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AI Focus vs. AI Servo: Which One Is Best?

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Do you know what my first photography experience was?


Let’s make it clear; my friends don’t want to take photos through me anymore!  Yes, you are reading right. When I took photos, I didn’t know about autofocus modes, and the camera I used didn’t have an AI focus mode. Later, I figured out that the wrong focus selection was the main culprit.

I don’t want anyone in this world to experience a situation like mine. That’s why in this article on AI focus vs. AI servo, I will discuss autofocus modes in detail. Also, I will discuss their differences and where you should use particular autofocus modes. So, let’s begin.

What is Autocus and How Many Types of Autofocus?

Autofocus is a well-known topic in the digital camera world. It revolutionized the photography world. With autofocus, inexperienced people can capture marvelous photos. If you want to take the best images, you must know about autofocus modes. Because it will help you understand which focus mode is ideal for particular situations.

Types of autofocus modes depend on their sensor types. It comes with a single sensor or multiple sensors. Multi-sensor autofocus system allows adjusting sensors manually. Moreover, algorithms also control sensors for precise focus.

Generally, there are three types of autofocus; single-shot autofocus, continuous autofocus, and automatic autofocus. However, different camera companies give different names to the autofocus. For example, continuous autofocus is called AI servo focus by Canon.

To know which focus mode is right for which conditions, first, you must learn about autofocus modes. Let’s learn about autofocus modes.

One Shot Autofocus

Sigle shot autofocus or one shot autofocus is the most common autofocus mode. And it is the least intelligent autofocus mode.

Single shot autofocus mode focuses on the subject that you want to shoot. If the subject or you move after locking the focus, then the camera won’t shoot. It means if the subject is not in focus, the camera won’t shoot.

It is a great aid for landscape and distance photography. Moreover, another advantage of this mode is that it saves battery significantly because it doesn’t need to refocus multiple times to take a picture.

Continuous Autofocus/AI Servo 

Continuous autofocus mode is an advance autofocus mode. It is also known as AI servo. With this mode, the camera focuses on the subject continuously.

This autofocus mode is great for shooting moving subjects. It comes in handy where the focus is important. However, it is not so effective as single shot autofocus mode. It doesn’t work in low light and low contrast conditions.

Another thing that reduces its effectiveness is battery draining. This autofocus mode focuses continuously, which means it needs to adjust focus continuously. Therefore, it drains more battery. So, if you want to use this mode, ensure that you carry an extra battery.

This mode is not ideal for static subjects; however, it is very helpful for moving subjects. You can use this mode to take photos of continuously moving subjects—for example, wildlife photos. Sometimes you will get out-of-focus images; in this case, you can use software to clear blurry images.

Hybrid Autofocus/ AI Autofocus

Hybrid autofocus mode or automatic autofocus mode is useful for new photographers. Every digital camera doesn’t come with this feature. However, the ones that feature this mode made it their default focus mode.

So, what does AI autofocus mode do? Generally, AI autofocus mode changes focus between one shot and AI servo focus, depending on the subject’s movement.

With this focus mode, the photographer is not the ultimate decider for focusing. The camera decides where to focus.

When you can not choose between single shot and continuous focus, hybrid focus is the solution for that particular moment. It helps shooting subjects which movement is unpredictable—for example, small children or wildlife images. When you take images of children, you don’t know when the subject will change its movement.

Are you new to photography and don’t have enough photography knowledge? In this case, this autofocus mode is the only choice for you if you want to take acceptable quality images.

Now, you may wonder which autofocus mode is best within these three autofocus modes. The answer depends on the subject’s movement, light, contrast, subject distance, etc. So, choose the autofocus mode that suits the subject’s movement.

AI Focus vs. AI Servo: What is the Differences?

If you want to use these two autofocus modes efficiently, you should know about their major differences. So, let’s know the difference between AI focus/automatic autofocus and continuous autofocus/AI servo.

The main difference between these two automatic focuses is focusing capability in different situations. When it comes to AI servo, it focuses continuously on moving targets. On the other hand, AI focus changes focus according to subjects’ movements.

So, the AI servo never locks on the subject. On the other hand, AI focus locks on the subject and changes focus depending on subject movement.

Regarding focusing speed, AI focus needs to focus and refocus depending on subject movement. It results in focus delay; therefore, you will get out of focus image. However, you won’t experience focus delay with AI servo as it continuously focuses on the subject.

As far as photography with a narrow depth field is concerned, it is tough to maintain sharp focus for AI focus mode on a moving subject. But with the AI servo, you won’t face difficulty maintaining sharp focus on the moving subjects with a narrow depth field because it continuously focuses on the moving subject.

When the subject moves continuously, AI servo is the ideal option; in this case, AI focus won’t work. If a subject remains static and moves a little bit, then AI focus is the ideal option.

One Shot vs AI Servo vs AI Focus: Which One is Best?

Each of the autofocus modes has its own set of applications. They’re also intended for a variety of purposes, and each is the greatest on its own applications. All you have to know is how and when to utilize them. Let’s know about their applications one by one.

When Should You Use AI Servo?

AI servo mode is a perfect option when you or objects are moving, or both are moving. You should use AI servo mode when you are shooting fast-moving subjects. For example, if you are shooting players, wildlife images, racing cars, etc.

If you are working with bird photography, wedding photography, event photography, and underwater photography, you must go with AI servo.

When should You Use AI Focus?

AI focus is a perfect choice when you or subject no one care for focus. AI focus mode is best for unpredictable subjects. Moreover, if you work with still and fraction moving subjects, AI focus could be the best choice.

So, use AI focus mode/hybrid focus when the subject is unpredictable. Here are some situations where AI focus mode is a must;

  • Children photography
  • Wildlife
  • Street photography

When should You Use One Shot Focus?

When your subject isn’t moving, one shot focus is ideal. One shot focus is excellent for isolating a certain subject in your photograph and keeping attention on it. This can be especially useful for portraits, landscape shots, or close-ups.

One shot focus is also great for creating a sense of depth in your photos. You can create an illusion of depth by focusing on a particular subject in the foreground and then having everything else gradually become blurrier in the background.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best autofocus mode?

Every autofocus mode is best for a particular situation. Similarly, every autofocus mode could be worst for particular situations. Generally, it depends on the subjects.

If you want to take an image of a still subject, then a single shot is the best option. On the other hand, AI servo and AI focus are the best options for moving subjects. AI servo is best for fast-moving subjects, and AI focus is best for fraction-moving subjects.

Autofocus or manual focus: which is better?

Autofocus features artificial intelligence. Therefore, it is great for shooting any kind of subject. On the other hand, manual focus can give you a more detailed image if you have enough experience. If you are working with still subject and have enough experience, you can use manual focus.

Autofocus vs. manual focus: Which one is best for professional photographers?

When it comes to AF vs. MF, professional photographers tend to use the manual one. However, they use autofocus for particular situations.

Final Words

Photography is an art that needs experience and photography knowledge to capture the best image every time. It doesn’t matter the level of your photography experience and knowledge, autofocus modes are essential for you.

In this article, I have discussed autofocus modes, their differences, and when you should use them. Use single shot mode for the still subject, AI servo for the fast-moving subject, and AI focus for the unpredictable subject.

If you have any questions regarding autofocus modes, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

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