Nowadays days, almost every DSLR camera comes with many focal points — 9, 11, 22 etc. Many of them provide us with settings to manually chose a focus point while shooting images, apart from the auto-selection of focus point based on the in-device calculations.

Can we select multiple focus points while shooting something, say a portrait? In the current scenario while I have control over a single point (which we, or the camera can stress upon) and having a shallow DOF, if I focus on the nose, the eyes get blurred slightly. Of course, I can always increase the DOF, but here I don't want to. I want to select multiple focus points. This sounds a little kinda against the rule of optics though.

PS: I have a canon EOS 550D.


4 Answers 4


Offhand I don't remember the model, but if memory serves Canon did build at least one model of (film) EOS that allowed you to select a number of focus points, and it would then select the aperture necessary to assure that those all fell within the depth of field. I'm not aware of their ever having done the same in a digital camera though.

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    As a matter of fact, older DSLRs had this. The last Canon camera to have this was the 10D (In the prosumer line, I'm not sure about other lines...) When I got my 20D, my friend and former 10D owner wasn't impressed with the lack of this capability... Mar 28, 2011 at 21:16
  • @Personartphoto: Ah, I hadn't realized that (obvoiusly!) It would be interesting to know why they dropped it -- it seems like a good fit on a digital camera (with the ability to adjust the ISO to compensate for the aperture, if necessary). Mar 28, 2011 at 22:50
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    I suspect it was a very little used feature. It was replaced by the current A-DEP mode. I actually think both of them had the same name, but I'd have to ask someone who actually owned a 10D... Mar 28, 2011 at 23:55

With current cameras, you cannot force choose two specific points to be in focus, however there are a couple of options that can help you out:

Allowing the camera to choose focus points will highlight all those in focus (although it may cause the lens to hunt for focus more, and possibly pick something other than what you'd like).

The other option is the A-DEP mode which I believe is available on the 550D - this allows the camera to adjust the aperture to get as many points as possible in apparent focus - this may end up with the background more in focus than you'd intend, and can take some getting used to.

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    You're right. The A-DEP mode is probably the only mode that allows multiple focus points to be selected. However, we lose control over aperture and shutter speed which is totally ridiculous :|
    – Rish
    Mar 29, 2011 at 6:28
  • @Rish ultimately it's a choice of which variable you control - aperture (and associated depth of field), or shutter speed - A-DEP is effectively calculating an aperture to use for aperture priority, so it doesn't seem that unreasonable to me. Mar 29, 2011 at 7:54
  • Aperture and/or Shutter Speed should have NO effect on focus. Isn't? That's why I find this ridiculous.
    – Rish
    Mar 29, 2011 at 8:20
  • @Rish Lenses focus at a single distance -- aperture affects how far away from that distance appears to be in focus (i.e. depth of field). The shutter speed is just the balancing figure to get the correct exposure. Mar 29, 2011 at 9:42

It is kind of "against" the rule of optics, in the sense that there can be exactly one perfectly focused plane in the image. Anything else "in focus" is just within an acceptable depth of field such that your eyes don't know different.

I don't know any cameras that offer multiple selection points in the sense that you're imagining.

You can always focus stack if you can multiple images with different focus points and it MIGHT get the effect you're looking for.


As you suspect, it's impossible. The lens can only be focused at one distance. Essentially, there's no need for multiple focus points because aperture control achieves the same thing more easily.

In the example you give of a face, closing the aperture by only a third of a stop should give you enough depth of field to capture both the nose and eyes sharply while keeping everything beyond them out of focus.

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