Canon 7D Tips: Auto-focus not working? Check your settings

While I was shooting the video for Christmas in New York City, I had a BIG problem.  I was standing outside in the cold night air, dealing with the crowds and looking for a good photo op.  I pull out my camera for the first time that evening and pressed the shutter half-way … nothing.  My brand new Canon 7D would not auto-focus!

7d-custfunct4-1a

My first thought was the AF/MF switch on the lens.  Pulling the camera in and out of an overstuffed camera bag can move that switch.  But, the switch was still set for AF.  I removed the lens and reattached it.  Nothing. I even tried pulling the battery to reset the camera.  Still nothing!  Desperate to get going, I resorted to the ultimate step … clearing all settings and returned the camera to its factory default! The AF started to work, I reset my video to 1080P@24fps, and started capturing the sights and sounds of the season.  Whew!

During my break last week, I though I would try to recreate the problem.  It turns out Canon added several settings to the Canon 7D’s Custom Functions which will allow you to disable the auto-focusing.  It seems like a bad idea, but there could be a reason.  Every time the AF seeks to establish a focus lock, it is a battery intensive feat.  If the camera continues to hunt for a focus over an extended period of time, the battery will drain.  Canon may have added these AF-Disable/AF-OFF settings to stop the camera from continuing the process.  So where are these hidden “features”?  Take a look below.

7d-custfunct4-1bThe AF-Disable/AF-OFF settings are all located under Custom Function IV, option #1. My “good settings” are on the left.  The “bad settings” are on the right.  There are 5 different settings which can disable the AF function in the Canon 7D.  Just highlight the setting with the Multi-function Controller (joystick) and click the SET button to change it:

1.  Shutter Button:  Yes, Canon actually allows you to change the functioning of the shutter button, so that it does not auto-focus.

2. AF-On Button: This button allows you to “back-focus” the auto-focus without the use of your  shutter button.

3. AE Lock * Button:  This button is allows you to lock the exposure and recompose the shot.

4. Depth of Field Preview:  This button will stop the aperture down to the actual f-stop currently set by the camera.

5. Lens AF/MF Switch: Yes, Canon even allows you to disable the AF/MF switch on the lens.

So, if the auto-focus is not working, check the lens AF/MF switch first and then the C.Fn IV settings.  It will save you from resetting your camera back to its factory settings!

NOTE:  You can read more about Customizing the Canon 7D’s AF in my previous article.

 

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74 comments to Canon 7D Tips: Auto-focus not working? Check your settings

  • Kristie

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. On discovering my AF wasn’t functioning I pulled out my receipt to discover my 12 month old camera was out of warranty by 2 weeks!!! I followed your guide and we’re back in business.

  • Leanne

    I am sooooo grateful for this post!!! My auto focus wasn’t working either, but thanks to your information it is now fixed!!! I can’t thank you enough – Cheers!!! :)

  • Happy to help! I have a whole area devoted to the Canon 7D. Take a look at my tips here: http://blog.photoframd.com/canon-7d-tips-best-of-photoframd-com/

  • I just saw this and switched my settings, will see if that helps, tomorrow,when I have a chance to shoot. I have had a focus problem for a while now. Especially for action shots, slow focusing, and just doesn’t get locked in most of the time. I have a feeling something is wrong with the camera, and like Kristie, mine just went out of warranty! I was thinking it was because a lot of my action shots involve dark figures, chocolate and black dogs, that was the problem. I am completely frustrated, and hope I can get to the bottom of this, whether it is a camera issue, lens issue, settings issue, or something I am just plain doing wrong.

    Trish

  • Please explain why it is recommended to switch the lens setting off of AF off, I understood that to allow the AF to track a subject. So we should switch, which is the correct setting there and why? Thanks so much, another frustrated 7D owner!

  • I very rarely switch the AF off intentionally. A time lapse series may be the only time where it is preferred to keep the same focus and depth throughout the series.

    I shoot a lot at night and accidents happen in the dark. I always check my camera when light is available in between shoots. It is very important to know how to reset your camera to avoid a wasted trip back to Canon.

  • dustin

    Are you sure the “lens” setting is to to disable the AF/MF switch? The manual says that it’s for the AF stop button on super telephoto lenses. If you could clarify this it would be very helpful.

  • My point of the article was to indicate all possible ways to accidentally disable the AF. Yes, you are correct. This settings is an extra button on the lens of some Canon lenses (like the 300mm). Not many lenses have it.

  • Thank you! Worked for me.

  • a

    THANK YOU! So glad that I didn’t put it right back in the box to send back to Canon. They should really leave a note telling you that they have disabled the function. It would save a lot of frustration.

  • subash

    It happened to me just other day! I was afraid that the camera went bad (shutter died). But then I could take pictures on MF setting on the lens. I wish I had found this article earlier. Not sure what caused to changed the settings on my 7D to disable autofocus.

    As a last resort, I reset the settings to factory settings and finally it worked. Whew!

    Thanks for your explanation, it will save me next time.

  • Angela

    I’m about ready to throw my 7D against a wall. I took better pictures with my old Canon Rebel xsi. I’ve done all I know to do to get the right thing focused in my pictures. I’ve tried single spot and zone, and I still can’t get crisp photos like the monkey you posted. Everything is soft. Today, I had beautiful color in manual mode, but I put the focus square on a dog’s eyes, and the fur on his body is in focused. I take a lot of action shots, and I get the wrong volleyball player in focus, or none focused at all. I’m 8months into this camera, and I just hate it. Where can I learn more about this focusing system – where do you point the focusing squares to get a clear shot? Anyone?

  • Take a look at my other article on Customizing the AF. It should be a big help.

    Remember focusing is just one part of the equation. You also need to be aware of you shutter speed and your aperture. Increasing the aperture to f/5.6 of f/8 will create a very wide depth of field and expand the area that looks sharp. Manually increasing the ISO may also be necessary so that you can have the right combination for a sharp photo.

    Whenever I have a difficult lighting situation, I will take a shot using the P mode to see what the camera recommends under those circumstances. Then, with those settings in mind, I will switch to TV or AV mode and adjust accordingly.

    Hope this helps.

  • Hey,
    I’ve had my 7D since 2009 and up until a couple months ago, never had an issues with Canon. However, the autofocus on my 50mm fixed stopped working recently and I assumed it was the lens. (Another Canon L-series lens of mine also stopped working, but not an autofocus issue). Canon is starting to piss me off. My macro lens (a Tamron) is still working, but I just slapped on my 500mm (Sigma) for the first time in a about a month, only to realize the AF crapped out on me too. So now I’m beginning to wonder if it’s the camera body. I want to try this but how exactly do I get to custom controls?? I realized I haven’t really switches settings in a looonng time and kind of forget the how-to, apparently.
    Thanks!

  • Did you just upgrade the firmware?? You need to wipe out all of your old settings which are now causing a conflict in the 7D. Take a look at my recent article: Canon 7D Tips – Focusing Problems After Upgrading to Firmware 2.0.3. This should to the trick!

  • Okay, just got down upgrading firmware and clearing settings, etc…so far so good – autofocus is back to working. THANK YOU! This was a huge help and a huge relief for me. Fingers crossed the AF keeps on keeping on. Thanks again!

  • Angela

    Do I need to update my firmware? I got my camera in May 2012.

  • admin

    The latest Firmware for the Canon 7D is 2.0.3 which was released in the US on 9/13. You may be current, but check your camera to be sure. Updating the Firmware is easy.

  • Nick UK

    Hi

    Just wanted to reiterate the other thanks and sentiments. I cannot believe that there is no mention of this in several books I have purchased to enhance my 7D experience! I have used Canon cameras for over 30 years and never had such a frustrating time as I have in the last week or so (moved up from a 50D). My battery died in mid shoot and reset to default…then the autofocus in Av mode would not work, worked only when I depressed the AF-ON button…was pulling my hair out as I was faced with a no doubt costly repair…I won’t go on, but I am so so thankful for you highlighting this. I now look forward to taking a hike around the rest of your site.

    ATB
    Nick

  • Leanne

    Thank you! Huge help! I thought there was a problem with my brand new camera, but it’s working great now.

  • john van der Dol

    Thank you. Got it sorted. I don’t know how the settings in the menu managed to change. I am sure I did not do it. Anyway, we are back in business.

  • thank you so much i thought i stuffed my camera
    your a legand.

  • Harshal Shelar

    holaa… i have read 50 artical on focusing.. but m not getting perfect settings for auto focus.. now i got perfect supersharp focus on my 7D.. thank so much from bottom of my heart.. truly.. hats off..

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