Back Button Focusing May Be The Best Thing That Happen To Your Shooting Process. Ever.

Many photographers, me included, focus by half pressing on shutter release. Then we re-compose. Then we complete the press.

AF-ON And Back Button May Be The Best Thing That Happen To Your Shooting Process. Ever.

Photographer Steve Perry shares a great improvement to your workflow by decoupling the autofocus button from the shutter release, and relocating it to button on the back of the camera.

This decoupling allows for several great benefits:

  1. You have more control over the camera. The camera does not have to re-focus every time you lift your finger from the shutter release.
  2. You can instantly switch between AF-single and AF-continues by deciding how long you are pressing the AF-ON button.
  3. You get great control over stationary objects and landscapes as the camera does not try to autofocus once you recompose.

Some high end cameras like the D800 have a dedicated AF-ON button on the back. The great news is that you can reassign some button on the back of almost any camera.

For the full tip, head over to the full post.

[How to use Nikon’s AF-ON and back button autofocus via ISO 1200 Magazine]

  • Jerome Courtois

    I’ve also switched to Back-Focusing a while back and love it. If you then add Exposure Lock to the Shutter and Easy Exposure Compesation to the back-wheel its such a powerful combination!

    You get full control, very fast and without having to even take your eye away from the viewfinder.

    I’ve written an article on that, but be warned: it’s in German.

  • Jon

    One of the first things I did when I got my lowly Olympus E-PL1. Even an entry-level micro 4/3 camera lets you do it. It’s great.

  • Wil Fry

    I do love it, though it makes it more difficult to hand off the camera to someone else for a quick shot (on the rare occasions I do that).

    One downside, at least for me… When the camera (60D in my case) is set up for back-button focus, then it won’t autofocus when I use the wireless remote control. Any time I’m going to use the remote control and want autofocus to work, I must remember to reset the customization to default. (And then remember to set it back when I’m done.)

  • Mike

    I really like this idea but there is one problem I’m trying to deal with. I’m shooting with a Canon 40D with the battery grip. I can set it up so that the AF ON button focuses, which is great for shooting in landscape mode, but when I turn the camera to shoot in portrait mode, I no longer have easy access to the AF ON button. Perhaps there is a way to designate the * AE Lock button as the AF ON button but I haven’t found that yet.

    • Arielle

      The * button on your grip should work just like the * button on the camera body.

      • Mike

        It does, and that’s the problem. The grip doesn’t have an AF ON button so in order for me to make the switch to back button focus, I would need to be able to change one of the buttons on the back of the grip to turn on the AF. I’m not sure I can do that with my camera.

  • Niklas

    I think I would miss the focus confirmation beep signal in AF continuous mode.

  • amateur

    Can anyone tell me how to do this with a Sony a77? I’ve been trying to figure it out with trial and error as well as a web search, but remain confused. Thanks!

    • Holsonback

      For the A77, first go to the Still Shooting Menu (the Camera icon one), Option 3. Scroll down to AF w/shutter and choose “Off.”

      Now go to the Custom Menu (the Cog Wheel one) , Option 3. Scroll down to AF/MFN Button and select it. Scroll through the options and choose AF Lock.

      That worked for me on my A77.

      • amateur

        Thanks, Holsonback–that seems to be working! Have to do some more experimenting, but much obliged!

      • Tammy

        Thank you for sharing that! I have a Sony A77 as well and it hard when these articles seem to never include Sony cameras! I will give it a try as well!!

      • Tammy

        Thank you! Mine stopped working and I was wondering how to get the back button focus to work again!