Back Button Focus

The following is rated as intermediate, if you do not already have a good grasp on your camera please wait to try this.  Also you will need to adjust a custom function so be careful.

If you have taken any of my courses one thing that I try to get through to all my students is to “Keep it simple”.  This is not just for students but also for myself. But sometimes in trying to keep photography simple we miss out on some of the cool things that can be done using your camera that are a little more advance than what we do most days. One such area that I have never really explored as much as I should is back button focus.  Why?  Well mainly because most of the time when I am shooting it is for a job and I don’t want to try something new that I am not sure on.  Last night when I was shooting birds I decided to try the back button focus for the first time in a long time, and I have to say for some things I really like it.  I increased my keeper shots by at least 50%, and I really noticed that the sharpness increased overall.  The other thing that I LOVE is that by using the back button focus instead of the shutter button you can focus and once focused shoot away without having to worry about loosing the focus, it reminds me a lot of the “Old” days when all we had were manual focus lenses.  SO what is the back button focus? Back button focus is when you use the focus button located on the back of your camera to activate the focus and this is done by using your thumb.

You can do this in two ways:

1 – Simply use the back button to focus in addition to the shutter button.  For me I find this a waste as if I am using the shutter button to focus I may as well continue to do so.

2 – You go into the menu and deactivate the focus feature on the shutter button and just use the back button focus.  The shutter button still works to wake the camera, set the exposure and release the shutter (take the picture) but in order to focus you need to use the back focus button.  When you do this the camera will only focus when you push the back button, when you release the camera stops focusing.  You can shoot as long as you like but remember that the focus was locked, or the camera stopped focusing, when you remove your thumb from the rear button.

So what is so great about doing this?  Like I stated earlier it is a lot more like shooting with a manual focus lens as once you get the focus perfect then it will not change and you can shoot away. So if you have a bird in a tree and you set your focus, you can wait for that perfect moment to push the shutter and your camera will not have to refocus when you do take the picture.  Or if you are following a subject and they go behind something, you can release the focus button and the camera will not try refocusing.

What is not so great? When you are tracking something it is another button to remember to push and this can be an issue. But again a benefit is that once you have a good focus you can stop focusing and shoot without the lens refocusing.


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