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SL3 Rebel Not Focusing on Subject in Sports Mode


I shoot with a Canon SL3 Rebel and really all I do is surf photography and occasionally just different outdoor landscapes and stuff if I’m traveling. With that said, my camera has always gotten really crisp shots without having to do any crazy settings. I’ve always been able to just put it on sports mode and adjust a couple of things sometimes and always get really vivid, sharp images. Recently, my camera started acting weird and it doesn’t want to focus fully. I’ve watched so many YouTube videos, I’ve adjusted different settings, I’ve tried it in manual, and I’ve cleaned all the lenses. The images just aren’t as focused and as sharp as they usually are and I don’t know if it’s a setting I need to change or if it’s something wrong with my lens or what. I've attached pictures of what I'm used to getting vs most recent shots (it will be obvious which is which). Any feedback would be appreciated! Thanks!

ISIMG-660748.JPGMost recent pictures. As you can tell, the images aren't even close when it comes to quality and crisp focus compared to the first set of pictures.Most recent pictures. As you can tell, the images aren't even close when it comes to quality and crisp focus compared to the first set of pictures.



Hello. 1. Can you post a few images from camera (not edited and exported) to Dropbox or OneDrive? Preferably RAW if you shoot RAW. 2. Anytime the camera starts acting strange and you didn’t knowingly make any changes it’s a good idea to reset the camera and clear any custom settings. There are menu settings to do that; check your manual.

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

1D X Mark III, Many lenses, Pixma PRO-100, Pixma TR8620a, LR Classic


Have you tried resetting the camera back to factory settings? If that doesn't work, then I'd recommend sending in for service.


EOS 5D IV, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 135mm f/2L, 600EX-RT (x6), ST-E3-RT
EOS C70, RF 24-70 f/2.8L IS, EF-EOS R 0.71x


Although there are hardly any user configurable settings in Sports mode, I also recommend that you set the top dial to “P” mode, and perform a factory reset of the camera.

If you have an air bulb blower, then I suggest that you exercise extreme caution and blow out the mirror box completely. You may have dust on your AF sensor, which is located at the bottom of the mirror box.

Point the open lens mount downward so that any loose dirt and dust can fall out of the camera body. Several air puffs in different directions should be sufficient.

Make no attempt to clean lens or camera contacts. You are more likely to do more harm than good. The mere act of mounting and removing a lens creates sufficient across the contacts to keep them clean.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

Since no one has asked, yet, I will.

What lens are you using? What are the exposure settings for one of the sharp photos, and one of the soft photos? If possible, can you possible can you post the images with EXIF data to a download site like Dropbox?

I have doubts that user settings could be an issue in Sports mode. But, I think it is highly likely that the issue could be settings automatically selected by the camera.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

I'm with Ricky and John. Your colors are way off. Reset and retest.

You can also review your manual starting on page 129. White Balance and Color Tone. If you have made any changes to your picture styles, this should get reset to defaults when you reset the camera. After testing you can look at the other settings and see if something else environmental is affecting color and exposure.

Advanced User Guide (

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Yes, I can see that the second set of images is not as sharp as the first set. However, in this small size and without more info it's hard to guess what the problem might be. Looking at the soft images, it's hard to say if they are overall soft from something else or if it's actually a focus problem like you suspect.

It would be very helpful if you could re-post significantly larger versions of a couple of those soft images, preferably with their EXIF intact.

Besides missed focus, other things that can cause soft images include camera shake (too slow shutter speed), a poor quality "protective" filter or an image sensor that needs cleaning. Focus error can be caused by various things, too. Poor user technique, the incorrect focus mode, dust or dirt on the mirror or an AF sensor partly obstructing it, a failing focusing motor in a lens, switching to a lens that has a slower focusing motor, etc.

Using a scene mode like "Sports" really limits your control of the camera. It is far more than just auto exposure. It overrides many camera settings, including how the AF system works, what type of image file you can save, and more.

I've been shooting a lot of sports for a couple decades and would NEVER use a scene mode. In fact, I don't think the cameras I use now (EOS 7D Mk II) even have a "Sports" mode. Yet they are among the best sport cameras Canon makes! (In my opinion.)

Most of the time I use an auto exposure mode such as Aperture Priority (Av) or Shutter Priority (Tv) or Manual with Auto ISO (M + Auto ISO). But I set up my autofocus myself, choosing a single AF point and using Back Button Focus technique (which is very popular among sports shooters). I also use fast focusing lenses, such as Canon USM.

Shooting familiar sports I can confidently say I'll get upwards of 90% focus accuracy.... sometimes as high as 95 or 98%. Missed focus are typically my fault, not the camera's. It is on me to get the AF point on the target and keep it there. So long as I do that, I get a very high number of in-focus shots. I often take upwards of 1000 shots at an event and rarely have more than one or two dozen where I missed focus. Yes, it is more work for me to keep a single AF point right where I want the camera and lens to focus. But it assures a high percentage of accurately focused shots.

When using a scene mode like "Sports" you cannot use Back Button Focus or Single Point AF. I can't test it (since my cameras don't even have it), but I suspect that the "super auto" Sports scene mode activates all the AF points and sets the camera's AF system to AI Servo or AI Focus. When multiple AF points are active, there's always a risk that the camera and lens will focus using the wrong point... not on the subject I wanted. (By using Single Point, I eliminate that possibility.) If the camera is also using AI Focus mode, this also adds some risk of missed focus, because it leaves it to the camera to decide whether to use AI Servo (for moving subjects) or One Shot focus mode (stationary subjects only). I experimented with AI Focus many years ago. Instead I keep my cameras in AI Servo mode almost all the time (which necessitates using Back Button Focusing). A possible clue... if your camera is "beeping" focus confirmation, it's in the wrong focus mode for sports photography. In DSLRs focus confirmation only works in One Shot mode, which is only usable with stationary subjects.

Actually my sports/action focusing technique... as I've described it above... is now sort of an "old school" method for DSLR shooters. If I were using them, I very likely would change my focusing method with the fantastic new AF systems found in Canon's EOS R10 or R7 mirrorless cameras (also in the R6, R5 and R3 full frame models). Those have the ability to detect faces or even eyes, focus upon them, then track with them to maintain focus. It's very "sticky".... I.e., very good maintaining accurate focus on a moving subject.

I'd still like to see larger versions of a couple of your "problem" images, as well as their embedded EXIF info. Maybe it's something else. Meanwhile you might consider what has changed between when you were getting good sharp shots and now are getting soft shots. There is some reason that's happening. Maybe I've helped with the above info... Or maybe not.


Alan Myers
San Jose, Calif., USA
"Walk softly and carry a big lens."
GEAR: 5DII, 7DII (x2), 7D(x2), EOS M5, some other cameras, various lenses & accessories

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