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Focus Problems



I am having trouble with my Rebel T3 auto focus. Whether I am using my 50mm or my kit lens (18-55mm) my camera won't focus on the spot that I selected. I have my settings to AF on the lens but in the camera in the AF point selection area I selected a point manually. I will for example take a portrait and have the red light flash on the person's eye and the object that is closest to the camera (whether it be a hand or a piece of the shirt etc) comes in focus and the eyes are out of focus. I try and change the manual focus dot and place it over the eye and watch it light up but the focus is still on the wrong place. Any suggestions on how to fix this? It's pretty aggravating as I'm wanting to become a portrait photographer and can't get tack sharp focus on a person's eyes.



You need to select a single autofocus point. Set the camera to Manual AF Point Selection mode.

You can shift from Automatic AF Point Selection mode to Manual mode in two ways.


Rotate the Main dial. This option is easiest when you’re looking through the viewfinder. Press the Set button. Pressing the button toggles the camera between Automatic AF Point Selection and Manual AF Point Selection with the center point activated.  Specify which AF Point you want to use.


You can either rotate the Main dial or press the cross keys to select a point. When all autofocus points again turn red, you’ve cycled back to automatic AF Point Selection mode. Rotate the dial or press a cross key to switch back to single-point selection.


After you select the auto focus point, just frame your shot so that your subject falls under that point. Usually choosing the center point is best.


EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Thanks for the feedback....I did those things and it still isn't working. Is this a camera/lens problem or is there something else I need to do?

It's possible, but I doubt there is any problem with the camera. Far more often it's just learning to use it correctly.


What exposure mode are you using? Some of the more highly automated "Scene modes" will override even AF settings. The "Scene modes" are the little icons such as "running man" for sports, "mountain" for scenic, one or two portrait modes.


Be sure you are using one or the other of what Canon calls the "creative" modes... M, Av, Tv or P. The last three of these still give you auto exposure, but they don't mess around with your other camera settings such as AF. M is manual exposure mode, requiring you to make all exposure settings yourself.


I highly recommend you view three half-hour videos on YouTube, about Canon auto focus systems, how they work, how to get the best out of them... the first is at and will give you a link to the second and third from there.


Those videos talk about a lot of different Canon camera models and are a few years old now (50D and 5D Mark II are discussed), but still can be quite helpful with all models.


I also would suggest getting one of the guide books specifically for your camera. There are a number of them on Amazon. I always get the guide book, whenever I buy a new camera model. These books complement the camera manual and can really help shorten the learning curve. I can recommend guide books by Charlotte Lowrie, David Busch and Michael Guncheon.... those are just the authors I'm familiar with, there are probably some other good ones, so check out the revues.


Assuming the 50mm you have is the 50/1.8 II and the 18-55mm kit lens is not the most recent "STM" version, neither of your lenses have the best AF system. "USM" or "ultrasonic" lenses focus faster, quieter and more accurately... but of course they cost more. There are now some STM or "stepped motor" lenses, too, which are a step up from the micro motor type you are most likely using.


One key thing you need to know using micro motor lenses, you have to be careful to not manually override the AF when it's turned on and  operating. Doing so will damage the AF mechanism. To manually focus, you must first turn off the AF at the switch on the LH side of the lens.  With most USM lenses this isn't necessary... On most of them it's okay to override AF on USM lenses manually, even with AF turned on. I don't have any STM lenses personally, so can't say for sure one way or another about those (safe thing is to turn it off, before manually focsing).


Another thing when using your zoom lens... it's almost certainly what's called a "varifocal" design (many modern lenses are). This means it does not maintain focus whenever the focal length is changed by zooming. You have to be sure refocus after zooming. If using AI Servo (continuous focusing used with moving subjects), it will automatically take care of this. But if you are using One Shot (for use with stationary subjects), it's important to remember to release the shutter button, then reapply half-press it, to refocus after zooming.


Hope this helps!


Alan Myers

San Jose, Calif., USA
"Walk softly and carry a big lens."
GEAR: 5DII, 7D(x2), 50D(x3), some other cameras, various lenses & accessories




I am shooting in Manual mode....One Shot.


Thanks for the links to the videos. I will check them out. The lenses I have are not the most recent or the highest quality. I never try and manually focus my 50mm with my hand but I have turned the dial on my kit lens. I did not know I had to turn off the AF switch on the lens to turn it. 


I really appreciate your feedback. I have been so frustrated. The camera never seems to focus on the area I selected to be the focal point.....I will check out the book too. 🙂


Here is a link to Canon's website that will give you your manual.


On the back of the camera, at the top left, you see the AF select button.  See P. 13 for where the button is, and see P. 15 for how the selection making process will look through your viewfinder.


This may not work in totally automatic mode.  If you are doing portraits you probably want to be in Av (Aperture Priority) mode most of the time, and I know it works fine in that mode.


Press the AF select button, then look through the eyepiece/viewfinder.  Now just cycle through the AF points by turning the "main dial" and/or pressing the up/down or left/right buttons on the back.  In default, it will start with ALL the AF points lit red.  That is the automatic setting where the camera will pick 2 or 3 AF points to use in every shot, which will screw you up if you are trying to focus something in particular, like an eye.  Start turning the dial and/or pressing the up or down or left or right buttons and the camera will cycle through all the AF points.  When you get to the one you want (usually the center AF point), either press the shutter button or the "set" button on the back, and you will have set the single AF point. 


Now you just position the camera to place the selected RED AF point over the person's eye (or whatever) you want to focus on and shoot.


Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

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