Canon 7D View Finder Auto Focus Out of Focus 1/2

Started Feb 7, 2012 | Discussions
vpgraph
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Canon 7D View Finder Auto Focus Out of Focus 1/2
Feb 7, 2012

Canon 7D View Finder Auto Focus Out of Focus
Huge Disappointment and Frustration

Part 1 of 2

INTRODUCTION

I’ve been waiting for Canon 5D Mark III for quite a long time. Two years ago after careful consideration based on the compromise between the price and what the camera could do and, of course, the quality of pictures it could produce, I decided to get 5D MII. I’m in favor of Nikon professional products; nevertheless, I also wanted a camera with video capability, and thus, I have narrowed down my camera preference even further. However, due to some other financial decisions, the purchase of a DSLR had to be put on hold. Since then I’m frequently following forum discussions, including the rumors about 5D MIII availability, and I am hoping that in the near future, we can get a better version of that camera.

Because the new version of 5D doesn’t yet exist, and all rumors were contradictory and very misleading, in January 2012, I decided to get 7D. This would be my temporary/transitional camera until Canon releases the long awaited version of 5D MIII. (As of right now no one really knows when the release would be announced.)

The 7D camera also has very good reviews but what it really does better than 5D is continuous shooting at 8fps. It has also newer metering and autofocus systems which are very fast. I don’t believe 5D MIII would get even close to that rate without significantly raising the price. So I am planning to use the 7D for action-type photography rather than mounted onto a tripod (when time is permissive for setting the camera in a manual mode), or when I want to print cleaner enlargements.

PROBLEM DEFINITION

The Canon 7D camera arrived from Amazon very quickly. I took it out of the box, attached the lens and, with the default setting, took a few pictures at home in the evening. I liked the feel of the 7D on my hands and its speed. However, while previewing these pictures on the computer, I noticed that all photos were more or less out of focus. Oopps!!!

The next day I checked the camera settings and realized that the shooting mode was set to “P” (not to full auto as I expected). So I assumed that due to the lack of proper lighting (as the flash wasn’t on), the exposure time became too long, so that even the IS was not helpful. Fair enough, I thought. So the next day I started taking photos during daylight to test the camera again. Unfortunately, all shots came out blurry. I took the same pictures with my $300 Sony DSC-HX7V Point & Shoot pocket toy and could not believe the DSC-HX7V produced sharper photos, with more details in the pictures. At this point I blamed the Canon lens EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM that came with the kit, which does not have very good reviews; therefore, I borrowed three additional lenses from friend of mine, the Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 USM and EF 70-200 f/4L USM, and Sigma 30mm f/1.4. Then I set the camera on a tripod and took several test pictures. The result was similar with all the lenses. In fact, the Canon tele-L lens was the most blurry (obviously). This was unbelievable and very disappointing. Where did all the impressive 7D sample pictures posted on the internet come from???

And then I decided to do an additional series of tests, this time more carefully using different methods and with various settings, as I really like the camera and did not want to return it to Amazon.

Bingo!!! When I used the LCD (Life View) set either in manual or AF mode, the pictures were razor sharp! The shipped kit lens turned out very good results. The Canon L-tele lens also came out excellent. But when I used the View Finder to set the focus (especially AF), the pictures were blurry or out of focus. I’ve been testing the focus points in different scenarios, and ended up with the same disappointing results. Before returning the camera to Amazon, I did search online for some solutions and was surprised that many people have had problems with Canon DSLRs AF. I began testing other settings with the camera using tips from other users such as resetting it to the factory configuration which helped a bit but only in few scenarios. In the end, my Canon 7D DSLR went back to Amazon and my action-type photography looked blurred with its new 16 points fast autofocus system which was, probably, the number one factor or selling point of this Canon camera. And yes, the “Auto Focus” function was very fast but, unfortunately, it was also “Out of Focus”. Just for clarification, the Life View AF was very slow but at least (if finally achieved) very accurate.

CONCLUSION and ADDITIONAL TEST INFO

Read: Canon 7D View Finder Auto Focus Out of Focus - part 2 of 2
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1019&message=40537267

Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS 7D
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GuardianFlash
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Re: Canon 7D View Finder Auto Focus Out of Focus 1/2
In reply to vpgraph, Feb 7, 2012

Set camera to av mode at maybe f5.6. Set focus point to single point. Aim the focus on an object. Take the shot. Now see if it's out of focus.

In your blurry photos, what shutterspeed were you getting?
TheVancouverGuy

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Jerry-astro
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I wish I had a nickel for every post like this...
In reply to vpgraph, Feb 8, 2012

... if you search this forum, you'll find similar issues from many new 7D users. And guess what? The majority of the time, the problem is not the camera... it's the settings and the photographer's lack of understanding as to how to use the AF system. Not trying to ding you here, but rather than post a question here and ask for help, you simply decided that the camera was at fault and returned it. Then, wrote a long tome as to how your problem was simply one of many that people appear to be having with the 7D.

As the other poster said, you need to start with either P or Av mode and use only a single focus point. I'm going to assume that you had all points enabled (if not, then my comments probably don't apply). The camera has no way -- with multiple focus points enabled -- to figure out what you really want to focus on. Point and shoots get away with it because they have a much smaller sensor and a lot more DOF. Therefore, pretty well no matter what you do, everything will be in focus. With a DSLR, you must tell the camera exactly what you want to focus on. If you don't and rely on all points focus, the camera will pick a high contrast object located closest to the camera which may or may not be your subject. Chances are good you won't get the results you were expecting.

Before you decided whether that 7D truly wasn't focusing reliably, you should have enabled single point, shot under decent lighting, and used P or Av mode -- double checking that your shutter speed was adequate to freeze any action and eliminate motion blur.

Looks like it's too late now, but I really suggest you take the time to learn your equipment before declaring it broken, sending it back, and publishing long posts declaring the equipment as faulty.

vpgraph wrote:

Canon 7D View Finder Auto Focus Out of Focus
Huge Disappointment and Frustration

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muzz63
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Re: Canon 7D View Finder Auto Focus Out of Focus 1/2
In reply to vpgraph, Feb 8, 2012

I understood that Live View was reading straight off the sensor and so "what you see is what you get". I'm not sure if I understand what is happening if the Live View image is razor sharp but the captured image is not.

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Fog Maker
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Re: Canon 7D View Finder Auto Focus Out of Focus 1/2
In reply to vpgraph, Feb 8, 2012

vp

. In the end, my Canon 7D DSLR went back to Amazon and my action-type photography looked blurred with its new 16 points fast autofocus system which was, probably, the number one factor or selling point of this Canon camera.

Not even that you managed to get right lol

Waste of precious bandwidth

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tko
tko
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well, we all learned something
In reply to vpgraph, Feb 8, 2012

Beginners shouldn't purchase advanced cameras they don't know how to operate.

If you posted before you had the camera, or when you had the problem, someone could have helped you. Now it's all whining and water under the bridge, stuff we all know.

Does a beginner purchase high end carbon fiber skis tuned to be competitive and complain when they fall?

But I do understand your frustration, and in a way it's not your fault. The more money you spend for a TV, the better a TV you get. Ditto for a stereo, maybe even a car or computer. But w/a camera you get a complex beast that takes a lot of knowledge to operate, and no one warns you of that. Not the shop, not Canon or Nikon.

So, I don't really blame you, but you've got to admit it's silly to sign up and post a big long post that doesn't really do anyone any good except to let off steam.

At this point we have no idea if you had a defective camera, or you simply didn't know how to operate your tool.

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JohnoPolo
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Re: I wish I had a nickel for every post like this...
In reply to Jerry-astro, Mar 8, 2012

Hello - I would appreciate some assistance (if this needs to go to some other forum, please let me know).

I am a novice & occasional user with a Canon 7D. I want to photograph something very specific and I just can't get the photos in focus. I've tried a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Mk2 and a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk1 lens (at 35mm).

The subject is a cat leaping at a toy dangled from a thread held above it. The background and immediate foreground is pretty much plain black (cloth and pvc board).

I've positioned myself about 2.5 meters from the subject in an effort to reduce the DOF. I'm shooting high-speed continuous but hand-held because the cat's moving around quite a bit. This is happening outdoors on a shaded patio in sunny daylight - there's lots of light.

I have aimed to get a shutter speed of around 1/1000th or above and my "best" image results to date have been with ISO 800.

There are far too many permutations to describe what AF settings I have already tried so I would rather appreciate some specific advice on how to set the camera up for this shoot.

I may add that while the shutter fires pretty rapidly, I'm certainly not seeing anything even close to 8 fps on my card - a Transcend 400x 16GB.
All responses will be appreciated.

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schmegg
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Re: I wish I had a nickel for every post like this...
In reply to JohnoPolo, Mar 8, 2012

JohnoPolo wrote:

Hello - I would appreciate some assistance (if this needs to go to some other forum, please let me know).

I am a novice & occasional user with a Canon 7D. I want to photograph something very specific and I just can't get the photos in focus. I've tried a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Mk2 and a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk1 lens (at 35mm).

The subject is a cat leaping at a toy dangled from a thread held above it. The background and immediate foreground is pretty much plain black (cloth and pvc board).

I've positioned myself about 2.5 meters from the subject in an effort to reduce the DOF. I'm shooting high-speed continuous but hand-held because the cat's moving around quite a bit. This is happening outdoors on a shaded patio in sunny daylight - there's lots of light.

I have aimed to get a shutter speed of around 1/1000th or above and my "best" image results to date have been with ISO 800.

There are far too many permutations to describe what AF settings I have already tried so I would rather appreciate some specific advice on how to set the camera up for this shoot.

I may add that while the shutter fires pretty rapidly, I'm certainly not seeing anything even close to 8 fps on my card - a Transcend 400x 16GB.

You should be getting 8fps for more than a dozen shots regardless of your card as the cameras buffer holds around 14 raws - and it will allow you to shoot at full speed. That should be plenty for the type of shot you are after.

So - I'm thinking that it's likely that you have changed the AF/burst priority in your custom functions. Set C.Fn III-2 to 0 (zero) for the best burst speed.

I shoot sports and a bit of BIF and I always have this custom function set to zero.

If that's not the case, then it's more likely a technique issue (and that's fine - don't worry about it - I mean no offence by saying this, though some people do take offence unfortunately)

All responses will be appreciated.

It could be any number of things that are preventing you from getting the results you're after.

My guess (and it's just a gut feeling based on my experience with the 7D shooting moving subjects) is that you're probably not letting the camera get a decent focus lock on the subject in the first place.

Now - please understand - I'm not trying to 'blame' you or anything. It's something that is very easy to do when the action is fast and sudden.

If it is at all possible, try focussing upon the cat a second or so before it leaps (with the camera in AI-Servo of course). Use the AF-ON button to activate focus, and keep your thumb pressed on the AF-ON button the whole time until you have finished the burst.

Also, make sure you keep the AF point on your subject the whole time. If you are struggling, use AF Point Expansion to help you. And to help further with tracking, go to custom function C.Fn III-1 and set it to Slow, or one up from Slow. Also, set C.Fn III- 3 to 1 (Continuous AF track priority).

This really should work well - though a leaping cat will be a difficult subject - so be prepared to shoot a lot of frames to get a decent amount of good ones!

If you feel so inclined - post a couple of examples (and then ignore all the people telling you it's all your fault ) It might help a bit to see exactly what you are attempting - for instance, if it's a black cat then I can imagine you might have some problems Remember that the camera needs some contrast on the subject to focus on it and track it properly - so a black cat on a black background (for instance) will mean you have a difficult task on your hands!

Believe me - you should definitely be able to get the shots you're after - but, particularly in this case, your technique is critical, as is your camera settings. And, even then, you'll likely need to shoot off quite a few bursts to get the shot you are after.

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JohnoPolo
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Re: I wish I had a nickel for every post like this...
In reply to schmegg, Mar 8, 2012

Thank you so much for the responses - I'll get onto it first thing tomorrow and report back (I'm in Thailand, UTC+7).

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JohnoPolo
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Re: I wish I had a nickel for every post like this...
In reply to schmegg, Mar 9, 2012

Okay, I have made some progress:

1. To try and level the playing field as it were, I wanted to get a reference set up that could provide a firm base for the autofocus exercise. I've established that shooting at 1/2000th and f/4.5 and ISO 800 (camera set to manual, shooting position about 2.2 meters from subject using EF 50mm lens) is producing reasonable results. I'm pretty sure I have enough DOF and that the 1/2000th shutter speed is eliminating any motion blur (but advice is welcome).

2. I took a number of shots and was trying to evaluate them but it was quite difficult because I didn't know exactly what was going on. Then I remembered Canon's Zoombrowser and I fired that up. I am now able to see the image, the exif and the focus points all on the same screen.

3. I have upload four images: two screen shots which show the exif plus the autofocus points as well as the respective jpgs straight from the camera.

4. A problem is immediately apparent: the autofocus isn't following the cat - it remains "focused" where it was in the previous shot. No doubt this is because of a setting that I must change.

5. I will do that tomorrow (I didn't have much time today) and will also document all the relevant camera settings as I take shots. I'm confident that with your assistance, I'll get this right soon enough!

6. PS - I added image 3926 to the album. This is the sort of quality I'm looking for and interestingly, according to Zoombrowser, NO autofocus points were activated on this shot.

7

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schmegg
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Re: I wish I had a nickel for every post like this...
In reply to JohnoPolo, Mar 9, 2012

Good job - it's looking quite promising to me.

They aren't bad at all - I think you are quite close now. A high shutter is definitely a good idea too!

Remember though - you'll likely need to take quite a few shots - it's a fairly tough ask and please don't expect to get to the point where you get every single shot bang on focus. It's probably not going to happen - though experimenting with the settings and trying different things is an extremely good way to go about this task. The amount you'll learn by doing so will stand you in good stead for other tricky situations.

Regarding the AF point display in DPP/Zoombrowser. What you are doing is a great idea and it will help you understand the AF system better.

I have found, however, as your example shows, that the AF point indications aren't always that accurate for some reason. So, by all means, refer to them to better understand what is going on, but just keep in mind that they sometimes seem to be contradictory to the image (not always - just sometimes). I have plenty of shots where the indicated AF point is clearly not where the camera is focused, yet the camera is focussed correctly on the subject I'm tracking. (personally, I think it's a bug in the system that sometimes writes the wrong frames AF indications into the EXIF or something).

Anyway - good to see you've made some progress. Hopefully you'll get the shot your after - it'll be a great shot I reckon!

BTW - I'm in Australia (UTC+10). We're not that far away

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Al Giordano
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Did you adjust the diopter settings in the VF?
In reply to vpgraph, Mar 9, 2012

There is a scroll wheel on the right side of the VF. Did you adjust it to your eyeglasses, vision for sharpness?

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JohnoPolo
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Re: Did you adjust the diopter settings in the VF?
In reply to Al Giordano, Mar 10, 2012

Hello Al. Yes, because I need eye correction, and don't use spectacles when I'm shooting, the dioptric wheel had to be adjusted. But I don't think that has any bearing on the autofocus operation of the camera. As far as I'm aware, it just corrects for eye abnormalities. Thanks for the thought though ...

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