I received a question today about the various focus modes on the Canon T4i.  I thought the question and my answer was worth sharing with a wider audience  believing where one person is brave enough to ask a question, many more have the same question.   Truthfully I have a good number of reader questions in the last few weeks that I eventually plan to answer via the blog.

Focus modes on the Canon T4i – which should you use.

Quick Summary: Shooting through the viewfinder? Use the center focus point and recompose your shots, don’t let the camera decide what you want it to focus on.  Shooting using the LCD?  Use FlexiZone – Single or Quick AF and again YOU should choose the point the camera uses to focus.

When we talk about the different focus modes on the Canon T4i we really need to split up our discussion into three sections depending on how we are using the camera.

Still Photos taken through the viewfinder – You really only have two choices for focus here – Use all 11 points or pick a specific point for focus.  

Default mode of the camera is to use all the points, when you look through the viewfinder and half-press the shutter the camera determines which points to use and flashes those red as it focuses.  Most of the time the camera guesses correctly what it should be focusing on but I personally like to make the decision and keep my camera on single point focus 100% of the time.   You can switch from all points to single point by holding down the + magnify button (top right corner on the back of the camera) it also has the  AF indicator just above the button.  Hold the button down as you rotate the main dial (just behind the shutter button)  and it rotates through the AF points, keep rotating and after selecting each point it will return to all points.  You can also press the button and then select the AF point by touching the LCD screen or the automatic selection.   When I am being quick and lazy I set it on the center point, focus, hold the shutter halfway down to keep focus, recompose and take the photo.   If I am not being lazy I will take a second to select the point closest to my subject which requires less recomposing.  In most cases recomposing is fine but if you are shooting with a longer focal length and a smaller f-stop your depth of field(the area in front of your camera that is in sharp focus) can be quite narrow and moving the lens can cause part of your subject to be out of focus.  Selecting the point closest to your subject requires less of that movement.

Still Photos taken via the LCD – You have several options all accessed during live view by pressing the Q button and touching the top left button.

The Modes: AF face detection + tracking, FlexiZone – Multi, FlexiZone – Single, AFQuick.

AF face detection + tracking: This mode watches for faces and locks on if it finds one, you can also touch the screen to help it decide where to focus.  This mode is decent for your standard posed photo where the subject is facing the camera.  If the face moves the camera will try to track and keep the face in focus.  I think the tracking feature of this mode is not worth much, in live view this camera focuses slowly and anything moving faster than a baby crawl is going to be challenging for the camera to keep in focus.  If you are taking photos of moving subjects you should really be looking through the viewfinder.

FlexiZone – Multi: Evaluates the scene and determines which area(s) to focus on, this is very similar to the viewfinder mode where you let the camera pick the focus points to use.   You can help it by touching the screen.

FlexiZone – Single: This is similar to picking a single point through the viewfinder except you do it via the touch screen or by using the direction buttons surrounding the SET button.  Pressing SET centers the AF point.

AFQuick: In this mode the mirror flips down, briefly turning off live view, the camera focuses as it does when you look through the viewfinder and the mirror flips back up to turn live view back on.  I find this method the fastest and often touch to select the center point and then use my focus and recompose method.

Note that when using the LCD you can press the + magnify button to magnify the view by 5x a second press will magnify by 10x and a third press returns the view to normal.  This zoom feature is very useful for manual focusing on non-moving and or macro subjects.

Video Mode – When the switch is flipped to video mode you have the same three options as listed above: AF Face + Tracking, FlexiZone – Single and FlexiZone – Multi.  You also have the SERVO AF button in bottom left corner of screen – this turns that constant AF on or off.


A related post well worth reading – Back Button Focusing.  But, before you click here is how to turn back button focusing on your Canon T4i (650D)

  1. Press Menu
  2. Navigate to last yellow page (Wrench 4)
  3. Select Custom Functions (C.Fn)
  4. Navigate to C.Fn IV Operations/Other – Shutter/AE Lock button [6]
  5. Select Option 3: AE/AF, no AE lock
This turns the * button into the focus button and the shutter button just meters and take the photo.  More about that in my Back Button Focus post.


Video of the modes and how they work coming soon. . .


Thanks for reading – Have a question? Leave a comment!

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 Short Eared Owl. Captured with the Canon 80D and Tamron 150-600 G2
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 Menzie's Penstemon or as the nerds say - Penstemon davidsonii ;) Found these little purple flowers on the way down from Paradise in Mt Rainier National Park and thought they made a nice foreground to the beautiful and still snowcapped peak in the distance. Captured with the GH5 and 12-35 f/2.8 Lens #lumixloungegh3

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  1. Toby, Thanks!! You’re awesome to take time out of your day and and answer a question from me in such detail. You get nothing in return. But I wanted to let you know people like me appreciate you and if there is anyway I can give back let me know. donations? or kick back on items I buy from a dealer you work with. No problem give me the links.

    Thanks again for all your help.


    • Brenda,

      Glad I could help and I appreciate you asking about ways to give back. If you shop Amazon I would love for you to use my link that is on the side of most pages, I make a small percentage off every sale, doesn’t matter if it is granola bars, camera gear or canned unicorn meat 🙂 At some point in the future I might add a donation button.

  2. hi Toby,

    I know this is not necessarily related question, but i liked the professional answer so much that i would kindly like to trouble you with another question: after many years of happy marriage to my Rebel XT, I decided to upgrade now to the t4i. which lens should i buy if: (a) I don’t want to spend a fortune on lenses; (b) I am not a professional, just a loving amateur; and (c) I love to have a strong zoom lens option, for shooting faces without coming too close to disturb the person.


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