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This post was most recently updated on November 13th, 2022

One of the most common attributes of the specs for a camera is the device’s autofocus points.

The number of autofocus points that a camera has can vary. Some will have as few as nine, while others can have as many as one thousand.

You don’t need a huge number of autofocus points to be able to take good photos, but some things will be made easier by having more than, say, nine.

An abundance of autofocus points is most useful when you’re shooting things that are moving, as it will mean the focus will remain on the subject that’s in motion.

The following article will break down everything you might need to know about autofocus points in cameras, including how many autofocus points you’re going to need.

How Many Autofocus Points Does Your Camera Need?

The number of autofocus points that your camera offers can vary greatly depending on the model.

If you spend a lot of money on a camera, it’s more likely that it’s going to have a large number of autofocus points.

If you go for a lower-end model, your camera will probably have far fewer autofocus points.

But just because some more expensive cameras might have far more autofocus points than your camera doesn’t mean that yours is a far worse device.

For the vast majority of photos you take- for the vast majority of photos that most camera owners take- you’re not going to need a vast number of autofocus points.

So, if you have as few as nine autofocus points on your camera (and nine tends to be the minimum), this is more than enough to take high-quality photos.

As you get more experienced with photography and you want to experiment with specific kinds of photos, then you can eventually save up for a camera with a higher number of autofocus points- but it’s by no means urgent, even if you intend to take photography seriously.

Just a few of the common kinds of photography that don’t require a large number of autofocus points include night photography, landscape photography, real estate, event, and product photography.

If you can manipulate the position of the camera in relation to your subject, then autofocus points won’t matter much at all.

Landscape photography is probably the best example of why autofocus points don’t always matter.

If you’re taking photos of, say, a mountain, then (barring any natural disasters- and apologies if we just jinxed that for you) the mountain won’t exactly be moving anywhere any time soon.

This means that you have time to position your camera and either get the mountain in one of your autofocus points or get it in focus manually, the latter of which shouldn’t take long at all.

So, generally, the only times you’re going to benefit from a lot of autofocus points is when the subject is moving around a lot, and moving unpredictably.

A far more specific kind of focus would be required for such photography.

Autofocus Points: Entry Level Cameras Vs Professional Cameras

Autofocus Points Entry Level Cameras Vs Professional Cameras

If you’re a hobbyist photographer and you’re looking for your first camera, then you might notice that the cameras in your budget have as few as nine autofocus points.

This will be perfectly fine if you don’t intend on doing any action photography.

For higher-end models, you could be looking at autofocus points in the high thousands.

Some of the most expensive cameras on the market have as many as 5,500 autofocus points, which cover the entire frame, both vertically and horizontally.

This would mean that wherever the photographer’s subject moved, the focus would remain on them.

If autofocus points that cover the whole frame sound a little excessive, then you’ll probably be fine with fewer.

That doesn’t mean you should necessarily stick to cameras with as few as nine autofocus points, though- you’ll likely be able to find a reasonably affordable camera with a decent amount of autofocus points.

When Are Autofocus Points Important?

There are a few types of photography where having a large number of autofocus points is essential. The most obvious would be sports photography.

Sports photographers have no way of predicting where any one athlete is going to move next; they’re likely to be hopping all over your frame (although… maybe not in golf…).

Having a camera with very few autofocus points will make it far harder to keep the focus on any given subject.

It’s no surprise that most sports photographers own (and need to own) a camera with thousands of autofocus points because this will mean that no matter where the athlete goes, they’ll remain in focus.

Candid portraits are another area where having a large number of autofocus points is ideal.

It won’t matter much when it comes to posed portraits, but if you’re taking candid pictures and you’re not going to know when or where the subject is going to move, then autofocus points reduce the risk of the subject losing focus.

The other most common area of photography where autofocus points tend to matter is macro photography, which is where you’re taking photos right up close to the subject.

In this instance, it’s less about the subject always being in motion as it is about needing a very specific kind of focus.

The shallow depth of field can throw your autofocus way off, and it’s a lot easier to get it back on track if you have a lot of autofocus points.

Conclusion

If you’re a hobbyist photographer, then you’re not going to need thousands of autofocus points. A camera with as few as nine autofocus points will work just fine if it’s all you can afford.

The only areas in which you’ll be lacking if you don’t have many autofocus points are action photography (such as sports), candid portrait photography, and macro photography.

Generally, though, only a professional photographer is going to need thousands of autofocus points that cover the entire frame.