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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

7 Photographers Share: AF & Drive Settings I Switch Based on the Scene

2023-03-08
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4.04 k

Canon’s advanced EOS R system cameras boast excellent AF and subject tracking capabilities, as well as many functions to enable/disable or customise according to your needs. What’s available, and how could it help you to shoot more effectively and efficiently? We asked 7 photographers who specialise in different genres, and here are some tips they shared. (Reported by: Kazuo Nakahara, from the EOS R7 Shooting Guide by Digital Camera Magazine)

In this article:

Introduction: AF and drive setting customisations

Introduction: AF and drive setting customisations

Advanced mirrorless cameras like the EOS R7 and EOS R6 Mark II are designed with the speed, subject detection, and tracking performance required by photographers who shoot action. While default settings usually work very well, changing them could help you to handle certain subjects and scenes more efficiently.

Before we explore the settings used by the photographers from different genres whom we asked, this is a brief guide to the functions mentioned.

Function Description
AF operation Servo AF or One-Shot AF?
AF area mode Determines the size of the active AF area
Subject tracking When turned on, the tracking frame will follow a detected subject when it moves.
Subject to detect Which type of subjects do you want the camera to prioritise during tracking?
If you select “None”, tracking frames will not be displayed and the camera determines the main subject automatically from how you compose shots.

Note: The EOS R6 Mark II and newer have a “Subject detection - Auto” mode that automatically detects animals, vehicles, and people. If multiple subjects are detected, it selects the main subject based on contextual information such as composition.
Eye detection When this is enabled, the camera detects the eyes of people and animals.
Switching tracked subjects How easily does the camera switch AF points to a different subject?

“0” is the “stickiest” on the initial subject; “2” is the most sensitive to new subjects.
Servo AF characteristics 5-6 “cases” that let you tailor the behaviour of Servo AF to your subject or shooting situation.
Preview AF When enabled, the camera continues focusing operations so that it is ready to focus immediately when you half-press the shutter button. It is similar to “Continuous AF” on some other EOS cameras.
Limit AF areas
This lets you limit the AF areas available in the Quick Control menu to those that you normally use.
Orientation linked AF point Lets you set whether the AF point/area remains in the same position when you switch between horizontal and vertical shooting.
Also see: 5 Basic EOS R5/ EOS R6 Settings to Customise From the Start
MF peaking A visual focusing aid during manual focusing.
See: Focus Guide & MF Peaking: Making Manual Focus Easier
Silent shutter function Disables shutter release sounds, beeps and other operating sounds, flash firing, and other light sources such as the AF-assist beam. Electronic shutter mode is used.
Shutter mode Lets you choose how the shutter is released (electronic, mechanical, or electronic first-curtain).
Also see: Shutter Modes & Continuous Shooting Modes: When to Use Which
Drive mode Select from the single shot mode, various continuous shooting modes, and self-timer modes.
Pre-shooting Available during RAW burst mode. When enabled, half-pressing the shutter button records the moments up to approx. 0.5 sec before you press the shutter button completely.

Scene 1: Railway—Mechanical vs. electronic shutter

Scene 1: Trains – Mechanical vs. electronic shutter

By: Yuta Murakami
Shot with the electronic shutter in high-speed continuous shooting (H+) mode


“Use the electronic shutter in scenes where distortion won’t be obvious”

I love how cameras like the EOS R7 let me shoot at up to 30 fps, which is perfect for freezing bullet trains and similar high-speed subjects in an ideal position. However, rolling shutter distortion is a cause for concern. You can get around that by being discerning about when you use it. For example, avoid using it in locations where you’re facing the side of the train head: rolling shutter distortion is particularly obvious on subjects that travel horizontally across the image.

The image above was shot in high-speed continuous shooting mode with the electronic shutter. Because of the train’s streamlined shape and its diagonal placement in the frame, any rolling shutter distortion will not be obvious unless you do a close comparison.

Function Setting
AF operation Servo AF
AF area mode Spot AF
Subject tracking On
Subject to detect Auto/vehicles (cameras with train detection)
Eye detection Off
Switching tracked subjects On subject (1)
Servo AF characteristics Case 1
(Versatile multi-purpose setting)
Preview AF Off
Limit AF areas Spot AF, 1-point AF
Orientation linked AF point Same
MF peaking Off
Silent shutter function Off
Shutter mode Mechanical shutter/Electronic shutter
(Depending on the situation)
Drive mode High-speed continuous shooting +
Pre-shooting Off

Scene 2: Aviation—Low-speed/high-speed continuous shooting

Scene 2: Aeroplanes – Low-speed vs. high-speed continuous shooting

By: Charlie Furusho
High-speed continuous shooting is necessary for capturing the flashing anti-collision lights on aeroplanes.


“Choose the continuous shooting mode based on the speed of your subject”

I usually prefer to use the low-speed continuous shooting mode as it lets me get a better look at each shot through the viewfinder. Around 3 fps is sufficient to get good shots of a moving aeroplane.

However, I do use the high-speed continuous shooting mode in certain scenes. One such scene is when I want to capture the red flashing anti-collision lights on aircraft when shooting in the evening or at night. Another is when I want to capture the tyre smoke from landing aeroplanes.

Function Setting
AF operation Servo AF
AF area mode Expand AF area
Subject tracking On
Subject to detect Auto/vehicles (cameras with aeroplane detection)
Eye detection Off
Switching tracked subjects On subject (1)
Servo AF characteristics Case A
Preview AF Off
Limit AF areas Default
Orientation linked AF point Same
MF peaking Off
Silent shutter function Off
Shutter mode Electronic shutter
Drive mode High-speed continuous shooting/
Low-speed continuous shooting
(Depending on the situation)
Pre-shooting Off

Scene 3: Motorsports – Subject tracking on/off

Scene 3: Motorsports – Subject tracking on/off

Photo by: Hirohiko Okugawa
When panning GT cars, I usually use 1-point AF and place the AF point somewhere near the door.


“Turning off subject detection makes it easier to see GT cars when taking panning shots”

When I was shooting with DSLR cameras, I usually used 1-point AF for panning shots. For formula cars, I would place the AF point on the driver’s helmet; for GT cars, I would place the AF point near the door.

I use the same focusing technique on mirrorless cameras like the EOS R7. However, I use subject tracking selectively. Subject tracking is useful for formula cars as the AF point stays on the driver’s helmet. However, when I’m taking panning shots of GT cars, subject detection makes it hard to follow the car as I pan the camera: it causes the position and shape of the AF point to keep changing. Hence, I usually turn it off before attempting such shots.

Function Setting
AF operation Servo AF
AF area mode 1-point AF
Subject tracking On/Off
(Depending on the situation)
Subject to detect Vehicles
Eye detection On
Switching tracked subjects Initial priority (0)
Servo AF characteristics Case 4 (For subjects that accelerate or decelerate quickly)
Preview AF Off
Limit AF areas Default
Orientation linked AF point Separate AF points: Area + pt
MF peaking Off
Silent shutter function Off
Shutter mode Mechanical shutter
Electronic shutter
Drive mode High-speed continuous shooting +
Pre-shooting Off

Scene 4: Zoo/Animals—Preview AF and pre-shooting

Scene 4: Zoo/Animals – Preview AF and pre-shooting

Photo by: Yurika Terashima
Pre-shooting helps to capture unpredictable moments for scenes like birds in flight.


“Enable pre-shooting and preview AF to capture unpredictable moments”

Pre-shooting is a feature that becomes available when you enable RAW burst shooting. It records moments that occur up to 0.5 seconds before you release the shutter, which is great for getting shots in scenes that can be hard to time.

I recommend using it together with Preview AF mode, where the camera keeps focusing for as long as it is powered on. This increases your chances of getting in-focus shots of unexpected moments.

Function Setting
AF operation Servo AF
AF area mode Spot AF
Subject tracking On
Subject to detect Animal-priority
Eye detection On
Switching tracked subjects On subject (1)
Servo AF characteristics Case A
Preview AF On/Off
(Depending on the situation)
Limit AF areas Default
Orientation linked AF point Separate AF points: Pt
MF peaking Off
Silent shutter function On
Shutter mode Mechanical shutter
Drive mode High-speed continuous shooting +
Pre-shooting On/Off
(Depending on the situation)

Scene 5: Portraits—Silent shutter mode

Scene 5: Portraits – Silent shutter mode

Photo by: Maiko Fukui
Model: Sako Kuroiwa


“Turn on the silent shutter mode to capture candid expressions”

I usually use the silent shutter mode in shoots where I’m taking both photos and video, and want photos of a subject’s candid expressions. There are no beeps or shutter sounds to spoil the moment! This mode is also good for shooting quieter events such as concerts, where shutter sounds are extremely distracting.

Function Setting
AF operation Servo AF
AF area mode Whole area AF
Subject tracking On
Subject to detect People
Eye detection On
Switching tracked subjects On subject (1)
Servo AF characteristics Case A
Preview AF Off
Limit AF areas Default
Orientation linked AF point Same
MF peaking On
Silent shutter function On/Off
(Depends on the situation)
Shutter mode Mechanical shutter
Drive mode Low-speed continuous shooting
Pre-shooting Off

Scene 6: Casual and street photography—Spot AF/Flexible Zone AF

Scene 6: Casual and street photography – Spot AF vs. Flexible Zone AF

Photo by: Kaworu Kobayashi
When deep focusing in backlight, I conduct AF over a larger area.


“Use Flexible Zone AF for moving subjects and deep focusing in backlight”

While I usually use Spot AF for precise focusing, there are two situations where I will switch to Flexible Zone AF.

One such situation is when children, animals, and other subjects with unpredictable and/or subtle movement are involved. For such scenes, I will use Flexible Zone AF and continuous shooting.

The other situation is when I am shooting in backlit conditions. It can be hard to establish focus with Spot AF, so I use Flexible Zone AF to find focus in the general area. It is especially effective when I want a large depth of field.

Function Setting
AF operation One Shot AF
AF area mode Spot AF/ Flexible Zone AF
(Depends on the situation)
Subject tracking On
Subject to detect People
Eye detection On
Switching tracked subjects On subject (1)
Servo AF characteristics Case A
Preview AF Off
Limit AF areas Default
Orientation linked AF point Same
MF peaking On
Silent shutter function Off
Shutter mode Electronic first-curtain shutter
Drive mode Single shot
Pre-shooting Off

Scene 7: Nature photography—One Shot AF/Servo AF

Scene 7: Nature photography – One Shot AF vs. Servo AF

Photo by: Chikako Yagi
If the AF point keeps shifting to different parts of your subject, try using Servo AF combined with subject tracking.

“Servo AF is ideal for shooting close-ups of subjects that move in the breeze”
The depth of field is extremely shallow during close-up shooting. This, combined with subject movement due to wind, can cause the focus point to keep shifting. My solution to this is to use Servo AF with subject tracking enabled. This ensures that the focus stays on the subject when you half-press the shutter button, resulting in a sharper image.

Function Setting
AF operation One Shot AF/
Servo AF (Depends on the situation)
AF area mode Expand AF area
Subject tracking On/Off
(Depends on the situation)
Subject to detect None
Eye detection Off
Switching tracked subjects On subject (1)
Servo AF characteristics Case A
Preview AF Off
Limit AF areas Default
Orientation linked AF point Same
MF peaking On
Silent shutter function Off
Shutter mode Mechanical shutter
Drive mode Single shot
Pre-shooting Off


You may also be interested in:
ISO Auto Tip: Prevent Subject Blur with this Must-know Setting!
Guide to Fv Mode: What It Is and How To Use It
Birds in Flight: Camera Settings to Increase Your Successful Shots
7 Often Neglected Camera Settings that Ensure a Smoother Shoot

About the Author

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Kazuo Nakahara

Born in Hokkaido in 1982, Nakahara turned to photography after working at a chemical manufacturing company. He majored in photography at the Vantan Design Institute and is a lecturer for photography workshops and seminars, in addition to working in commercial photography. He is also a representative of the photography information website studio9.

http://photo-studio9.com/

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