One of the first steps to taking a good photo is getting the subject in focus. There are a number of things, however, that can get in the way of that. We’ve found 11 reasons why your Canon camera might not focus, as well as the fixes for them.
My name is Caleb, and I’m a photographer with more than four years of experience. I personally use the Canon Rebel T7i as my main camera, and some of these problems are ones that I’ve run into myself.
In this article, I’ll go through all the possible causes and fixes for the “Canon camera won’t focus” issue. These fixes work for any Canon, whether you have an EOS 600D or a Rebel T6.
Keep reading, and we’ll get right into it.
- Reason 1: You Aren’t In Autofocus Mode
- Reason 2: The Lens Isn’t Mounted Correctly
- Reason 3: There’s Not Enough Contrast
- Reason 4: The Lens Is Dirty
- Reason 5: There’s Something in The Way
- Reason 6: You’re Too Close to The Subject
- Reason 7: The Camera Is Wet
- Reason 8: The Lens Needs Calibration
- Reason 9: Wrong Autofocus Mode
- Reason 10: The Lens Contacts Are Dirty
- Reason 11: Your Lens Isn’t Fast Enough
- Final Words
Reason 1: You Aren’t In Autofocus Mode
If your camera isn’t focusing, you might just have it set to the wrong mode. Most cameras these days offer both manual and autofocus modes.
As the name suggests, the former requires you to manually set the range to focus on using a focus ring. If you didn’t set the right range using the focus ring, the result will be an out-of-focus picture.
Fortunately, you don’t have to bother with this step if you don’t want to. Switching to autofocus mode is easy, and only takes seconds. There should be a switch on the body of your lens. You just have to flip from the MF mode to the AF one.
Reason 2: The Lens Isn’t Mounted Correctly
You should also check to make sure the lens is mounted correctly. As obvious as it may sound, this problem can creep up on you.
It’s easy to miss the lens being connected wrong, and you won’t be able to take pictures properly until it’s fixed.
If you are not sure whether the lens is on correctly, just disconnect and then reconnect it. If you’ve put it on right, you should hear a click.
Reason 3: There’s Not Enough Contrast
If the camera can’t tell the subject apart from everything surrounding it, you won’t get a good photo. Your camera uses contrast for this.
In areas where everything is the same color, like a room covered in dense shadow, the camera’s sensors won’t find enough contrast. This lack of contrast means the camera can’t tell your subject apart from their surroundings.
The only fix for this problem is changing the environment or changing your photo composition. For example, lighting up a dark room or moving a blue object to prevent it from blending in with the sky.
Reason 4: The Lens Is Dirty
There’s another reason your Canon camera might have trouble seeing. If the lens is dirty, that can get in the way of the sensors doing their job.
If you run into this problem, you’ll want to fix it by cleaning the lens with a microfiber cloth. There are also blowers that let you blow dust out of the way without touching the glass yourself and getting more fingerprints on it.
When a regular microfiber cloth isn’t enough, there’s also cleaning liquid and tissues made just for camera lenses. Not every photographer uses specialized items like these for cleaning, but they might be useful if the other methods still leave you with a dirty lens.
Reason 5: There’s Something in The Way
If the scene is too cluttered, your camera might have trouble focusing on one spot. For example, trying to focus on a small animal in dense grass could easily see your camera focus on the grass instead.
This is another one that you can fix by thinking about your composition. Sometimes, simply changing your angle can give you a clearer view.
Reason 6: You’re Too Close to The Subject
Just like your eyes, a camera lens can’t see something that is placed too close. Different lenses have different minimum ranges, but the principle stays the same across all of them.
If you try to focus on something too close, you’ll probably just hear the lens continuously adjusting as the autofocus tries and fails to find focus.
This one is easy to fix, as it only takes backing up a bit. The distance needed depends on your specific lens.
Reason 7: The Camera Is Wet
Most cameras aren’t waterproof. You probably know not to drop your camera in a body of water, but you might be unaware that the problems with cameras and water go further.
You don’t need to submerge your camera to run into problems because of wetness. Even using your camera outdoors in particularly heavy rain can be enough to make parts such as the autofocus stop working.
If this happens, you should move your camera somewhere dry and let the components dry out. It’s also worth noting that water exposure can cause longer-term damage, too.
Reason 8: The Lens Needs Calibration
Over time, your lens can fall out of calibration. This means even if you’re doing everything right, your pictures still might come out blurry because of the calibration issue.
Some businesses offer calibration, but you can also do this yourself. You can also buy calibration tools to help you. The prices for these calibrators vary, as do the exact specifics of using them.
Reason 9: Wrong Autofocus Mode
Canon cameras come with multiple autofocus modes. Not every mode is good for every type of shot.
One-Shot AF is meant for still shots, AI Servo AF for moving subjects, and AI Focus AF for when you want to start in One-Shot AF mode and switch to AI Servo AF if the subject begins to move.
If you’re having trouble with focus, you may want to double-check which autofocus mode you’re in. The specific method of doing this depends on your model of camera.
Reason 10: The Lens Contacts Are Dirty
It’s not just the glass that needs to stay clean. The parts of the lens that make contact with the camera body are just as important.
These lens contacts are actually important to the function of the lens. When you push a button on the camera body, the order is transmitted through the contacts. If they are dirty, you might run into problems with your lens that can include loss of focus.
Luckily, it only takes a few minutes to clean these contacts using isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab. This video has more:
Reason 11: Your Lens Isn’t Fast Enough
Sometimes, you just don’t have the right hardware for the shot that you want to take. While focusing on still subjects is easy enough for any Canon camera, it gets more complicated when the subject is in motion.
To focus on a fast-moving subject well and take a non-blurry photo, you need a lens with a low f-number.
For sports photography, which usually involves getting tough shots of moving subjects, an aperture of f/2.8 to f/3.5 is often preferred.
What if you’ve gone through everything on this list and still have a problem? Here are a few related ones that other Canon users have experienced, along with fixes.
Dropped Camera Lens Won’t Focus
If your lens can’t focus after you’ve dropped it, there’s a good chance that it’s damaged. Lens repair is something that falls outside the skill of most users, so you should take the lens to a repair shop and have it looked at by a professional.
What to Do When Canon Camera Won’t Take Pictures
Make sure that you aren’t pressing the shutter button while the camera is still trying to find focus. If you do, no picture will be taken. You should also make sure that you’re in the right focus mode, to avoid the camera continuously trying and failing to focus.
How to Fix The Autofocus on My Canon Camera
Your camera’s autofocus is made of small and complex parts. Unless you’re well-versed in repairing parts like these, your best option is to take the camera or lens to a repair shop to have it fixed.
Blurry photos can easily turn what would have been a fun photography session into pure frustration. However, you can fix the vast majority of Canon camera focus problems with the fixes listed above.
Are these problems that you’ve run into personally? Should something else be on this list? Let us know in the comments.