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AI Servo, AI Focus or One Shot? Must Know Before Selecting the Focusing Mode

Focusing is one of the important action to be done by a photographer. He either does that or his camera automatically by AF system( by One shot, AI Focus or AI servo mode) doing it for him. In this century with the rapid development of technology, camera technology has gone too far that focusing is done by using artificial intelligence incorporated into the camera.

An AF system which can differentiate the still and moving subject and focus accordingly using artificial intelligence is a standard criterion for a camera. But the demand of the photographers is not limited within this. They want the sharpest image using this artificial intelligence of the camera both for still and moving subject.

Fortunately, camera industries have brought this technology (One shot, AI Focus or AI servo mode)  in the cameras long before and they are always trying to upgrade this intelligence day by day. But, as a photographer do we know how and when to use this technology (One shot, AI Focus or AI servo mode) given to our camera by the industries after their long research? Yes, many of us know that. But if you are new to photography, then you must know about the use of this artificial intelligence.

General Idea: AI Servo/ AI Focus/ One Shot

The artificial intelligence of camera for focusing has got two basic AF system modes basing on the state of inertia of the subject. These are One shot and AI servo. AI focus is another mode or intelligence which selects the already mentioned two modes as and when required.

In this article, I shall discuss the artificial intelligence of the camera, when and how to use them. I hope, at the end of the article you will get a clear idea about using these modes for shooting any pictures.

What is AI?

AI means artificial intelligence. Those who use canon they have seen this in their camera. However, these are names as AF system or autofocus in some other cameras. As I use Canon, therefore, I am going to use the word AI.  Again, AF which is used in Nikon, means autofocus and autofocus are done by the artificial intelligence of the camera.

What is One Shot?

One Shot AF system

One shot is an artificial intelligence of the camera by which the camera operates the lens to focus on a particular point or points of the subject when the subject remains static. Here the movement of the camera is also a point to remember because movement or motion is a relative thing according to physics. In comparison to AF servo, this mode consumes less battery power.

What is AI Servo?

AI servo is another mode of artificial intelligence of the camera by which the camera operates the lens to focus any subject continuously while the subject is moving. This is also termed as AF-C or autofocus continuously in Nikon cameras.

AI Servo AF system

This mode is used to track and shoot any moving subject. This mode consumes more battery power than the One-shot while operating. AI servo mode might not predict the subject and focus automatically if the speed is too fast.

What is AI Focus?

What if you see a subject who remains static and there is a chance of moving which you can’t predict? Well, there is another AF system or mode named as AI focus. This will automatically select the required mode between One shot and AI servo depending on the situation.

AI Focus

This is a hybrid mode of the camera. However, this might not always function in line with the intention of the photographer. Most of the photographers do not like to use this and let the camera decide the focusing mode.

When to Use One Shot?

Suppose you are going to capture a portrait or any still life photography. In this situation, you know the behavior of the subject. This subject will remain static, or they will remain in the place where you tell it to be. It’s like pose and capture situation.

How to use One Shot AF system

In this situation, One shot or single shot is the perfect mode for focusing. But once you have locked your subject by pressing the trigger half, then if you move with your camera or your subject moves then you have to release the trigger and press half again for getting focused once again.

When to Use AI Servo?

You are planning to make an action sequence photo with many frames. The subject you are planning is a pole vaulter or a high jumper. You have planned to take all the steps he is going to take. Maybe, you are planning to take from the moment he leaves the ground up to the time he lands on the landing bed.

Here your subject will change his position with the change of time. But you don’t have time to change your focus after a change in each position.

How to use AI Servo

You may again plan to have a picture of a bird from a moving boat. In this case, you and your subject both are moving. You may also plan to capture something which is on the river bank, but you are on a moving boat. In this situation also the position of the subject of the lens will move. So, these are the time or situation during which you need to select the AI Servo AF system while shooting a photo.

When to Use AI Focus?

How To Use AI FocusAI focus is used when the photographer is confused about the situation. Suppose you are shooting a Butterfly which is static on a flower and there is a chance of flying away.

But you want to capture it anyhow. Or a subject is static, and you need to move for changing the angle, the time you get the perfect angle you will press the trigger finally. This is the situation you can select AI focus when your camera intelligence will automatically shift your mode to the required one.

What Photographers Say about AI Focus?

Unfortunately, this mode is less welcomed and less appreciated by photographers. Most of their opinion is that AI Focus is not fast enough to switch to One shot or AI Servo. Even few termed it a nonfunctional mode.

Thought it’s not nonfunctional, but its late response has made its reputation a bad one. One shot and AI servo work well in most of the cameras. Experienced photographers recommend to avoid the AI focus and suggest to use either One Shot or AI Servo depending on the situation.

Is There Any Mode that Serves AI Servo, AI Focus, One Shot Equally?

If there is something which can detect anything in motion can certainly detect anything in rest. So it is easy to understand which mode can be selected that serves both purposes. Keeping your AF system mode in AI servo mode will let you focus anything whether it is static or in motion.

Then what is the disadvantage or demerit of it? It will cost you more battery consumption. If you have a lens which is poor in autofocus will make you bothered and not let you take the appropriate photo.

Why not Manual Focusing instead of AI Servo/ AI Focus/ One Shot?

Manual focusing is something where you need to either measure or use your sense and vision to get the perfect shot. To get the best shot, a photographer will usually select the manual mode. If you want to focus on something which is inside a bush or tree and there are many more things which may make the focusing confused, then you must select the manual mode for focusing.

Selecting the auto mode will make you irritated as the AI of the camera will not understand which is the subject you want to focus on.

Is Manual Mode Suitable for the New Photographer?

Every photographer starts new. They start everything, and their start becomes the start of their practice which someday makes them an experienced photographer. No one starts knowing everything. Because photography is not only a theory. It’s practical too. So, just start and continue. Gradual practice will take you to perfection. Manual focusing AF system is not suitable for a new photographer, but it’s essential for him to make it suitable shortly.

What is the Recommended Mode, AI Servo/ AI Focus/ One Shot?

Photography is science; photography is art, photography is mathematics, etc. But photography is more of art than others. It’s the outcome of your imagination and creativity. Your creative mind will say you which one to select.

But before that, you need to know about all of them clearly, and you need to know their practical use as well. Then you will be able to select the perfect one. Remember it’s not the camera which will decide your settings rather it’s your skill and assessment that gonna let you decide the settings.

The Last Words: AI Servo/ AI Focus/ One Shot

Blur subject is the main reason which spoils a photo than the other causes do. One Shot, AI Servo and AI focus are three technologies that help to focus automatically in a different situation. Depending on the situation, you need to select any one of these.

It is always you who is going to select the required one, but your knowledge about these is a must. After learning all, you have to practice on the ground. Peoples recommendations may not always match with you. So learn and try One Shot, AI servo and AI Focus practically. Hope you will learn and will be able to use these perfectly.


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