Over on the Flickr forums I’ve posted about some of the autofocusing issues I’ve had with my Canon 7D. This has definitely been the most challenging camera I’ve owned. To sum up the link above, my 7D had back-focusing/front-focusing issues and I ultimately sent it in to Canon repair twice. In that time I became extremely frustrated to the point where I considered seriously switching to Nikon and at the very least just get rid of the 7D. (My other camera is the 5D Mark II.) What made it even more frustrating was how great the 7D feels to hold, unlike previous Canon dSLRs, so to handle such a great ergonomic camera yet get crap photos was maddening. Having to ship it to Canon twice and wait two weeks for it to ship, get repaired and then wait for it to get mailed back was also maddening. That was from February to early April, and finally Canon seemed to get it right.
The trick with the 7D is that it’s got a new, revamped autofocusing system that seems to work somewhat counter-intuitively to what I got used to on previous Canon dSLRs (I’ve owned the original silver Digital Rebel, the Rebel XT, the 30D, 5D and the 5DM2; the last which I still own). I don’t know where to begin or quite how to describe it because I’m not really technical. There have still been times, including recently, where the photos seem slightly out of focus. However, I’ve recently “discovered” the merits of Zone Autofocus, one of the several autofocusing modes on the 7D. Usually I preferred to shoot with either Single Point AF or more usually Spot AF Point. But what I think I’ve discovered is that if you’re not properly homed in on a suitably contrasty part of the subject it will try to lock in on the nearest contrasty point and hence, I’d often find the background in focus perfectly and the subject not. Or the subject with be slightly soft.
So recently I began to use Zone AF, where you choose a “zone” (of course) of focal points and trust that the camera will find an appropriate part of the subject to lock in on for proper focus. The key, which for some reason took me a long time to really “get”, is to understand that the camera will always choose whatever object is closest to the camera within that zone. This can be problematic if, as I often am, I’m shooting a musician and don’t want the microphone in front of the subject in focus while they are soft–I think you really do need Single Point AF for that, still–but for people/group pics, since I’ve began trusting Zone AF more and more, it seems to be working fantastic.