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I recently bought a Canon 7D and Ive noticed that occasionally the AF points are orange. What conditions cause this? It seems like it is a warning of some sort.

Usually when the camera focuses on a subject, one or a number of AF points are shown in the viewfinder outlined in black. Under certain circumstances the AF points flash orange once just as it achieves focus before they turn black. I've suspected that this might mean that focus was not properly achieved, yet the focus confirmation indicator in the bottom right of the viewfinder is solid and not flashing. According to the manual, that means that focus has been positively achieved.

I have read through the entire section on auto focusing and I have not found mention of the orange vs black AF points. I can scan around my living room with the camera and against certain subjects I get these orange AF points.

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Can you name the objects? –  Regmi Mar 22 '13 at 3:44

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The color is actually red. The flash of red indicates the moment AF locked onto your subject. The points that flash are the AF points that achieved a focus lock. With the 7D, this only happens in single-shot AF mode, but it IS normal behavior. If you have one of the viewfinder grid displays on, the whole grid will also flash.

I believe it is possible to enable this functionality to only occur under darker circumstances. When the bulk of the frame is dark (below 18% gray, as read by the meter), then usually the red flashing will occur. This is because the viewfinder uses a transmissive LCD, which makes the black AF points semi-translucent. They can easily disappear into a dark scene, making them impossible to see. They flash to give you a moment to see what is actually in focus under those circumstances.

If you switch to AI Servo mode, the flashing will no longer occur. Some people love this, however others who use AI Servo exclusively (such as myself) have found it to be an often frustrating feature...even though I may use continuous AF drive, it is still helpful to know periodically which AF points lock on (beyond just the focus confirmation dot...which doesn't actually tell you anything about which AF points actually acquired focus.) In single-point mode, this doesn't matter much...the AF confirm dot does the job. In any multi-point mode (which, with the 7D, you have several...expanded, zone, and all points), flashing red would be useful (and is rumored to be coming in a future firmware update.)

If you do NOT like this feature, you can disable it with the menus. Sadly, my 7D is off for repair and calibration, so I cant go digging through the menus to tell you exactly which one. It is either the custom function menus, or one of the red or yellow menus.

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okay, this certainly seems consistent with what is happening. as long as the subject is bright there is no flash. the orange (or red) is strictly for visibilty when the subject is dark. and yes switching to ai servo essentially turns off the flashing, which kind of makes sense, otherwise you could potentially get the red flash constantly as it refocusses. so there are no corrective measures i need to take, then. it is just an undocumented 'feature'. –  Octopus Mar 22 '13 at 4:04
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I found the menu setting to control it as you suggested. It is under the C.Fn III: Autofocus/Drive, submenu 8 VF display illumination, which can be set to disable (always off), enable (always on), or auto (behaves as you explained). Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, @jrista. –  Octopus Mar 22 '13 at 4:21
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I've found that if the setting is on "Auto" then all of the points will also flash when the background is much brighter than the subject that is in focus. It is a kind of a "backlight warning indicator". –  Michael Clark Mar 22 '13 at 10:23

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