Tuesday, December 18, 2018

What the heck is back button focus & why do I need to use it?

Nikon 51 point autofocus layout in Nikon D4 DSLRWhen most people make a photo with their camera, they aim, press the camera's shutter release button, wait for the camera to focus, then press the button the rest of the way. Whammo, the image is made.

While that's easy and direct, if you're using a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) or MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) camera, it may not be the best way to focus and shoot. Until 1989, it was the only way to activate autofocus and make a photo with an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera, the film based forbearer of today's DSLR and MILC cameras.

It wasn't until 1985 that autofocus was even available. That year, Minolta, having purchased Leica autofocus technology, released the first commercially successful autofocus SLR, the Maxxum 7000. Minolta configured the Maxxum autofocus system to work as most photographers know it today. Autofocus was activated by pressing the shutter release button.

Four years later, in 1989, Canon introduced back button focus. It removes the autofocus function from the shutter release button and assigns it to a button on the back of the camera. Hence the name, back button focus.