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When taking photos, manual focus or autofocus may be the deciding factor on whether your photographs will turn out properly. Manual focus requires you to shift the lens yourself in order to get a clear image, while autofocus uses an internal motor to shift the lens for you. This article explains the key differences between manual and autofocus when shooting photos and when to choose one over the other?

What Is Manual Focus?

Manual focusing is an older method of focusing on your subject. Instead of using an internal motor to change the focal point, manual focus requires you to adjust the lens yourself. You will need to rotate the focusing ring on your camera’s lens in order to see if you are getting a clear image through your viewfinder.

What Is Autofocus?

When the camera is autofocus mode, the camera automatically adjusts the focus on the object you are photographing. The autofocus mode is commonly used for sports photography, portraits, and macro shots of flowers or insects. There are two types of autofocus modes: continuous and single.

Autofocus uses an internal motor that automatically adjusts the lens for you so that it is in focus. This means no manual adjusting or rotating is necessary. All autofocus lenses have what is called “focusing motors” which tells your camera where to move the lens for proper focus.

So What’s The Difference Between Manual Vs. Autofocus?

One difference between manual focus and autofocus is that a photographer who chooses manual focus must alter the focus by tweaking the lens, which means that it will be a little more difficult to track a moving subject. Autofocus is automatic, and will adjust to follow a moving subject automatically. Autofocus is also faster, as it does not require any action from the photographer.

Advantages Of Using A DSLR Camera With Autofocus

A DSLR camera with autofocus is an invaluable tool for photographers. The autofocus will ensure that everything is in focus, and there is no need to manually adjust the lens – which can prove challenging in darker situations or if your subject moves around a lot.

Autofocus also saves time. Adjusting the lens manually may only take a fraction of a second, but it still takes up time that could be better spent on composition and capturing moments you would otherwise miss.

If you are new to photography, know that autofocus means you don’t need to spend time learning how to focus manually – which can be difficult for some beginners.

Disadvantages Of Using A DSLR Camera With Autofocus

If you are shooting manual focus, there will be no issues of the lens not being able to autofocus correctly. Also, if your camera or lens does not have manual focus capability, it means that you cannot use manual focus at all. This is because manual focus requires manual adjustments on the lens itself.

Another disadvantage of using DSLR cameras with autofocus is that they may struggle in low light situations – especially without a flash or tripod. The inside of an event hall or theater, for example, would not provide adequate lighting for photos taken on autofocus without some type of additional equipment (a flash or tripod).

Advantages Of Using A DSLR Camera With Manual Focus

If manual focus is the only function of your camera, it may be a sign that you would benefit from purchasing a new DSLR. Some manual focus cameras do not have manual modes and will limit the types of photos you can take in different lighting situations.

However, manual focusing is still used by photographers who want to really hone in on their abilities and maximize their use of manual functions. The manual focus setting forces photographers to learn more about composition and pay closer attention to details when photographing subjects with manual focus.

For many professionals, manual focusing is faster than autofocus which means captured moments are less likely to be missed while adjusting the lens manually takes up less time compared to autofocusing.

Although both manual focus and autofocus have their advantages, manual focus is generally the downside of these two options. If you know that manual focusing and manual settings aren’t really your thing, we recommend using an autofocus DSLR camera to take better photos.

Disadvantages Of Using A DSLR Camera With Manual Focus

The manual focus setting requires a lot more practice and manual action by the photographer to make up for what it lacks in automatic functions. Not only is manual focusing slower, but manual focus cameras are limited in their manual capabilities – which can be frustrating if you enjoy using manual settings on your camera.

Another disadvantage of manual focus is that it’s difficult to compose photos when there are many adjustments required – autofocus would require much less adjusting because the lens itself would do most of the work. However, manual focusing is very beneficial for those who want to hone their skills as photographers, so manual focusing DSLR cameras are simply not suited for everyone.

Accuracy Of Autofocus Vs. Manual Focus

The autofocus on most lenses will be accurate enough to get you very close to perfect focus. But it’s often the case that a manual focus will give you a better iteration of what you need.

If you have a manual lens, there’s no question about whether to use it or not – most likely, the only time you’ll be using autofocus is when you’re using a zoom lens and can’t get close enough.

Autofocus Usage In Different Situations / Scenarios

Autofocus is an automated focusing system that selects the focal point of the image. Most cameras have autofocus capability, which typically uses a contrast-detection method. Contrast detection is widely used because it can be implemented in hardware, making it faster than other methods, such as phase detection.

To use autofocus, you frame your subject in the viewfinder and press the shutter button halfway to initiate autofocusing. When the camera achieves focus, you can push down on the shutter button completely to take your picture. Autofocus systems are also used for movie recording.

Using manual focus can be difficult because it requires you to constantly adjust the position of your camera, trying several different focal points until you find the perfect one. While manual focus is ideal for shooting macro images and landscapes, for most other types of photography, manual focus tends to be more trouble than it’s worth.

Autofocusing does not require any manual rotation or adjustment, which makes it much faster than manual focusing. You simply point the camera at what you want in focus and push halfway down on the shutter button. It takes no extra effort on your part after that, so you never have to worry about whether or not your subject will be in clear view when taking a photograph.

Autofocus is also very accurate, but manual focus can be more reliable if you set your camera to manual mode. This method requires precise timing and skill, sometimes requiring the use of a tripod.

Some lenses are specially designed with manual focus rings that allow for quick adjustments between manual and autofocus functions. Other times you simply need to hit certain buttons on your camera (the button varies depending on your brand) to switch back and forth between manual and autofocus modes. Whether or not the function is manual or automatic depends on many factors, including specific brands of lenses or cameras, so it’s best to consult your manual if you have any questions about how to adjust.

Manual Focus Usage In Different Situations / Scenarios

Manual focus may be preferred when you’re using a zoom lens and cannot get close enough to the subject, or when taking macro or landscape images that require a super detailed focus.

It’s also ideal when you’re shooting stationary targets, such as posed shots or portrait photography.

How To Use Manual Focus In A DSLR Camera

Manual focus is not usually pursued by beginners because it’s difficult to learn, but it can be a useful skill for certain types of photography. For example, if you are shooting in low light, you will have to set your camera to use manual focus. If you are shooting in low light without a tripod, the best choice is to switch your camera’s autofocus mode to manual, locate the focus point that matches the distance of the object you want to photograph, lock that focus point into place, and then recompose your shot just as you would with an SLR camera.

From there, all that’s needed is to adjust the focus ring on your camera lens until your subject is completely clear and focused in your DSLR’s viewfinder and snap your picture!

How To Use Autofocus In A DSLR Camera​​​​​

​ When using autofocus, there are two primary settings: single-servo and continuous-servo. Single-servo autofocus will automatically lock on to an object and keep it sharp while continuous-servo will automatically lock onto the object and keep it sharp as long as it moves.

In most cases, you simply need to press lightly on the shutter button on your DSLR camera for the lens to autofocus / lock onto a specific target in your lens finder.

How To Use Canon’s Autofocus Modes

There are three different modes of autofocus offered by Canon cameras. One of the most common is Single-shot AF. As the name suggests, Single-shot AF takes a photo each time you press the shutter button, allowing you to choose which one is to your liking. If you are unsure of what your subject will be doing, then this mode would be an excellent choice because it will anticipate any changes in position that might happen between shots.

How To Use Nikon’s Autofocus Modes

​The Nikon manual details three different modes for focus, one of which you can toggle while your camera is in manual mode. The first is Continuous-servo AF, which basically allows the camera to check the same target continuously while taking photos. This mode will imitate autofocus with a half-press of the shutter button while manual focusing because it keeps the focus locked on whatever happens to be in front of you even when you release and press again.

One more mode that would be useful is called Automatic-servo AF, which works similarly to Single shot but focuses on moving objects such as insects or people walking up and down stairs instead of only stationary targets.

How To Use Autofocus On Sony’s Cameras

​Sony cameras have three focus modes that can be toggled with a switch on the back of your camera. One is called Single-shot AF, which automatically takes a photo once the camera locks onto an object. The manual states this mode may not work properly with dark objects, so it may be best for stationary targets or good light conditions only.

Continuous AF is the next option Sony offers. This will pick up where it left off if there is movement in front of the lens by constantly checking if something passes through its field of vision. These are ideal for events such as sports games or at stage performances where action occurs quickly and intermittently throughout the scene. Lastly, manual focus mode is useful for macro shots or other subjects you want to focus on without any changes or interruptions.

How To Use Autofocus On Fujifilm’s Cameras

Fujifilm manual autofocus is controlled by two separate buttons on the back. The first mode is called Single-shot AF, which will take a photo when you press the shutter button and lock onto your target while it focuses. This function may not work properly in dark settings, so it’s better for stationary subjects rather than objects in motion.

Continuous AF Mode uses manual manual control while focusing on moving targets such as animals or people walking up and down stairs. It works like continuous servo found in other brands’ cameras but is selected manually through the manual selector switch on the back of the manual. Once you have selected manual focus, the AF button will enable Continuous Auto Focus Mode.


Autofocus vs. manual focus can be confusing for beginners since both autofocus and manual focus accomplish essentially the same task: adjusting the image sharpness of an object in an image. It’s important to understand what each feature can do in order to determine which one is right for you.