Under normal circumstances, the Canon EOS Rebel T5i (also known as the EOS 700D) will autofocus onto a subject when you ‘half-press’ the shutter button.
Then when you fully press the shutter button the camera will take the picture.
Normally you won’t face any problems with this, but sometimes the autofocus on the Rebel T5i just won’t work how you want it.
Some of the fixes are easy but others are a bit harder or costly and by the end of this post you should get your Rebel T5i back to focusing properly.
1. Make Sure The AF/MF Switch Is Set To Auto Focus
Canon lenses have a switch that lets you switch between AF and MF where AF means ‘autofocus’ and MF means ‘manual focus’.
One reason that your T5i might not be using autofocus is if your AF/MF switch is set to MF so a quick fix is to make sure that your AF/MF switch on your lens is set to AF.
Canon lenses have their own autofocus motor within them and they won’t be used when the lens is set to MF mode. By putting your lens in AF mode you will make sure that your Rebel T5i will be using autofocus.
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
Minimum focusing distance is something that all cameras and lenses have.
The minimum focusing distance is basically the shortest distance away from the focal plane of the camera that you could focus on a subject.
So to be able to focus on something the subject needs to be a certain distance away from the focal plane of the camera.
Luckily you can easily spot the focal plane mark on the T5i which tells you where the focal plane is.
To find the focal plane mark on the T5i look for a circle with a line going through it (if you know what the London underground symbol looks like, it kind of looks like that).
On the T5i it can be hard to spot and it looks like a small black engraving.
The focal plane mark is also known as a film plane indicator.
Different lenses have different minimum focusing distances.
For example, when using the EF-S 18-15mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens on the Rebel T5i, the closest focusing distance is 0.25m / 0.82 ft.
If the subject is closer than the minimum focusing distance the camera will not be able to focus.
Get around this by moving away from the subject or moving the subject further away from you. This shouldn’t be too hard because minimum focusing distances are already quite small.
If your Canon EOS Rebel T5i is still unable to focus then it’s probably one of the other reasons on this list.
3. The Lens Is Not Attached Correctly
Autofocus only works because there are contacts on the lens and T5i body that let the lens and camera communicate with each other.
When the lens is not attached correctly then the contacts may not be aligned properly and this stops the camera and lens from communicating.
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 Rebel T5i camera body (it will be in the lens mount area).
- 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 feel secure, you might 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.
An easy 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 other lenses.
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’s probably another issue.
4. Contacts Need Cleaning.
This solution follows from the previous issue about the lens and body communicating.
Even if the lens and camera are securely attached, there might still be issues with the contacts doing their job properly.
If these contacts are dirty or damaged then information cannot be passed accurately between the camera body of the T5i and the lens – this stops the autofocus from working.
The contacts can be cleaned at home, or you can take your equipment to a local camera repair shop or Canon Service center.
You have to be really careful when doing this as contacts can be delicate and you don’t want to ruin them.
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 then take your equipment to a camera repair shop or an authorized Canon service center.
5. Not Enough Light
If there isn’t enough light, cameras tend to struggle to autofocus because there is less 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.
Once you’ve locked focus, you can turn the light/laser/smartphone off and take the photograph with the correct exposure.
6. An issue with the Viewfinder and Diopter
There might not be any focusing issues at all and you might just need to calibrate the viewfinder on your camera.
The viewfinder may simply be out of focus while your photos are actually coming out fine. This is more of an issue for people that wear glasses.
First, look through your viewfinder and see if the lines and icons are in focus.
Here we are not talking about the image, but just the information provided by the camera like gridlines and other settings.
If this information is blurry then you need to adjust the diopter of the camera.
You can calibrate your diopter by adjusting 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
Depending on the shooting scenario you might need different forms of autofocus. If you don’t use the right type of autofocus the camera will fail to focus.
For example, you might not be able to autofocus because the subject is simply moving too fast for the camera to react.
This isn’t really an issue if the subject is moving in one focal plane (parallel to the focal plane of the camera).
On the other hand, if the subject is moving closer or further away from the camera then it is constantly moving between different focal planes – this is where it can become an issue.
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 T5i 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 T5i, there are a few autofocus modes to pick from that you may not know about.
The options are:
- One-shot AF – best for still subjects.
- AI Servo AF – best for moving subjects. Continuously tracks a moving subject to focus.
- AI Focus AF – this is a hybrid of the two above.
For 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 T5i
- Navigate to the last yellow wrench icon tab (this should be the 4th 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-6 Shutter /AE lock button’ which is under ‘C.Fn IV: Operation/Others‘
- In the ‘C.Fn-6 Shutter /AE lock button’ menu you should see 4 setting options here numbered 0,1,2 and 3.
- The default setting on the Rebel T5i 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’ as this works in a similar way for the autofocus.
Hopefully, by going through this list you have fixed any issues with your autofocus struggles on your Canon EOS Rebel T5i.
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.