I have been using Canon 5D Mark III since long but somehow never been able to get across this thing. With the advanced 61 point focus system which the Mark III has, I have always missed the ability to get the focus locked on a very small subject area.

With the smallest and simplest setting of having one focus point selected as below (which I use 100% of the time, being a wedding photographer): Single Point AF

I have explored Canon's learning center Here and here talking about single point spot AF but I have not been able to set the following small focus area system in the view-finder

Spot AF

I am not on AIServo or AI Focus and the point in the box still doesn't show up in the view-finder for any AF modes.

Here are my current settings: Current Settings 1 Current Settings 2 enter image description here


3 Answers 3


I am a 5D Mark III user, and make frequent use of the spot-AF mode as you describe.

To switch between AF modes on the 5D Mark III the first thing is:

DO NOT BE IN AUTO MODE (The green one on the dial). This will automatically select all 61 points as potential AF points and you can't change it. Use P/Av/Tv or M mode.

In your settings there you can choose Selectable AF Points as ALL 61 - this is no problem.

Now, raise your camera to your eye and look through the viewfinder. With your thumb, press the top-right most button on the back of the camera: enter image description here

You will see your AF points 'light up' (I think).

NEXT, cycle through the AF modes you have enabled, using the Multi-function button next to the shutter button:

enter image description here

You will see your original single-point AF change to the spot-AF and back again as you cycle through. Use the 'joystick' on the back of the camera (above the Q button) to move it around as you wish - to the centre point or otherwise.

Hope that helps...

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow! Thank you so much Mike! Can't believe this was that simple. All that's needed to be done was to "light up" the focus points by pressing the right most back button and then pressing the M-Fn button. The dot appeared inside the box and problem solved! \$\endgroup\$
    – Rish
    May 15, 2014 at 12:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are welcome... The little 'AF grid' icon next to that button on the back gives a clue as to its purpose ;-) Plus, hate to say it, but this is all in the manual ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Mike
    May 15, 2014 at 14:52

One of the most common issues that can cause Single Point Spot AF to not function even when enabled in the settings is if you are in Case 5 or Case 6 for AF shooting modes. Neither of these modes supports using the Single Point Spot AF.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @AJ. I know 5D Mark III's focus system is far superior than any other camera out there. And maybe, for several use cases (like bird photography, using cross-type focus info, high speed sports photography etc.) it really is. For me, I have always, and still need one single point of focus which should be precise and point small so that I control where it gets locked 100%, all the time. That's something I'm not able to achieve here. Sure, I have the option to manually select the center box, but still the area is too big. I want a dot, not a box. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rish
    May 12, 2014 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rish - You can do a very small dot. Use your AF mode selection to go to the one that looks like the second picture you posted and it will be a very small spot. If that option isn't available, you need to go in to your settings and enable that mode (each of the different focus modes can be turned on or off from the settings menus). \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    May 12, 2014 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rish - also, even with the larger square (like your first image), I've never had any focus issues doing wedding photography. I end up with issues if the subject is moving and ends up out of place before I recompose, but that isn't the fault of the AF system. Note that moving from a T3i to a FF like the 5D Mark iii, depth of field becomes considerably more shallow and thus the focus also becomes considerably less forgiving if there is any subject movement. It most likely comes down to some form of user error resulting in your out of focus shots. I went from an xTi to 5Dm3 and had to adjust \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    May 12, 2014 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ "though it can be tricky to get the composition right on the fly shooting a wedding and the multi-point zone AF is a little more hit or miss" Exactly why I want to make things simple and have one dot point. And I'm not new to the 5D. I have had it for maybe over a year and have shot extensively. While it has performed well for several thousand shots, there were still 5 or 10 I missed because of this. Picture this, you're far away, beside a small door opening. Now I want to focus on your face. Right now, my focus "box" would focus on the door & not on your very small face. My shot is screwed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rish
    May 12, 2014 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here are my current settings. I still can't get a point dot, inside the box center focus point in the viewfinder. imgur.com/a/icrWO \$\endgroup\$
    – Rish
    May 12, 2014 at 20:22

I think he means the extra small dot that shows up in the box. This is able to be turned on by 1: making sure the small dot is enabled in the "Select AF area selec. mode" (just enable them all I say) 2: look into the viewfinder and press the + button with the box around it (to the right of the * button on back of camera) and then use the M-Fn button to scroll through the AF point options. You cant get rid of the box, but you can make the focus point smaller by using that option. I borrowed a cameras which had this enabled and searched forever on how to get that extra AF point to light up. Just stumbled upon it by accident pressing buttons after reading the first few posts in here. hope that helps.


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