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Back Button Focus

Hello there! I take sports (lacrosse & football) photography of my boys. When setting up back button focus, do I hold my finger on the AEL/AFL button the entire time while pressing the shutter? I was unclear on some of the videos I have watched. Can you explain this to me in beginner camera language? Thank you!


  • edited March 2017
    Yes and no. AF works only while pressing the button, so if you have achieved the focus you need you may let go of it and shoot, but there is no penalty for holding it unless you lose focus.

    One main virtue of back button focus is that when you are tracking a complicated subject you have that choice. If you can maintain focus, you can hold the button and shoot, just as would be the case if you were using shutter button AF, and for moving subjects, you generally hold. But if the subject is difficult to track, and you tend to lose focus, you can let go of the button and shoot without focus priority preventing it.

    Depending on the videos you've seen, some may not be completely informative for the D3x00 family, because for these you cannot switch to release priority with AFC. On other cameras, you can switch AFC to release priority, and that means you can always hold the focus button down, and always get your shot. On the D3300, AF is always accompanied by focus priority, and that means that if you lose focus, the camera will not fire. Back button focus is a very useful way to undo this dilemma, because you can track focus until the very last moment, and then, if the shutter does not fire, let go of the button and get release priority.

    In general, I'd recommend holding the button throughout, unless you find that your camera is refusing to fire. If you set up the focus areas either to single point or dynamic, and AFC, and practice panning, this will happen seldom. If it does happen, then just let off the focus button when you make the shot.

    edit to add: I somehow misread this as being the D3300 rather than D5300 forum. On the D5300 you can change from focus to release priority in AFC, and that frees you from the need to let go of the focus button when shooting action. Focus will usually occur fast enough that if you're shooting multiple shots, it will be there before you shoot or if you shoot before it is achieved it will catch up, and it will continue to shoot if you lose focus briefly.
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