How to Master Auto Focus on Your Video Camera


Even if you don’t spend a fortune on a camcorder, the chances are good that it has autofocus. People choose autofocus because it seems convenient. As a videographer, auto-focus can be a godsend in certain situations. However, auto-focus has its downsides and can be a massive hassle sometimes. Autofocus might completely wreck your video if you aren’t unfamiliar with its functions. Have you ever enjoyed using an auto-focus camera that cannot make up its mind and consequently focuses and refocuses every half second erratically?

Based on factors like subject distance from the lens and subject positioning inside the frame, an auto-focus camera estimates what you intend to be in focus. Based on their research, camera designers know that most viewers like the action occurring in the middle of the screen to be sharply focused. Therefore, they adjust the camera’s settings to constantly focus on the central image, which is six to ten feet distant.

Of course, humans tend to have creativity, which can baffle the engineers behind even the most advanced cameras.

When using a compact camera, disabling the automatic focus feature is usually not worth the hassle. (Hold your breath and squint while pressing button 4, turning dial x, activating function P, and standing on your tiptoes.)

When using an autofocus lens, setting the aperture as wide as possible is ideal. In other words, I ultimately expanded my view. When the lens is wide open, the image will always be sharp because the depth of field is so significant.

(“Depth of field” describes the metric used to determine how much of a given image is sharp. Let’s pretend that the range of sharpness in front of the camera is from five to ten feet. In focus, distances range from around five feet to about ten feet. Your depth of field is equal to the distance from infinity to five feet.

The depth of field in a photograph is primarily determined by two factors:

How “long” your lens is

o The quantity of ambient light

The term “long” is commonly used to describe telephoto lenses because of their ability to focus on distant subjects. When you increase the magnification, you get this.

The inverse of this is the “wide-angle” lens, which achieves a wide shot even when the camera is quite near to the subject. That’s the same as selecting a “zoomed-out” view.

Virtually all video cameras feature a zoom lens, allowing users to choose between wide-angle and telephoto perspectives. Characteristics shift as the lens’ focal length is adjusted from broad to telephoto.

When zoomed in (on the telephoto setting), the depth of field of your zoom lens will be minimal. It’s going to be tough to concentrate on anything. When the autofocus is confused, it makes for hilariously entertaining viewing as the zoom function goes haywire.

The depth of field is significant when using a wide-angle or full-zoom lens. The depth of field of an ultra-wide lens is unlimited, making it impossible to capture a blurry image.

In other words, what does this entail? First, don’t listen to salespeople who rave about a camera’s incredible zoom. More often than not, you won’t be zooming in.

To get a close-up shot of something, get closer to it rather than just zooming in from afar. You can capture a great close-up shot if you get near your subject and zoom out. You’ll be able to concentrate more clearly and take steadier pictures. (Camera shake will be discussed in greater detail in the section on handholding steadily without a tripod.)

Instead of boasting about a camera’s impressive zoom capabilities, salespeople should explain how proper the macro focus function is.

Even the cheapest of today’s video cameras can get near enough to their target for the lens to focus. Macro focus describes this effect. To achieve the most outstanding results with macro focus, go in as close as possible (within an inch or two) and then zoom out as far as possible.

Test it out on a stamp or your fingertip. Select a well-lit area, extend the zoom range, then place your free hand in front of the camera’s lens. Try new things within a one- to three-inch radius. The magnified view of your fingerprint should fill the entire display. Wow, that’s incredible.

As a person who has always been fascinated by photography, I find it incredible that modern video cameras can capture such high-quality macro shots. This is the most critical factor for me when considering budget camcorders. The fingertip example makes testing macro simple in the shop.

If you try to use a macro with a zoomed-in lens, it won’t work. This only works for extensive shots. Most low-priced cameras have this feature built-in, activating when the camera is close to its subject.

You may significantly enhance the quality of your video by switching to the wide-angle option and using the macro function for close-ups.

Being in a low-light environment might also hinder your ability to concentrate. When there isn’t a lot of light, any lens’s field depth will be reduced. That’s a rule of thumb in both photography and physics.

Auto-focus lenses usually don’t do well when the depth of field is small. The only thing that will help is if you put in more lights. When there is a lot of light, the depth of field of any lens improves.

For more than 25 years, Lorraine Grula has been a trusted and acclaimed member of the video industry. (That makes her rather ancient.) Lorraine, who has experience with almost every type of video production, blogs about her industry knowledge. Upon reading her blog,

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