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Using Canon 5D Mark IV’s Auto-Focus While Shooting Video

Jourdan Aldredge

In this article, we take a look at what you need to know about Canon’s auto-focus (Servo AF) before shooting video for your next project.

All images via Canon.

As a video offering, the Canon 5D is one of the best available options for prosumers and professional videographers alike. Along with its top-tier DSLR and mirrorless options — like the Panasonic GH5 and the Sony a7S — the Canon 5D has all the bells and whistles to help digital filmmakers do their jobs.

One intriguing feature of Canon’s 5D mark IV that is unique to the offering is Canon’s auto-focus technology. This “Movie Servo AF” — which is based off the same photography AF technology — gives video professionals the power to let their camera focus for them. Let’s look at how it works — and some tips for using Canon’s AF.

Turning on Movie Servo AF

Using Canon 5D Mark IV’s Auto-Focus While Shooting Video — Movie Servo AF

To begin, you’ll need to know where to turn your Movie Servo AF on and off. You can find the option in the menu (button on the top left of your camera). As the Canon 5D has advanced, so have its menu options, which can now take quite a bit of scrolling to get through. Scroll through to the fourth page of the camera options (the red section), which you can see above, to toggle between enabled and disabled.

Note: for all normal shooting functionality with the Canon 5D mark IV, make sure the Servo AF is disabled, or you may get some unwanted focusing in your shots.


Using Canon 5D Mark IV’s Auto-Focus While Shooting Video — Pausing/Locking

Once your Movie Servo AF is enabled, you will see it show up on your viewfinder screen in the bottom left corner (pictured above). You can then use the touch screen to pause or un-pause the technology by simply pressing it. When it’s on (as pictured above), the SERVO AF icon will be green. When it’s off, the icon will turn dark grey. You can also set and customize manual buttons for pausing and locking — like the “SET” button in the middle of the dial on the right, or the Depth of Field Preview button on the front of your camera to the left of the lens.

Auto Focus Methods

Using Canon 5D Mark IV’s Auto-Focus While Shooting Video — Auto Focus

For more options using the Movie Servo AF, you can go into the menu after enabling the Servo AF to choose one of three auto focus methods. You can also change the method from the viewfinder screen by pressing the Q button on the touchscreen. The Canon 5D mark IV offers a tracking mode, FlexiZoneAF Multi, and FlexiZoneAF Single. Each method serves a different purpose and can be helpful on a wide variety of shots. Let’s look at the three options.


Using Canon 5D Mark IV’s Auto-Focus While Shooting Video — Tracking

The tracking option is one of the most useful of the Canon 5D mark IV’s Servo AF functionalities. Using Canon’s facial tracking technology, you can simply have your camera track and auto-focus in real time as your subject moves around the screen. This is great when shooting talking-head interviews or anything with a stationary (or mostly stationary) camera and a single subject.

FlexiZone Multi

Using Canon 5D Mark IV’s Auto-Focus While Shooting Video — FlexiZone Multi

The FlexiZoneAF Multi is more useful for videographers who are shooting landscapes. The Multi option automatically focuses on the largest object in the foreground of the composition. (For more information on foreground, middle ground, and background terms and theory, check out this article.) From there, you can still tap on the touchscreen to shift focus to a different option. This is helpful when shooting environments, and it gives you a secure starting focus for any shot — which you can move on from when you find a good opportunity.

FlexiZone Single

Using Canon 5D Mark IV’s Auto-Focus While Shooting Video — FlexiZone Single

Finally, the FlexiZoneAF Single puts the Servo AF technology at your fingertips. This setting allows you to manually set focus wherever you want in your frame by simply tapping the touchscreen on the person or object you’d like to be in focus. You can also drag the focus by tracing your finger across the touchscreen, and the focus will follow. This is best when using a tripod on a set shot (so that you have a free hand).

Changing Speed and Tracking Sensitivity

Using Canon 5D Mark IV’s Auto-Focus While Shooting Video — Speed and Tracking Sensitivity

After you’re comfortable with the Servo AF technology, you can further tweak aspects like speed and tracking to your liking. The speed option (which you can toggle across a scale) defines how quickly or slowly your focus gets set. It’d be the same as manually pulling a rack focus shot with the focus ring with a quick twist or a slow turn. The tracking sensitivity defines the speed at which the AF technology tracks subjects and objects across the screen. If you want it quick and sharp in a shot with lots of motion, crank it up to keep up.

You can find out more about using the Servo AF in this video or on Canon’s website here. For more camera and focus tips and tricks, check out some of the great articles below.

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