One of the issues with compact system or mirrorless system cameras in the past was that their autofocus (AF) systems were too slow to shoot sport. Now, however, things have improved significantly and consequently photographers are expecting to see the advanced focusing controls that are found in high-end SLRs. As the flagship model in Panasonic’s Lumix G-series, the GH5 has a sophisticated AF system. In this guide to the Panasonic GH5 Focus modes, we explain what the settings do along with how and when or why to use them.

Simple Guide to the Panasonic GH5 Focus modes: Focus mode controls

Just to the left of the thumb-rest on the back of the GH5 is a switch that allows you to swap quickly between AFS/AFF (Autofocus Single / Autofocus Flexible), AFC (Autofocus Continuous) and MF (Manual Focus).

The choice between AFS and AFF mode is made via the option in the first page of the Main menu. If AFF is selected the camera will attempt to keep the subject in focus if it moves, but movement can’t be predicted.

AFF mode is useful mode to use if you can’t predict whether the subject will be still or motionless, but as a rule it’s best to use AFS mode with stationary subjects and AFC with moving subjects.

Panasonic GH5 vs a puppy

Simple Guide to the Panasonic GH5 Focus modes: Autofocus Modes

The GH5 has a total of 225 AF points, but it’s often advisable to take control over which are used to help the camera latch on to the right object in the frame. Consequently the GH5 offers six autofocus modes to determine which AF points are used. These are selected by pressing the Fn3 button on the back of the camera and then scrolling to the option you want, or tapping the icon on-screen. The options are as follows:

Face/Eye Detection: In this mode the GH5 can detect up to 15 faces. You’re still able to set an AF point by tapping on the screen, but if the camera detects a face it will focus on that. If it detects eyes in the face it will focus on the eye closest to the camera. If the box around the detected face is yellow, that face is in focus. If there additional faces in the scene they will be surrounded by a white box, but they will not be brought into focus.

Tracking AF: In this mode once the AF frame has been positioned over the subject and the shutter button pressed half-way, the camera will focus on the target and attempt to track it as it moves around the scene and as its distance from the camera changes. You can see the focus point moving around the frame and can judge it’s success at tracking the subject.

225-Area AF: In this mode the camera attempts to identify the subject and you’ll see the active areas highlighted in green. It’s also possible to tap an area of the screen that overlies the subject and vary it’s size (or the number of points used) via the control dials.

Custom Multi Area AF: When this mode is selected you can set the size and shape of the AF area. To set the shape, press the Fn3 button followed by the up navigation key. There are Horizontal, Vertical, Central and 3 Custom patterns available. The location of the active area is set with a tap on the screen, its size can be adjusted using the front or rear dials.

1-Area AF: This allows you to target a small area of the scene for focusing, but you can use the control dials to increase or decrease the size of the active zone as you need.

Pinpoint AF: In this mode the camera uses a small point for focusing and the screen enlarges when the shutter release is pressed down half-way to enable you to check the focusing.

Pro GH4 user Ross Grieve on shooting with the Panasonic GH5

Panasonic GH5 Focus modes: Which to use

While the Tracking AF mode can be very useful, it struggles to keep up with very fast moving subjects. As a general rule I try to use as small an area as possible as this allows me to ensure a specific area is sharp. As a result I find 1-Area AF the most useful and I very the size of the AF point depending the size of etc subject in the frame. However, if the subject is moving, you need to be able to keep the active area over it.

Custom Multi Area AF mode can be useful with moving subjects as it tells the camera to use AF points within a specific zone. It can be a good choice if you’re struggling to keep the 1-Area AF area over a moving subject.

Simple Guide to the Panasonic GH5 Focus modes: AF Custom Setting (Photo)

The GH5 has four sets of custom settings for the autofocus (AF) operation in AFC or AFF mode for stills photography. These are located in the Record menu and are only accessible once the focus mode switch has been set to AFC or AFF. They are designed for use as follows:

Set 1: Basic settings for general photography with moving subjects
Set 2: For use with a subject that gives in just one direction – for example a car on a track
Set 3: For use with subjects that make slow random movements and when objects are likely to come between the camera and the subject – perhaps when panning around a stadium with posts.
Set 4: For use with subjects that make rapid random movements – birds in flight, children and pets playing or sports.

Each set can be customised by setting specific values for the AF Sensitivity, AF Area Switching Sensitivity and Moving object prediction. The first two are adjustable within a range -2 to +2 while Moving object prediction has settings of 0, 1 and 2.

AF Sensitivity: Use a high value when the subject distance will change quickly and a low one when objects are likely to come between the camera and the subject. The latter prevents the camera focusing the lens on the object and then having to refocus on the subject.

AF Area Switching Sensitivity: Use a high value to trigger the camera to switch focus point quickly when the subject moves out of the AF area or a low value for slower, more gradual switching. A high value is useful for a fast subject moving in random directions.

Moving object prediction: A settings of 0 us suited for stationary subjects while 1 and 2 are for moving subjects, with 2 being more sensitive than 1.