Points in Focus Photography

AF Point Registration & Orientation Linking: Canon DSLR Setup Guide

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One trait of modern SLRs is the increasing numbers of AF points in the AF grid. In many ways, more points are definitely a good thing as it minimizes errors with focus and recompose, and provides better tracking information with moving subjects. Unfortunately, large AF grids area somewhat more difficult to navigate quickly compared to their predecessors.

Canon has introduced a number of measures beyond the traditional mechanism of simply reducing the number of selectable points to assist the photographer in getting the active AF point where they need it quickly. This article will work though two of those mechanisms, Orientation Linked AF points, and AF point registration, describing their utility and configuration.

Supported Cameras

Camera Orientation Linked AF points Registered AF Point
6D Yes, 3 orientations No
7D Yes, 3 orientations Yes, 1 or 1 per orientation
5D Mk. III Yes, 3 orientations Yes, 1 or 1 per orientation
EOS-1D
EOS-1Ds
No Yes, 1
EOS-1D Mk. 2
EOS-1D Mk. 2N
EOS-1Ds Mk. 2
No Yes, 1
EOS-1D Mk. 3
EOS-1Ds Mk. 3
No Yes, 1
EOS-1D Mk. 4 Yes, 3 orientations Yes, 1 or 1 per orientation
EOS-1D X
EOS-1D C
Yes, 3 orientations Yes, 1 or 1 per orientation

Overview of AF Point Registration and Orientation Linked AF Points

Chronologically the first mechanism Canon introduced to deal with increasingly large AF grids was the ability to register a second AF point that the photographer could quickly switch to. This feature first came to market on the EOS-1D and EOS-1v cameras. Canon continued to refine the registered AF point system with subsequent bodies eventually reaching the current design starting with the EOS 7D, and extending that functionality into the EOS 5D Mark III, EOS-1D Mk. IV and EOS-1Dx.

By registering an AF point, the photographer now has a quick way to move between points without having the thumb-stick of scroll across the AF field.

This can be put to use in a number of ways, for example if a photographer knows that their subject will be on the right side of the frame, they can select two AF points that will be approximately where they want the subject to be, one for the horizontal frame, and a second for the vertical frame. Then when they switch camera angles, they merely need to switch to the registered AF point and they already have the point where they want it.

With the EOS 7D, the above-described solution was partially replaced by linking the camera’s orientation to AF point selection. The camera could be configured to switch automatically to a different AF point when changing the camera’s orientation. Now instead of having to push a button to activate the other AF point, the change would happen automatically when the camera was rotated.

In addition to adding the new orientation linked functionality, Canon chose to continue have a mechanism for registering an AF point. In fact, they expanded the registration system to allow the user to register a point for each orientation.

The AF system in the 7D, 5D Mk. III, EOS-1D X, and EOS-1D C take things a step further by including the AF area selection as part what is stored for the registered AF point. On these bodies, not only can you have AF points conveniently located for expected compositions, but you can also switch from something like a 9-point expanded AF pattern or even automatic AF point selection to a single spot AF point for precise focusing.

The benefits of this functionality can be tremendous depending on your style of photography. For example, a bird photographer can set their camera up so they can quickly switch from a spot AF point for precisely focusing on a static subject, to a wide AF pattern for quickly acquiring and tracking a bird in flight. 

EOS 6D

AF Point Registration Orientation linked AF points
No Yes, 3 orientations
(horizontal; vertical, grip down; and vertical, grip-up)

The EOS 6D only supports orientation linked AF points, and it’s not difficult to see why. Though greatly improved the 6D’s AF system harkens back to the low point count AF systems of the 5D Mk. II, the 60D, and its predecessors. The system simply doesn’t have enough AF points to make navigating the AF grid in a hurry a problem. That said, the camera does retain orientation linked AF points, which is still handy even with the limited number of points for portrait work.

One nice oddity of the 6D’s more entry-level interface is that the dedicated multi-controller has been replaced by the integrated multi-controller/quick control dial. This change makes direct AF point selection with the multi-controller much more ergonomically friendly when using a battery grip.

Orientation Linked AF points

Orientation linked AF points are enabled and disabled though the C.Fn II-7 Orientation linked AF point.

Custom Functions That Affect AF Point Selection and Registration

Custom Function Function
C.Fn II-7: Orientation linked AF point Enables or disables Orientation Linked AF points. Setting or clearing this will clear the registered AF points.

 

EOS 7D

AF Point Registration Orientation linked AF points
Yes, 1 point in each orientation Yes, 3 orientations (horizontal; vertical, grip down; and vertical, grip-up)

The EOS 7D is the first camera where Canon really got behind the whole customization thing. It was, at its release, the most customizable Canon camera ever released. It also the debut platform for orientation linked AF points and the first non EOS-1 body to have registered AF points.

Orientation Linked AF Points

Orientation linked AF points are enabled and disabled though C.Fn III-12: orientation linked AF points. To enable orientation linked AF points, select option “1: select different AF points”.

Registering an AF Point

Like subsequent cameras, the 7D includes AF area mode as part of the registered point. Spot, single, both expansions and 19-point automatic modes can be registered; automatic zone AF mode however is not available with registered AF points.

Registration starts by selecting the AF area mode and desired AF point in the AF system. To register that point, tap the LCD backlight (backlight) button while holding down the AF point select (AF-point-select) button. The camera will indicate thsat there’s a registered AF point by displaying the small spot AF box where the registered point is.

Clearing the Registered AF Point

Because the 7D constantly displays the registered AF point in the viewfinder, Canon has provided a mechanism for clearing the registered AF point at will. This is accomplished by tapping the ISO/FEC (ISO-FEC) button while holding the AF point selection (AF-point-select) button.

Using the Registered AF point

The 7D started the trend of providing 2 methods of using the registered AF points, a toggle method where the registered AF point becomes the active AF point, and a temporary method where the camera focuses and meters with the registered AF point, but only while a button is held down.

The configuration of the controls to access the registered AF points is done though C.Fn IV-1: Custom Controls in the menus.

The following table shows the buttons that can be configured to what

Switch to registered AF point dof-preview Depth of Field Preview
LENS LENS*
Activate registered AF point and start focusing af-on AF-ON
exposure-lock Exposure Lock

* Lens button is available on some super-telephoto lenses.

For the second case, using the registered point while focusing and metering, it’s necessary to press the info button when the option is highlighted and choose to use the registered AF point, otherwise the camera will focus and meter using the main AF point. It’s also possible with this sub selection to use both the AF-ON and exposure lock buttons to auto focus with the main and registered AF points with the rear button focusing technique.

Custom Functions That Affect AF Point Selection and Registration

Custom Function Function
C.Fn III-12: Orientation linked AF point Enables or disables Orientation Linked AF points. Setting or clearing this will clear the registered AF points.
C.Fn IV-1: Custom Controls Setup of controls to enable using the registered AF point

 

First & Second Generation EOS-1 bodies

(EOS-1D, EOS-1D Mk. II, EOS-1D Mk. IIn,  EOS-1Ds, and EOS-1Ds Mk. II)

AF Point Registration Orientation linked AF points
Yes, 1 Point No

These cameras have a 45-point AF grid, of which by default all 45-points are selectable and can be used as the registered AF point. Neither body supports orientation linked AF points.

Registering an AF Point

Additionally these cameras allow the number of AF points to be constrained to 11 or 9 of the 45 points by setting C.Fn- 13.

An AF point is registered by selecting the AF point you want to register by pressing the AF point selection (old-af-point-select) button and using the main and quick-control dials to select the point. Then while holding the assist (assist-buttonbutton, press the flash exposure lock (flash-exposure-lock) button.

Using the Registered AF point

By default, switching to the registered AF point is done by pressing both the Assist (assist-button) and AF Point selection (old-af-point-select) buttons simultaneously. This behavior can be modified by C.Fn-18 Switch to registered AF point.

Setting C.Fn-18 to option 1 will switch to/from the registered focus point when only the Assist (assist-buttonbutton is pressed.

Setting C.Fn-18 is set to option 2 the camera will use the registered AF point only while the Assist (assist-buttonbutton is held down. Additionally if C.Fn-04 is set to either option 1 or 3, the camera will start focusing at the assist point.

Custom Functions That Affect AF Point Selection and Registration

Custom Function Function
C.Fn-13: Number of AF points/Spot metering Controls whether 45, 11, or 9 AF points are selectable and how secondarily whether the spot meter is tied to the selected point
C.Fn-18: Switch to registered AF point Controls the method of activating the registered AF point

 

Third Generation EOS-1D Bodies

(EOS-1D Mk III, EOS-1Ds Mk. III)

AF Point Registration Orientation linked AF points
Yes, 1 Point No

The 3rd generation EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds bodies made major changes to Canon’s professional AF system. While the system retains 45 AF points, only 19 of them are selectable by the user. The remaining 26 points are dedicated assist points. Additionally Canon added the multi-controller that has been on their consumer bodies since the EOS 20D.

Though the reduced number of selectable AF points and faster selection though the multi-controller contribute to making AF point selection faster, Canon elected to continue to include an AF point registration function, though admittedly the procedure for selecting the AF point is a little less elegant than it was on the previous models.

Changes to the selectable AF points function made to C.Fn III-9 will clear the registered AF point.

Any of the 19 user selectable AF points can be set as the registered AF point. In addition, automatic AF point selection can be registered.

Registering an AF Point

To register an AF point enter the AF point selection mode and set the current AF point to the one you want to register. Then press and hold the AF point select (AF-point-selectbutton and tap the ISO (ISObutton.

Using the Registered AF Point

The Mark 3’s offer two mechanisms for selecting the registered AF point. The most prominent is set with C.Fn III 10 Switch to Registered AF point. By setting this custom function to 1: Enable, pressing straight in on the multi-controller will switch between the current AF point and the registered AF point.

The second option is set though C.Fn III-6, Lens AF stop button function. Option 6: Switch to Registred AF point, allows switching to the registered AF point when the LENS (LENS) button is held and the FEL (flash-exposure-lockbutton is tapped.

Custom Functions That Affect AF Point Selection and Registration

Custom Function Function
C.Fn III-6: Lens AF stop button function Allows the AF stop button on some super telephoto lenses to be used to select the registered AF point.
C.Fn III-10: Switch to registered AF point Enables the ability to select the registered AF point by pressing the multi-controller straight in.

 

4th Generation EOS-1D

(EOS-1D Mk. IV)

AF Point Registration Orientation linked AF points
Yes, 1 Point in each orientation Yes, 3 orientations (horizontal; vertical, grip down; and vertical, grip-up)

The EOS-1D Mk. IV restored the fully selectable 45-point AF grid to the EOS-1D line, in addition to the registered AF point, the EOS-1D Mk. IV also added Orientation Linked AF.

For example, the first and second gen EOS-1D bodies used the Assist button to activate the registered AF point, and the assist button was located both on the main and vertical grips. As a result, it was equally easy to use the registered AF point regardless which grip you were using. The Mark 4 retains the Mark 3’s use of the multi-controller as the switch mechanism, and the multi-controller isn’t easily accessible from the vertical grip. The new selection option, which uses the exposure lock (exposure-lockbutton to select the registered point while held, is also somewhat limited in use.Though the EOS-1D Mk. IV brings back the much larger selectable AF grid, the registered AF point selection method is largely retained from the 3rd generation EOS-1D line. As a result, in many ways the situation is less than ideal in this configuration.

Orientation Linked AF Points

Orientation linked AF points are enabled by setting C.Fn III-16 (Orientation linked AF point) to option 1, selected different AF point. When the custom function is enabled, the camera will store the active AF point and a registered AF point for each of the 3 available orientations; horizontal, vertical with the main grip at the bottom, and vertical with the main grip at the top.

Registering an AF Point

AF point registration on the EOS-1D Mk. IV is handed the same way as it was on the Mark 3’s. Enter the AF point selection mode by pressing the AF point select button. Select the point you want to register. Then hold the AF point select (AF-point-selectbutton and tap the ISO (ISO) button.

If C.Fn III-16, Orientation linked AF points, is set to enable, then this procedure would need to be repeated for each orientation where a registered AF point is desired.

Using the Registered AF point

The EOS-1D Mk. IV retained the same two modes for selecting the registered AF point as the preceeding Mark 3’s did as well as adding a 3rd option.

The most accessible option is to use the “middle” button of the multi-controller (i.e. pressing straight in) to switch to the registered AF point. This is set by setting C.Fn III-11 to option 1.

Setting C.Fn III-11 to the new option 2, will cause the camera to switch to the registered AF point when the exposure lock (exposure-lock) button is held down.

Finally, C.Fn III-6, Lens AF stop button function, can be set to option 6, which allows the AF point to be switched by holding down the AF stop button (found on some super telephoto lenses) and taping the FEL button to switch to the registered AF point.

Custom Functions That Affect AF Point Selection and Registration

Custom Function Function
C.Fn III-6: Lens AF stop button function Allows the AF stop button on some super telephoto lenses to be used to select the registered AF point.
C.Fn III-11: Switch to registered AF point Enables the ability to activate the registered AF point by pressing the multi-controller or temporarily by holding the exposure lock button.
C.Fn III-16: Orientation linked AF point Enables or disables Orientation Linked AF points. Setting or clearing this will clear the registered AF points.

 

EOS 5D Mk. III  and 5th Generation EOS-1D

(EOS-1D X, EOS-1D C)

AF Point Registration Orientation linked AF points
Yes, 1 Point in each orientation Yes, 3 orientations (horizontal; vertical, grip down; and vertical, grip-up)

The EOS-1D X, EOS-1D C and EOS 5D Mk. III all share a remarkably similar AF system. Though the EOS-1D X and 1D C support some advanced features that the 5D Mk. III doesn’t, namely due to their more advanced RGB light meter, the operation of AF point selection and registration is very similar.

All three of these bodies take the concepts of registered AF points, orientation linked AF points, and end-user customization to the furthest extent of any Canon cameras to date.

Software enhancements to the AF system also contribute to the functionality of the system. Though beyond the scope of this article, AF point registration and orientation linked AF points store more than just the active point (or auto point selection), but the specific mode the AF system was working in; i.e. single point, single point spot, 4 point expansion, 8 point expansion, and 61-point auto AF modes. The notable exception is that Zone AF cannot be registered.From a physical interface perspective, all 3 of these cameras make strides in making the section of AF points, including the use of registered points more straightforward and easier. Primary to this is the introduction of a second multi-controller for the vertical grip—this is available on both the 1D X and 1D C as well as the BG-E11 grip for the 5D Mk. III.

It’s now possible to have for example, the normal AF point be an 8 point expanded mode for tracking objects in motion and the registered point be a single spot AF point for accurately focusing on a static subject.

Orientation Linked AF Points

The EOS-1DX, 1DC, and 5D Mk. III have abandoned custom functions for configuring AF options, and have instead promoted them to their own top-level menu. Enabling and disabling Orientation Linked AF points are now located under the AF-4 menu (purple). Enabling orientation linked AF points is done by selecting the section option, “Select separate AF points”, form the “Orientation linked AF point” menu entry.

Registering an AF Point

AF point registration is subtly different between the EOS-1D X and EOS-1D C, and the EOS 5D Mk. III due to the differences in the top panel controls.

For all three cameras, the first step is to select an AF area selection mode and the AF area or point to be used.

EOS 5D Mk. III EOS-1D X, EOS-1D C
Select an AF point selection mode (Single point, spot AF, AF point expansion, or 61-point Automatic) and the desired AF point (if not using 61-point Auto).
Tap the backlight button while holding the AF Point selection button. Tap the ISO button while holding the AF point selection button

If the registration is successful, the registered AF point will be indicated by a blinking AF point in the viewfinder.

Clearing the Registered AF Point

Unlike previous EOS-1D AF systems, the 5D Mk. III, EOS-1D X, and EOS-1D C display the registered AF point in the viewfinder. This can be distracting if it’s not needed, so Canon has provided a mechanism for clearing the AF point without also clearing the camera settings or making a major AF related setting change (i.e. disabling/enabling orientation linked AF points).

EOS 5D Mk. III EOS-1D X, EOS-1D C
Tap the ISO/Flash Exposure Compensation (ISO-FEC) button while holding the AF point selection (AF-point-select) button. Tap the Exposure Compensation (exposure-compensation) button while holding the AF point selection (AF-point-select) button.

Using the Registered AF point

Unlike prior EOS-1 bodies the 5th gen EOS-1 bodies accessing and using the registered AF points have become quite numerous and efficient. All of these settings are configured though the Custom Controls custom function menu.

EOS 5D Mk. III EOS-1D X, EOS-1D C

C.Fn 2: Custom Controls

Press the quick control ([Q]) button then the select on the custom controls icon.

C.Fn 5: Custom Controls

There are two ways to use the registered AF points, toggling between the active/registered AF point and activating it and starting the AF and metering system. The first case is similar to the functionality previously provided on the 3rd generation EOS-1D bodies and earlier. The latter option is similar to what you could do on the EOS-1D Mk. IV with the exposure lock button.

  EOS 5D Mk. III EOS-1D X, EOS-1D C
Switch to registered AF point dof-preview Depth of Field Preview
LENS LENS*
dof-preview Depth of Field Preview
m-fn2 M-Fn2
LENS LENS *
Activate registered AF point and start focusing af-on AF-ON
exposure-lock Exposure Lock

* Available on most super-telephoto lenses.

For the second case, using the registered point while focusing and metering, it’s necessary to press the info button when the option is highlighted and choose to use the registered AF point, otherwise the camera will focus and meter using the main AF point. It’s also possible with this sub selection to use both the AF-ON and exposure lock buttons to auto focus with the main and registered AF points with the rear button focusing technique.

Menu and Custom Functions That Affect AF Point Selection and Registration

Function Custom Functions for Camera
5D Mk. III EOS-1D X, EOS-1D C
Setup of controls to enable using the registered AF point C.Fn 2: Custom Controls C.Fn 5: Custom Controls
Enables/Disables Orientation Linked AF points AF 4: Orientation linked AF points

Comments

Andrew

Took over 5 web pages and various Youtube videos looking for how to register the AF point, your page solved it quickly. Thanks!

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