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!
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.
The 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.