Video Tutorials

Canon 7D Mark II Auto Focus- Pt 1 Setting Up The Camera Controls for Ai Servo

Canon’s 7D mk2 has a powerful and accurate autofocus system. The camera also has a full set of controls, which help users make the most of all the autofocus functionality, and this is one of the differentiators between the 7Dmk2 and other Canon cameras lower down in the range like the EOS 80D, 70D and the 760D. For my wildlife photography needs, I set up my own 7Dmk2 autofocus to operate on the shutter release button. Further to this, I take a little time to configure the controls for Ai Servo operation, so that I am able to minimize unnecessary button presses or eliminate extra menu steps, whilst shooting. I also enable direct autofocus point selection via the multi-controller. In this video I will take time to explain how I make these setup changes, and the reason behind my choices. The camera has so many options that for those shooters coming to the AF system for the first time, it can be almost overwhelming. However, working through the autofocus system step by step, with new videos for each aspect, makes it easy to become more confident with setting up the autofocus on your own camera.

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For Part 2 of the series, click here

About the Author:

I am a guide and a photographer, with a deep interest in all things to do with nature. I am based in Cape Town, South Africa, but travel often to wild places whilst leading photographic safaris, and enjoying the outdoors.

28 Responses to “Canon 7D Mark II Auto Focus- Pt 1 Setting Up The Camera Controls for Ai Servo”

  1. GB Jordaan Says: March 22, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Keep them coming Grant!! Extremely helpful!!

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 23, 2016 at 9:46 am

      Thanks GB

  2. Etienne Oosthuizen Says: March 22, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Nice Grant, I have found a great 7Dmk but with ODP, they holding it for me … excited

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 23, 2016 at 9:54 am

      HI Etienne
      Thanks for the feedback, and I am looking forward to seeing what you produce with that camera 🙂

  3. Rory Russouw Says: March 23, 2016 at 5:02 am

    Thank you Grant. I have just bought my 7D mark II and am going to Kruger next week this will help a lot.

  4. Michael Price Says: March 23, 2016 at 6:24 am

    Thanks for this Grant….look forward to more.
    How do I get the Focus Point to display in the Viewfinder?

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 23, 2016 at 9:51 am

      Hi Michael
      In the Pink/Purple AF Menu, which is the second Menu along the top level, just to to the last tab, which is the fifth screen in the AF menu, and starts with Manual AF Pt Selection.
      Move down to the second menu option “AF Point Display During Focus” and choose from the options. There are five options, from having no point showing at all, along with four other choices. I prefer All (constant) so i can see where available point placement is?
      Hope that helps

  5. DaveT Says: March 23, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Hi Grant,

    Thanks for a very useful video tutorial on options to set up the AF system on this camera. I am a back button focus user myself, but can appreciate the benefit of using the focusing button in default mode with AI Servo as you describe. I wasn’t ware of the AF Off function being used in the way you describe so that’s another option to consider should I need it.

    What I absolutely love with this camera is the immense array of options for customising the buttons and setting. It does, as someone has already mentioned, take quite a bit of getting used to, but once one becomes familiar with the options it makes the benefits of customising to personal preferences a really useful feature.

    I have my AF On button set up to focus (as a conventional back button focuser) and the AE Lock Button (*) set up to also back button, but instantly swap to a different AF Case Mode (Mode 5) and at the same time swap to Centre Point AF, surrounded by eight assist points. This means that if I am focusing on something like an animal on the ground, then suddenly become aware of a bird in flight shooting past in the sky, I can just move my thumb to the adjacent button and be set with a completely new set of AF Points and a potentially more suitable Case Mode for a chance of catching that momentary action in the sky.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your videos Grant – keep up the good work.


    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 23, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      Dave, you are totally right about the immense array of set up options that the 7Dmk2 offers. You really can set it up almost suit any personal preference imaginable. I actually get quite excited when I think that this level of setup options far exceeds that found in even Canon’s former flagship 1D body from a few years ago, the 1Dmk4. And you get it for less than half the price that i paid back then for that particular 1D. 🙂
      That is a nice trick that you describe for setting up the AE Lock Button which is actually one that I never use myself. I usually just set mine to the same as AF-Off in case I inadvertantly press it in the heat of the moment instead of AF-Off >
      Again ,thanks for that

  6. Muller Dirker Says: March 23, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Grant
    Again a very good video and axplanation from you.Thanks a lot. I’m leaving for the Kgalagadi on Saturday 26 March (27march -15April)
    1DX with 500 1:4 L
    7DM11 with 70x200M11(2.8)

    Thanks for all your help and advice much appreciated.


    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 23, 2016 at 7:48 pm

      Hi Muller
      Thanks for the feedback, and I look forward to your images 🙂
      You have a great combination of bodies and lenses for the Kalahari..

  7. Nancy Says: March 24, 2016 at 3:28 am

    I know I’ve said it a million times but you have the ability to explain what seems complicated and overwhelming to me in a way that is easy for me to understand. I am so grateful that I discovered you! Look forward to more video. You have a skill that not all that common.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 24, 2016 at 5:57 am

      Hi Nancy
      Glad you found the video useful, of course it hellps breaking down the autofocus system into smaller sections at a time 🙂
      More to come

  8. Thinus Schoeman Says: March 24, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Hi Grant

    Very useful information as always!
    Thanks for all the advice!


  9. Deon Kotze Says: March 25, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Thanx Grant for the video. I have the 5D MKIII and quite a few things are similar. I am looking forward to the next videos on the “tracking” etc… 🙂

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 25, 2016 at 9:25 am

      Hi Deon
      Thanks for the feedback. I am aiming to cover the entire AF setup of the 7Dmk2, and as you say, much of it is the same or similar to the 5Dmk3. I am hoping to do some work on the 5Dmk3 as well 🙂

  10. Michael Price Says: March 26, 2016 at 6:02 am

    Thanks for the explanation Grant…..just loving theses video’s. Well done and thank you very much for your efforts. Are you going to do the 5D Mk3 after these. It will be great to see just what the differences are.
    All the best

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 26, 2016 at 7:01 am

      Hi Michael
      Thanks for the feedback, and I think there may be enough folk using the 5Dmk3 that I will do something similar. Amongst the 7Dmk2, the 5Dmk3, 5DSR and the 1DX, there are several aspects of the autofocus where the options are pretty much identical, like Spot AF, or Single Point AF, but then there are others, like Ai Servo Focus Priority, where I have found that the cameras behave quite differently. In other words, yes, I will be aiming to cover the 5Dmk3 🙂

  11. Graham Button Says: March 30, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Hi Grant,
    Thanks for a great set of tutorials. By following your set up instructions I have at last been able to fathom out the intricate way in which the AF operates. I am sure that my future wildlife images will be much improved.
    Thank you for taking the time out to produce these videos.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 30, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      Hi Graham
      So good for me to read your feedback here, and thanks so much for taking time out to let me know. I aim to keep adding to and expanding the video library as much as i can in the months ahead 🙂
      Hope you get some great shots with the camera.

  12. Deon Kotze Says: March 31, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Yes I agree with Graham. I have also studied the operation of the AF system thoroughly…which is nearly the same as my 5Diii….but…I need a one-on-one with the master…on this matter. 🙂

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 31, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Hi Deon
      Glad you are finding the videos useful. I still have more to come on the 7Dmk2, and will also try to produce a similar series for the 5Dmk3. The 7Dmk2 and 5Dmk3 share much of their autofocus system, but the cameras do have different processors, and there are some differences in the way that they behave.

  13. Deon Kotze Says: March 31, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Ok…thanx Grant! I will wait till we are done with the 5Diii. Will check if all my study notes are the same.. :-). Thanx for the videos…Will be away next week but will check up here again..

  14. Arrie Says: April 7, 2016 at 6:42 am

    Grant as always very useful and practical info, looking forward to the rest.

  15. Brian McMahon Says: April 28, 2016 at 9:30 am

    Top rate information and very useful, as usual Grant. Thank you.

  16. Brogan Says: May 5, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks Grant, very useful. I’m keen to try your alternative technique to back button focus.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 6, 2016 at 7:02 am

      Thanks Brogan
      There will be another 7D Mark 2 AF video posted in the coming week :-).


  17. Padraic Heneghan Says: December 27, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Grant – thanks so much for this series of videos. Very helpful.
    Padraic Heneghan

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