR on, but did not notice any benefit. Likely is was because of my lack of knowledge and not enough shots to get familiar with it.


iTR only functions if you are allowing AF to use at least zone AF and preferably most or all of the available AF points.  In the majority of my shooting situations it isn't of much use because most of the time I have a long telephoto lens in place and I am primarily shooting with a single point with 4 point expansiion and iTR isn't operative under those conditions.


When I first got the 1DX 2, I was trying out some of the features at a soccer match and with a wide angle lens it was interesting to watch it track an individual within the camera's field of view and it did that well but most of the time I am already focusing upon a single individual or a pair of players and not using the full range of available AF points.  The Canon AF system has a lot of features and the ones I have tried work well BUT if your shooting situation isn't appropriate (or doesn't play to the strong points of that feature) then it will be of limited use.  It does allow your camera to "stalk" people in a group setting 🙂



EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

Motorsports, if your vantage point is above the track level, is one of the more easy sporting events to track. If you are closer to ground level, as vehicles move past barriers, trees, people, vehicles bunched up in the turns, etc, the AF system can be taxed a bit more, but for the most part, you have large isolated objects that you would pan with in a predictable path, and then shoot. The results become more indicative of the photographer's skill in keeping the AF point on the vehicle in question, probably more than the AF system itself. (removed link per forum guidelines)