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Nikon D3300: Select the AF-Area Focus Mode

The Nikon D3300’s AF-area mode tells the camera what part of the frame contains your subject so that it can set the focusing distance correctly. For Live View photography and movie recording, the camera offers these settings:

  • Wide Area: In this mode, you use the Multi Selector to move a rectangular focusing frame around the screen to specify a focusing spot.)

  • Normal Area: This mode works the same way as Wide Area autofocusing but uses a smaller focusing frame. The idea is to enable you to base focus on a very specific area. With such a small focusing frame, however, you can easily miss your focus target when handholding the camera.

  • If you move the camera slightly as you’re setting focus and the focusing frame shifts off your subject as a result, focus will be incorrect. For the best results, use a tripod in this mode.

  • Face Priority: Designed for portrait shooting, this mode attempts to focus on faces. Face Detection typically works only when your subjects are facing the camera, however. If the camera can’t detect a face, you see a plain red focus frame, and things work as they do in Wide Area mode. In a group shot, the camera typically focuses on the closest face.

  • SubjectTracking: This mode tracks a subject as it moves through the frame and is designed for focusing on a moving subject. But subject tracking isn’t always as successful as you might hope. For a subject that occupies only a small part of the frame — say, a butterfly flitting through a garden — autofocus may lose its way.

    Ditto for subjects moving at a fast pace, subjects getting larger or smaller in the frame (when moving toward you and then away from you, for example), or scenes in which not much contrast exists between the subject and the background.

    Scenes in which there’s a great deal of contrast can create problems, too. When the conditions are right, it works well, but otherwise the Wide Area setting gives you a better chance of keeping a moving subject in focus.

You can’t adjust this option in Auto mode or Auto Flash Off mode. In those two modes, the camera insists on using Face Priority mode. Nor do you have control in the Miniature Effects mode, which always uses Wide Area focusing. Subject Tracking mode isn't available for the Night Vision, Photo Illustration, Toy, Color Sketch, and Selective Color Effects modes.

In other exposure modes, adjust the setting using these options:

  • Control strip: Press the i button to activate the strip and then highlight the AF-area mode symbol, as shown on the left in this figure. Press OK to display the selection screen, as shown on the right. Highlight your choice and press OK.

    Access the AF-area mode via the control strip.
    Access the AF-area mode via the control strip.
  • Shooting menu: Select AF-area mode from the Shooting menu, as shown in this figure, and press OK. On the next screen, select Live View/Movie, as shown on the left in the second figure, and then press the Multi Selector right to display the selection screen shown on the right in the the figure. Make your choice and press OK.

    You also can change the setting via this Shooting menu option.
    You also can change the setting via this Shooting menu option.
    Select Live View/Movie (left) and press the Multi Selector right to uncover the Live View AF-area m
    Select Live View/Movie (left) and press the Multi Selector right to uncover the Live View AF-area mode settings (right).
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