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AF Point Auto Switching - How far will it pass the points?


Hi, I have a 1DX Mark II primarily being used for gymnastics shooting. 


Assume I select "AF Center Point: Surround" as in the example below [1]: 




My question is on the following scenario: 


1) I am in AI Servo mode

2) I have acquied the subject correctly (as above)

3) I am using back-button AF to "hold" the lock on the subject as she moves. 

4) She is moving moving quickly to our left, a little faster than I am panning. 

5) She ends up under the far left focal points.  


Given the above, will the AF switching use all the AF points beyond the 9 I selected to keep her in focus?  Or does it only pass AF points among the 9 I chose in Surround mode and I have to keep those 9 "covering" her as she moves in order to stay in focus? 


Hopefully that's clear.  If not, I will explain further.  


Thanks in advance for the help! 


coach boz


[1] I took a screen shot of this from Canon's video found here:




The short answer is no...if she moves off the 9 points you'd lose AF.   You would have to pan after your subject.  It would work if you activate all 61 points but then you don't really have control over which point the focus should be at.

Diverhank's photos on Flickr

I recently upgraded to a 1DXM2 and have been using it for shooting my daughter's indoor soccer league which "features" very poor lighting with a lot of action.  I have found that careful tracking of the action (by me) and manual point selection with four point expansion is providing the best results.  I choose a point in the center row 2 down from the top which seems to work best for keeping the focus on the faces.  The Canon AF is doing its part but I have to stay mentally focused upon not just capturing the scene but keeping the correct points of the focus array where they belong.  With gymnastics you may be able to use 8 point expansion but I found that it was too easy with what I am shooting for it to "follow" something I don't want it to follow.  


I am not sure which of the 6 AI servo cases will work best for gymnastics because I have no experience there but someone who has will hopefully chime in.  With gymnastics you may need to use differrent AF servo setups for different events and setting those into one of the 3 fast select custom setups will be helpful.  Make sure to check the lenses using the procedure in the Canon guide to see whether you need to adjust its focus setup because with the lighting you face I expect you will be shooting with the lens wide open or nearly so with resultant minimal depth of field.  I am mostly using a 70-200 F2.8 for indoor soccer and even with it wide open I am often in the 20-32K ISO range to get the proper exposure using a fast enough shutter speed.

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

I shoot a lot of birds in flight and airplanes in flight and I found the center point with 8 point expansion works best for me. 4 point expansion is unnecessary and makes it harder to track.  For gymnastics I think it's OK with 4 point.


You should search the Canon Learning Center website for info regarding the latest Canon AF... Here's one for the 5D3 but should be equally applicable to the 1DX2...hopefully the Admin won't remove a Canon link:



I've done a lot comparison between cases on my own and to be frank, I haven't found any real differences.  After a while it's hard to discern real and imagined advantages...Having said that I think I have the most success with Case 5 for butterflies in flight - one of the hardest type of AF one can do.  So I ended up with Case 5 for my action shooting.  Of course you don't have to follow the 6 can make your own after understanding which of the 3 settings are important to your particular type of actions

Diverhank's photos on Flickr



Thank you for your valuable input!  I have been trying to experiment some with different settings during the action and I agree that none of the AI Servo case settings jump out as being THE single outstanding choice.  


Having the most optimal configuration of settings definitely helps but it doesn't guarantee perfection and a great deal of the variance is still due to the operator. 


I spent some time shooting test shots during the game prior to my daughter's game when I first got the camera and I will do this again Thursday trying to refine the setup based upon results from the last attempt.  I learned from the first full game I shot that for these very poorly lit indoor games results are better not using the 1.4X converter, the 1 F stop gain without beats the additional reach with it. And although I haven't tried any rigorous testing I expect the autofocus is a little faster with only the F2.8 70-200 lens.  Although I have used only Canon lenses for years I may have to consider the Sigma 120-300 F2.8 before next season after I have a chance to review it more completely.  A little more reach would be nice but the Canon fixed 300mm F2.8 won't fit my needs.  Outdoors the 70-200 2.8 plus 1.4X works very well for soccer and even with the 2.0X sharpness is still good from Canon's excellent 70-200 which is my favorite lens. 

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



First, thank you for the succinct answer in your first reply.  That alone was useful. 


Second, thank you for the expanded input/advice.  I did get the link to the PDF as well. 


This was my first shoot with the 1DX2 and while it's servo is exceptional, there is much work to be done by the photographer to help it along.  I shot about 2400 pictures (only consumed 49% of battery, btw) and did start to play with the Cases.  Which I would use really depends on the event and the angle ... hence the photographer needing to do some work.  In one case I was shooting floor routines from the corner of the mat, meaning the subject was full sprint, with handsprings, high flips and twists, all in succession, while moving away from or towards me.  That's tough on any AF, especially when during a twist their profile can almost disappear entirely.  I imagines birds are the same difficulty and butterflies perhaps harder depending on the background.  


I will keep working at it!  Thanks again.  



Don't forget during your athletes' practice that the exceptional 4K video functionality of the 1DXM2 is very useful.  My daughter has been using video footoage to analyze and work on her kicking form and it has helped her greatly.  

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

will do.  The day before the meet, I shot a friend at the driving range and did some testing of the video and, in particular, the slo-motion high frames.  He watched it and found 3 things he was doing wrong. 🙂   I have two daughters who do gymnastics and the older one is headed to college on a scholarship next year.  I cannot wait to get into those college gyms that have much better lighting!  

The Canon AF system works the same across a number of bodies now.  Use AI Servo mode.  I use f/5.6 with my Canon lenses, and f/8 with third party lenses.

For tracking action photography, enable all of the AF points, but use the center AF point as the initial AF point.  

You need to enable “AF Assist” points.  I like to select the square that can go in any direction, not just the N-S-E-W.


You need to select the AF point display mode that shows all points, which should be the default setting.


You need to set Image Priority.  Set both First and Second Image priority to full tilt Focus Priority. No sense in firing the shutter if focus has not locked on the subject.


Shoot RAW.  Turn off all of the in-camera noise reduction, and lens correction.  You can do that stuff in post.  I like to use Clear lens filters, or nothing, at all.  I like to shoot Manual mode, with Auto ISO.  When I am shooting action, I don’t want to spend time adjusting ISO.  Back in the film days, you didn’t adjust ISO, either, just shutter speed, and aperture.

Set an upper limit for Auto ISO in the menus.  How high of an ISO setting is too high is up to you.  I set my limit at ISO 12800 on a 6D and 6D2.  If ISO wants to go higher, then I use -1 Ev exposure compensation to “force” the camera to back down to ISO 12800.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

I am also shooting manual mode with automatic ISO. With the poor lighting and fast action I am leaving the aperture wide open at F 2.8 with the shutter at 1/500.


Without the 1.4X extender the ISO for a good exposure is ranging from 8K-40K with most of them in the 10K-20K ISO range. 


With the 1.4X extender (same arena) most shots were at 51,200 and those are usable for their website but I didn't care for the results.  At 25,600 the images are pretty good.


I will be really happy to get outside into better lighting but even though I am on the steep part of the learning curve with processing high ISO RAW files I am impressed that it can produce usable images at 51,200 which was used for the first sample.  The second sample is at 16,000 and I think I caused a little blur when taking it.


The camera abilities greatly exceed the ability of the operator at this point.51200.JPG


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