What Is AI Focus?

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If you are a beginner in photography, knowing which Canon autofocus mode to use can be challenging, especially when the subject constantly changes from motion to still. Fortunately, there is an autofocus artificial intelligence that helps to solve this issue. So, what is AI Focus?

What Is AI Focus?

The AI Focus stands for Artificial Intelligence Focus and is among the three varying automatic modes on Canon EOS DSLR cameras. It has elements for both the One-Shot AF mode and the AI Servo as it focuses on the stationary subjects using One-Shot AF and automatically switches to AI Servo if the subject exhibits some movements.

Canon EOS 5D

The One-Shot AF mode is ideal when shooting motionless or still subjects. On the other hand, AI Servo AF is specifically designed for constantly moving subjects. If the camera detects movement in the AI Focus, it switches to AI Servo and tracks the moving subject.

How AI Focus Works

In most cases, the AI Focus assumes the image is reasonably motionless, and therefore you should not use it with constantly moving subjects. 

When the camera achieves focus, it emits a soft beeping sound allowing you to go ahead and capture the shot. However, the focus confirmation light in the viewfinder will not light up.

Keeping in mind that AI Focus is designed to switch between One-Shot and AI Servo, it might lag when switching to Servo mode, causing some inconveniences. Due to this, it becomes difficult to lock focus and recompose.

How to Use AI Focus

Although AI Focus is an artificial intelligence that uses a complex algorithm to track and focus on a subject, it has limitations. Fortunately, you can use the following tips to prevent excessive lag when switching between One-Shot AF and AI Servo.

  • When using the AI Focus, you should hit the camera’s shutter button halfway so the camera system can analyze the subject.
  • If your subject is still and motionless, position your subject on the center of the frame, and the AI Focus will switch the AF to One-Shot and focus on it.
  • If the subject moves out of focus, the AI Focus will switch appropriately and follow the subject while maintaining the focus. It’s therefore advisable not to constantly shake the camera as the AI Focus will try to switch between One-Shot AF and AI Servo constantly
  • Once the system gains the right focus, hit the shutter button to capture the photo. You should, however, be careful when pressing the shutter button as you can introduce a camera shake that can cause focusing issues and image blurring. 

Difference Between AI Focus, One-Shot AF, and AI Servo AF

The main difference between AI Focus and AI Servo is that the camera continues to monitor the distance of the subject, and in case it changes, the camera will try to refocus. 

Person checking his camera settings

Typically, AI Focus is the most versatile AF mode on Canon EOS DSLR cameras, as it allows you to shoot both still and moving subjects. Unlike the One-Shot AF mode, the AI Focus can automatically detect when the subject moves, switches to AI Servo and begins to track. 

On the other hand, unlike the AI Servo mode, it can detect when the subject becomes stationary, switches to One-Shot AF and stops tracking. Although there might be some lag, it saves you the hassle of constantly switching the AF modes.

When to Use AI Focus

Keeping in mind that AI Focus is versatile, and you can use it to focus and shoot both immobile and moving subjects, it’s the best autofocus mode to use in the following photography situations.

  • Sports photography: It is advisable to set your Canon camera to the AI Focus mode when shooting sports as you can’t predict whether the player will be moving or standing
  • Wildlife photography: The AI Focus mode is the best AF option when capturing wildlife, as you can’t tell whether the animal will be stationary or moving 
  • Handheld shooting: It can be challenging to maintain focus when shooting handheld due to the camera shake effect, especially when walking. The AI Focus can help maintain the focus in such cases and even detect when the stabilization has improved and switch back to One-Shot AF.  

Related Questions

What Is a Point Zoom In AI Focus?

A point zoom in AI Focus is a point that a camera uses to focus on a subject. You can identify this point by pressing the shutter button halfway, and the camera produces a soft beeping sound. Unlike other cameras, the Canon AI Focus does not display a green or red light on the viewfinder.

Can I Use AI Focus in Low Light?

Using AI Focus in low light can be challenging if you don’t have a Speedlight or your camera doesn’t have an AutoFocus Illuminator that can illuminate the subject with infrared light to help the camera gain focus. You can tell AI Focus is becoming less effective in lowlight if the lag of switching the modes is excessive.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your photography skills, there are times the subject will constantly change from motion to immobility and vice versa, and you can’t cope with manually changing the autofocus modes. An AI Focus can help detect these changes and switch to the appropriate AF mode.