Should You Use Auto or Manual Focus for Videos?

There’s a time and place for everything, right? This saying is also true when you’re making videos and having to choose between manual or autofocus. Professional video makers will often advise you to use manual focus, but does that mean there’s no place for autofocus in making videos? Which one should you go with?

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Auto vs. Manual Focus for Videos

Here are some likely settings when you need to decide whether to use auto or manual focus when shooting videos.

When to use autofocus

Many digital cameras nowadays have great continuous autofocus that can help you take sharp videos without much involvement from you. It would be a shame to let it go to waste, right? Well, here are three scenarios when you should let the camera move those lenses about.

Fast-moving objects are involved

Let’s suppose you’re filming your kids playing on the beach. There’s no script and the kids are moving wherever they feel like it. Sometimes they zigzagging side to side, other times they’re moving away or towards the camera. Keeping the camera on autofocus is preferable for this situation.

You’re mainly a photographer

Switching between shooting pictures to movies and having to deal with manual focus is a pain. Nobody got time for that. If your line of work mostly involves taking still pictures, keep your work simple and go with autofocus.

You don’t have time to practice

Many DSLR cameras have focus peaking, a tool that helps you focus on your target. Making a sharp video with manual focus is too easy with the help of focus peaking. The thing is, you still need to practice. You need to know how much you need to turn the focus ring when the objects shift from one place to the next. When you’re pressed with time, just let the camera take the burden off your shoulders.

When to use manual focus

The followings are three scenarios where manual focus is preferable.

The objects stay in one place

Imagine vloggers doing reviews or streaming a game while sitting. Any setting that requires the object to stay in one place where the distance between the camera and the object remains roughly the same doesn’t need autofocus. All you need is to adjust the manual focus before starting the video and you’re set.

The camera has slow autofocus

When the camera spends too much time hunting a moving object, you’ll end up a blurry video most of the time. No amount of post-processing or video format conversion can give you a decent result. For this situation, you don’t have a choice other than getting the manual focus right.

You may need to move about to accommodate the object’s movement and keep everything sharp. Having a good-quality gimbal will help in this case. A sharp yet shaky video is still useless.

You’re making macro video

Just like macro photography, macro videography is a special case when you’re dealing with a very narrow depth of field (DOF) and large apertures. In this setting, focusing is paramount. You must rely on the manual focus to ensure that super tiny object is looking sharp.


Both auto and manual focus has its place when it comes to making videos. Sometimes you need to go manual and sometimes you just need to let the camera do the hunt. It’s all up to the man (or woman) behind the lens to make the call.

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