Your Camera’s Autofocus is Fine; You’re Just Not Doing This

Moderns cameras have better autofocus than anything that has ever been put forward. 

I’m positive that every photographer has experienced it: you get a new camera and the autofocus system is so incredibly blazing quick. But with time, it starts to not seem so and that shiny new camera looks so much nicer. But the truth is that you’re probably not doing the right maintenance to your camera to ensure that you can keep it up. Seriously, how many of you actually actively maintain your cameras? How many of you have cleaned your sensors? And how many of you have ensured that the autofocus communication is up to par?

I thought so…

Why Autofocus Degrades

You’ve probably noticed in the past few months how adamant the entire team has been here about testing the weather sealing of cameras and lenses. It’s pretty imperative honestly and if a camera doesn’t have any sort of sealing, then we’re positive that it will continue to work but not at 100%. One of the biggest reasons has to do with just this. Cameras and lenses that have dust and splash protection often have rubber seals around the mount. These keep out dust, grime, moisture, etc. It keeps the units operating. As tight as you think that seal is, it can always be more reinforced. When there is no seal there, debris gets in. With regards to autofocus, the debris gets onto the contacts between the camera and lens and then makes the focusing communications degrade.

“So why would you go about cleaning the contacts of your lenses? You’d be amazed what it can do. If suddenly you start finding the autofocus of your camera to be sluggish, then part of it could have to do with the contacts.

Cleaning the contacts removes dirt, grime, dust, and anything else that can hinder the communication between the camera and the lens.”

– From Cleaning Your Camera Lenses With Isopropyl Alcohol and Purosol

TL;DR: The way that I like to think about it is sort of like a drain. When it’s clogged, it’s going to take more time for liquids to go through. When it’s clear, then it will just flow. Your camera’s communications work in the same way.

As With Most Things in Life, The Solution is Alcohol

Yes, I’m not even joking you. The absolute best option is pure alcohol, but that’s very difficult to get your hands on legally. Instead, Isopropyl alcohol has been used by techs and throughout the industry for years. It’s a decent electronics cleaner when used responsibly and correctly. Purosol also makes great products that help with this when needed.

“Using a cotton swab, thoroughly and carefully clean the contacts with Isopropyl alcohol. Then join the camera and the lens back together.”

– From Fine Tuning Your Autofocus: Making Your Camera Simply Work Better

Many beginner photographers don’t know about this and if you’ve been shooting for years, then you’ve probably forgotten about it and never use it.

Cleaning the Contacts

So how do you exactly do this? It’s really easy:

  • Take a clean cotton swab and dip it into the alcohol
  • Unmount your lens from your camera
  • Rub the alcohol into the contacts on the lens
  • Using the other side of the swab, rub them onto the contacts of the camera.
  • Be sure that everything is clean. If it looks clean then carefully mount the lens back onto the camera.
  • Go shoot

And that’s it. What you’ll start to see is that your camera’s autofocus and the lens work really well together. Weather sealing helps to mitigate the need for this, but even if your lens is permanently mated to your camera, debris still gets in there.

Happy shooting!