19 June 2019

Light Stalking: “Back Button Focus–How it can Transform your Camera Craft”

On many cameras, you can assign any button for focus. However, for back button focusing to be efficient, you need to assign a button that is comfortable and instinctive. Usually, this going to lie under the thumb of your right hand. As your index finger is triggering the shutter, your thumb should be on the back focus button.

One of the best options for assigning the focus is the AE/AF button. In normal mode, this works in the same way as a half press of the shutter button, but by assigning it to back button focus, we can dedicate it solely to autofocus.

Jason Row

Since I’m on the subject of cameras, I think this focusing technique is well worth mentioning. I’ve first heard about it last autumn from photographer Brendan van Son, during a workshop in Crete. At first I was pretty skeptical, as it seemed relatively complicated to use two separate buttons for focusing and exposure. But after a while curiosity got the best of me; I enabled the setting (here are instructions for Canon cameras) and took the time to accustom myself to the new workflow (it didn’t take very long, maybe a couple dozen exposures). And now I must confess I’m fully convinced it’s superior to conventional focusing and I don’t imagine myself returning to the old way of doing things! The article above talks more about the benefits when using continuous focus, and I’m eager to test this out when I get a chance, because until now I haven’t been able to make good use of continuous focus.

Coming back to my previous article and the comparison between Canon and Sony focusing performance, I also have a vague suspicion that some of the better results from Canon are thanks to using back-button focus on my personal camera, as opposed to the default focusing system on the Sony – I didn’t have the time (or patience) to set up back-button focus on the loaned Sony mirrorless camera.

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