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Most of the Canon PowerShot camera line now offers Canon's AiAF nine-point auto-focus system. This Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus scans the scene and “consults” with Canon's iSAPS (intelligent Scene Analysis based on Photographic Space) – a statistical analysis photo database built into the camera.
Essentially AiAF works with iSAPS to evaluate the contents of each of the nine focus areas (picture a tic tac toe grid on your view screen) and select the optimum focusing distance based on the information in the database.
But don't worry about the science. The bottom line is that this system works remarkably well, even when subjects aren't centered in the frame.