How To Set Up Back-Button Autofocus And Why You Should

Photography Gear

I really do enjoy taking my time to get to know my new camera. One of the most effective ways to do that is to dive deep into the camera’s menu and begin customizing everything to meet my needs and requirements. Of all the settings that I end up customizing, there is one that is always first without question: setting up back-button autofocus.

I admit that I have this ritualistic process whenever I take a new camera out of its box for the first time. It’s something that doesn’t happen too often and so I want to savor that moment of newness because once that camera makes its way into my bag and out in the field, all bets are off.

While most new cameras by major manufacturers that have been released in the past year or two have reliable autofocusing systems, you’re still leaving it up to the camera to determine what it should lock onto when you’re in the default “wide” focus mode. In many cases, especially when there is a clear contrast between your primary focal point and the rest of the scene, that type of autofocus works fine.

However, when you have it bound to your shutter button, the camera will hunt again and again with each half-press and that can lead to missed shots due to potentially missing the AF mark. That’s why I find it so helpful to remove the autofocus actuation from the shutter button and bind it to a dedicated button instead, usually found on the back of the camera — hence the name back-button autofocus.

If you already have back-button autofocus configured on your camera, you likely can relate to why it’s such an important setting. If you aren’t familiar with it, then the video above is for you. Whether you are a Sony, Canon, or Nikon shooter (or any other manufacturer, really), it’s highly likely that your camera has a setting to allow you to use back-button autofocus. I strongly suggest you give it a shot. You may quickly come to question how you went this long without it. Trust me.


About the author: Brian Matiash is a professional photographer, videographer, and published author based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. His passion is to serve other photographers by helping them grow their own visual pursuits. Learn more about Brian by visiting his website, on Instagram, and on YouTube.

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