Under normal circumstances, the Canon EOS Rebel T5 (also known as the EOS 1200D) will autofocus onto a subject when you ‘half-press’ the shutter button.
After the half-press, you can press the shutter button fully down to take the picture.
For the majority of people, there are never any problems with this, but sometimes your Canon EOS Rebel T5 just won’t autofocus how you want.
There are a few reasons why your Canon EOS Rebel T5 may not be focusing and some of the reasons have easy fixes but some are harder and potentially more costly to fix.
1. Check That The AF/MF Switch Is Set To Auto Focus
On your lens or camera body, you will have a switch that should let you switch between AF/MF.
If your switch is set to MF then your camera is set to manual focus which may be the reason it is not utilizing autofocus to focus.
Switch your camera to AF so that autofocus is enabled.
Remember that this is not to do with auto vs manual mode in terms of exposure. This is just auto vs manual mode for focus.
2. Camera Is Too Close To The Subject
All cameras and lenses have a minimum focusing distance.
This basically means that in order to focus on something the subject has to be at least a certain distance away from the focal plane mark on the camera.
You can find the focal plane mark on the camera body of your Canon Rebel T5. It is also known as the film plane indicator and it looks like a circle with a line going straight through it.
Different lenses have different minimum focusing distances.
For example, when using the EF-S 18-15mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens on the Rebel T5, the closest focusing distance is 0.25m / 0.82 ft.
If you are trying to photograph something that is closer than the minimum focus distance then the camera will struggle to focus on this.
Try moving the subject further away or stepping away from the subject to see if the camera is now able to focus.
If your Canon EOS Rebel T5 is still unable to focus then it is likely to be one of the other reasons on this list.
3. The Lens Might Not Be Attached Correctly
The lens and the camera body have contacts that allow them to communicate with each other and this is how autofocus is able to work.
If the lens and camera body are not attached correctly then the contacts may not be aligned in the right way.
This would stop the lens and body from communicating correctly.
With no communication between the two parts, autofocus is impossible.
Try to remove the lens and reattach it correctly by doing the following:
- To align the lens correctly look for either the white square or red dot on your Canon lens.
- Align the white square or red circle on your lens to the same square or circle on your camera body where the lens will be mounted.
- Now attach the lens and rotate it clockwise until the lens locks into place.
- The lens should click into place and not be loose.
If your lens does not seem secure you may have an issue such as a loose screw on the body or the lens.
If you’re feeling unsure about removing and reattaching your lens you can check out the video below for some guidance.
A quick way to tell if this is an issue with your camera body or your lens is to try it with a different lens and see if there is an issue with all lenses or just one.
Get this checked out by a camera repair shop or Canon service center if you do notice that the lens is not attaching correctly.
If you have reattached your lens and it seems fine but autofocus is still not working then it could be another issue.
4. Contacts Need Cleaning.
This solution follows from the previous issue about the lens and body communicating.
The camera and lens communicate through metal contacts.
The lens and camera may attach together and seem secure but the contacts may still need addressing.
If these contacts are dirty or damaged then information cannot be passed accurately between the camera body of the T5 and the lens – stopping autofocus from working.
You can either take your equipment to a camera repair shop to have them clean it or you can try it yourself.
The contacts on the lens and camera body are delicate. If you’re not careful, you can damage and ruin both, which can be very costly.
Below are some cleaning instructions directly from this Canon support page for a similar Canon camera.
” If the contacts on either the lens side or the camera side get dirty, communication cannot be carried out correctly, and in some cases the autofocus may not operate correctly.
If the lens or camera contacts get dirty, please clean them very gently with a clean, dry cloth.
Precautions when cleaning the contacts
- Do not wipe the contacts with a wet cloth. Doing so could cause malfunctions.
- Do not touch the contacts directly with your hands. Touching them with your hands could cause corrosion, which would cause the camera to become inoperable.
- When cleaning the contacts on the lens side, be careful not to damage the lens surface.
- If the contacts are particularly dirty, please contact the nearest Canon Service Center. ”
If you feel uncomfortable doing this yourself it is recommended that you take it to a camera repair shop or an authorized Canon service center.
5. Not Enough Light
In low-light situations, cameras tend to struggle to autofocus because of the lack of contrast between lights and darks.
One way around this is to allow more light into the camera.
You can do this by using a wider aperture.
- E.g. f/1.8 will let in more light than f/4
You can also slow down the shutter speed.
- E.g. Shutter speed of 1/60 will let in double the light as 1/120
Some other ways you can help with focus in low light is by adding some artificial lighting to the scene.
- Shining a laser on the subject (DO NOT point this at someone’s eyes)
- Turn a flashlight on and point it at the subject
- If the subject is a person then ask them to hold a smartphone screen up.
- Use lighting such as an external flash or a softbox.
The video below demonstrates some of these tips above.
If you are using the flashlight, laser, or smartphone trick, you are mainly using these just to lock the focus in the same focal plane as your subject.
You would then turn the light/laser/smartphone off and take the photograph with the correct exposure.
6. An issue with the Viewfinder and Diopter
There may be no focus issue at all.
The viewfinder may simply be out of focus while your photos are actually coming out fine. For people that wear glasses, this is a more common issue.
Look through your viewfinder and see if the lines and icons are in focus.
Here we are specifically talking about the information provided by the camera like gridlines and settings, not the actual image behind these settings.
If this information is blurry then you need to adjust the diopter of the camera.
To calibrate the diopter to your adjust the small dioptric adjustment dial on your camera.
The dioptric adjustment dial can be found to the right of the eyepiece of the viewfinder.
Turn this dial until the camera information in your viewfinder becomes sharp.
See the video below to see what we mean.
7. Your Subject Is Moving
In specific circumstances, you might not be able to autofocus because the subject is simply moving too fast for the camera to react.
This is mainly an issue if the subject moves between different focal planes.
If the subject is moving towards you or away from you then it is constantly changing focal planes.
If the subject is moving parallel to you then it is staying in the same focal plane.
For example, in sports photography, air shows, and bird photography the subjects may be moving quite fast across different focal planes.
By the time your EOS Rebel T5 focuses on the subject, the subject may move into a different focal plane – so the autofocus cannot work effectively.
One simple fix is to check that you are using the correct autofocus mode.
On a Canon EOS Rebel T5, there are a few autofocus modes to pick from that you may not know about.
The options are:
- One-shot AF – use this for still subjects.
- AI Servo AF – use this for moving subjects. Continuously tracks a moving subject to focus.
- AI Focus AF – this is a hybrid of the two above.
If you are photographing moving subjects, set your camera to AI servo AF and see if you are now able to focus on your subject.
To enable this you can press the AF button on the camera body and then select AI Servo.
You can also press the ‘Q’ button, select the focus option then choose AI Servo from there.
The video below explains this concept and also shows you how to do it on a Canon camera as well as a Nikon camera.
8. Check the Custom Function Settings
As we mentioned at the start, autofocus normally works by half-pressing the shutter button to lock in the focus.
If you have changed some of the settings on the camera by accident this may not work.
- Go to your Settings Menu on your T5
- Navigate to the last yellow wrench icon tab (this should be the 3rd yellow wrench icon).
- Under this menu, you should see the option for Custom Functions (C.Fn)
- Select the Custom Functions (C.Fn) option
- Navigate to ‘C.Fn-8 Shutter /AE lock button’ which is under ‘C.Fn IV: Operation/Others‘
- In the ‘C.Fn-8 Shutter /AE lock button’ menu you should see 4 setting options here numbered 0,1,2 and 3.
- The default setting on the camera is the setting ‘0: AF/AE Lock’
- If you have the camera set to one of the other settings try going back to the default ‘0’ setting.
- Try to autofocus as normal now.
- If this doesn’t work then try setting ‘2: AF/AF lock, no AE lock’ as this works in a similar way for the autofocus.
Hopefully, by going through this list you have corrected any issues with your autofocus struggles on your Canon EOS Rebel T5.
If there are still issues then it is recommended that you get your camera and lens seen by a camera repair shop or a Canon service center.