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All About the EOS 80D (2): AF Area Selection Modes for Speedy Focusing

The key to focusing quickly and accurately with the EOS 80D lies in how you make use of the 45 AF points. To speed up your shoot, it is necessary to choose an AF point with due consideration of the conditions surrounding the subject. In this article, we learn more about the characteristics of the four AF area selection modes that enable the capture of decisive moments that we would never encounter again. (Photos and text by: Ryosuke Takahashi)


AF area selection modes: An overview

In Part 1, we learned about the different types of AF points available on the EOS 80D. 

All 45 AF points on the EOS 80D can function independently, but they can also be combined to form “zones”. To choose the number of AF points and the combination of them, you use the AF area selection mode, which we will learn about in this Part 2. 

Altogether, there are four different AF area selection modes on the EOS 80D:  

1. Single-point AF (Manual Selection)
2. Zone AF (Manual Selection of Zone)
3. Large Zone AF (Manual Selection of Zone) [Note: This is a new mode, making its debut on the EOS 80D]
4. 45-point Automatic Selection AF

One way to decide which mode to use is to look at the scene and the movement characteristics of the subject, and select accordingly. This requires familiarity with the features of each mode, which this article will cover.

Before we take a more detailed look at each of the area selection modes, there is one important point about  AF detection which will help you understand better: To enhance AF accuracy, all the AF area selection modes make use of colour tracking, skin tone detection, and information about the distance between the subject to the camera. If skin tone cannot be detected, AF will detect the closest subject. 

Let's keep this in mind as we look at each of the area selection modes.

The four AF area selection modes

Aiming with a single point: Single-point AF (Manual Selection)

Establishes focus on a single point

This mode allows you to establish focus with a single manually-selected AF point. All AF points other than the selected one are disabled. The Single-point AF mode excels in focusing accuracy. It can be employed in a wide array of genres for subjects and scenes with very little movement, such as landscapes, portraits and still photos.


Aiming with a zone: Zone AF (Manual Selection of Zone)

Captures the subject using multiple AF points

In this mode, you can select one of the nine zones for focusing, each of which is made up of multiple AF points. This mode is suited for subjects with some movement, such as portrait shots of moving subjects and street snapshots.


Aiming with a zone: Large Zone AF (Manual Selection of Zone)

Captures the subject with a wider area

This mode divides the screen into three large zones (left, centre and right), each of which makes use of multiple AF points for focusing. Compared to Zone AF, Large Zone AF is suitable for subjects with more vigorous movements. The AF points are automatically selected within the zone, and the number of AF points used also varies according to the condition of the subject.


Aiming with a zone: 45-point Automatic Selection AF

Selects AF points automatically

AF points are selected automatically in this mode according to the position and size of the subject. All 45 AF points are selectable but the usable number varies with factors such as the distance from the subject to the camera. As with the other modes, skin tone detection functions in the 45-point Automatic Selection AF mode. It is also suitable for portrait photography.


How to change the AF area selection mode?

1. Press the AF area selection mode button or AF point selection button

Pressing either one of the buttons enables selection of the AF area selection mode. The mode that is currently selected is indicated by an arrow. You can operate using the button you find easier to use.


2. Press the AF area selection mode button

Pressing the AF area selection mode button each time switches the mode and loops back after reaching the last mode. To confirm a mode, you can, for example, press the shutter button down halfway when the mode you want to use is selected.


Point 1: Use Single-point AF if you are very sure about where you want to establish focus

Single-point AF mode is suitable for some still photo subjects and landscapes as well as when you want to set focus on the subject’s eyes in a portrait shot. As only the selected AF points will respond in this mode, there is no worry that focus would automatically shift to an unintended location. It is an ideal AF area selection mode in cases where precise focusing is required, such as when you want to reduce the depth of field intentionally. You are recommended to use it for scenes where you want to carry out pinpoint focusing.

In this example, I established focus on the face of the red bell pepper on the right after selecting Single-point AF.


EOS 80D/ EF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/60 sec.)/ ISO 125/ WB: Auto
The depth of field is very shallow at the maximum aperture. I was able to establish sharp focus, thanks to the properties of Single-point AF.


Point 2: Use 45-point Automatic Selection AF when subject movement is unpredictable

This AF area selection mode comes in handy for scenes where the movement of the subject is completely unpredictable. It can be employed in a variety of ways when photographing moving subjects such as birds flying in the sky, pets or children. The AF points selected for focusing vary with factors such as condition of the scene and focal length of the lens in use. Choose this mode when you want to place priority on ensuring that the subject can be captured rather than on the focusing accuracy.

The multiple AF points that coincide with the body of the bird are lit in red, indicating that focusing has been performed efficiently.


EOS 80D/ EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM/ FL: 300mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/640 sec., EV-0.3)/ ISO 100/WB: Daylight
As there is no need to select an AF point manually, this mode makes it easier to respond to sudden movements and capture the subject more accurately.


Point 3: Use Large Zone AF to capture moving subjects while maintaining the composition

The Large Zone AF mode, which divides the screen into three zones, comes in handy when you want to take a shot after determining the rough position of the subject. It is suitable for scenes with more vigorous movements compared to Zone AF, and can be employed in genres ranging from street to sports photography. It might be difficult to strike a good balance between composition and focus in some cases when you are photographing a moving subject, but this can be eased with the use of Large Zone AF mode. It also comes in useful when you want to concentrate on your shoot.

In this example, focus was established only on the child on the swing with other AF points not responding to the rest of the people and buildings in the image.


EOS 80D/ EF-S24mm f/2.8 STM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/400 sec., EV-0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto
If you know when to time your shot, fix the composition in advance and use Large Zone AF to wait for the right moment to capture the subject.


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EOS 80D Kit II (EF-S18-135mm IS USM)

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EF50mm f/1.8 STM

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EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM

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EF-S24mm f/2.8 STM

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Ryosuke Takahashi


Born in Aichi in 1960, Takahashi started his freelance career in 1987 after working with an advertising photo studio and a publishing house. Photographing for major magazines, he has travelled to many parts of the world from his bases in Japan and China. Takahashi is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society (JPS).


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