Short Description

While recording movies, continuous focus means the camera will adjust the focus as you record. This means if you point the camera from one subject to another, the camera will refocus without you having to do anything. Continuous focus makes it dead simple to record movies, without it you have to pay attention to the focus yourself and adjust it as necessary (using either manual focus or one touch autofocus).

These days all the new DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras record movies, where in the past movies were only possible on point and shoot cameras. However, the first couple of generations of DSLR and mirrorless cameras don't support continuous focusing while recording video, instead they either don't autofocus at all, or they autofocus with the touch of the shutter-release.

Focusing systems

DSLRs have traditionally used phase detection autofocus, whereas point and shoots use contrast measurement. Phase detection requires dedicated focus sensors, and is generally faster and more accurate, and supports subject tracking. Contrast measurement doesn't require dedicated sensors, instead it relies on testing contrast found in the image produced by the sensor.

When recording a movie with a DSLR, the camera's mirror is in the up position, and it is unable to send light to the focus sensors, so DSLRs implement the contrast measurement (also called contrast detection) method of focusing while recording movies. So first generations of DSLRs have had very poor focusing capabilities, but DSLR manufacturers do seem to be working on this problem, though it is unlikely that autofocus capability while recording movies will ever equal still image autofocus unless manufacturers make a breakthrough with contrast detection or design a mechanism to support using phase detection with the mirror up.

DSLRs with continuous focus

These are some of the best SLRs that can adjust the autofocus continuously while recording video.

Nikon D750
Nikon D750
from $1,560
Low light performance Low noise at high ISO Help
2,956 ISO
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
93.0
Dynamic range Wide dynamic range Help
14.5 EV

Learn more about the Nikon D750

Nikon D810
Nikon D810
from $2,268
Low light performance Low noise at high ISO Help
2,979 ISO
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
96.0
Color depth Great color depth Help
25.7 bits

Learn more about the Nikon D810

Nikon D4s
Nikon D4s
from $5,997
Low light performance Low noise at high ISO Help
2,965 ISO
Battery life Great battery life Help
3020 shots
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
89.0

Learn more about the Nikon D4s

Sony SLT A77 II
Sony SLT A77 II
from $898
Autofocus Autofocuses shooting video Help
Phase detection
Panorama In-camera panoramas Help
Stitches together multiple photos into a panorama
Continuous shooting Rapid fire Help
12 fps

Learn more about the Sony SLT A77 II

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Mirrorless cameras with continuous focus

These are some of the best mirrorless cameras that can adjust the autofocus continuously while recording video.

Sony Alpha A6000
Sony Alpha A6000
from $498
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
82.0
Movie continuous focus Movie continuous focus Help
Makes it easy to get in-focus movies
Image stabilization Image stabilization Help
Lens

Learn more about the Sony Alpha A6000

Samsung NX1
Samsung NX1
from $1,099
Movie format Shoots 4K movies Help
4K @ 24fps
Screen type OLED Screen Help
Bright and vivid
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
83.0

Learn more about the Samsung NX1

Sony Alpha A5100
Sony Alpha A5100
from $448
Overall image quality Great image quality Help
80.0
Movie continuous focus Movie continuous focus Help
Makes it easy to get in-focus movies
Low light performance Low noise at high ISO Help
1,347 ISO

Learn more about the Sony Alpha A5100

Olympus PEN E-PL7
Olympus PEN E-PL7
from $449
3D Takes 3D photos Help
View photos in 3D on 3D televisions
Movie continuous focus Movie continuous focus Help
Makes it easy to get in-focus movies
Startup delay Almost no delay when powering up Help
500 ms startup delay

Learn more about the Olympus PEN E-PL7

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Discussion

Showing 1 comments

Avatar for prakashji prakashji (6:14 PM, December 14, 2012)
I believe teh OM-D EM 5 also has this