Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?

Started May 25, 2012 | Discussions
Drew O
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Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?
May 25, 2012

I'm curious about how many folks prefer to use the AF-ON button on the D800 as the sole means of activating auto focus. I didn't do this with my D700 or D7000; the D700 because of the manual AF-C/S switch, and the D7000 because I preferred to use that button for AE lock.

Since the D800 lacks a manual AF-C/S switch, AND has a dedicated AF-ON button, I've been experimenting with it. Takes some getting used to, but I'm liking it.

Am I late to the party on this? For those who do use AF-ON to focus, how to you configure your AE-L button (hold, lock etc.)?

Nikon D700 Nikon D7000 Nikon D800
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steveperry
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Re: Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?
In reply to Drew O, May 25, 2012

I use only the AF on button, the camera is always set to continuous AF. I focus, compose, and shoot.

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Maji
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Re: Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?
In reply to Drew O, May 25, 2012

I use the AF-ON button.

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Nippondenso
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Re: Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?
In reply to Drew O, May 25, 2012

AF-ON is the only way I will shoot. Great feature.

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Charles Currey
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Re: Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?
In reply to Nippondenso, May 25, 2012

Me too.

Nippondenso wrote:

AF-ON is the only way I will shoot. Great feature.

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Chuck Currey

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Joesiv
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Re: Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?
In reply to Drew O, May 25, 2012

Haven't given AF-ON a try, I use half press. I think I fear that it's just one other thing to manage, I use single point AF-C and shift my point around with spot metering.
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Robin Casady
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AF-ON only & AF-C (nt)
In reply to Drew O, May 25, 2012
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dustyj
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Re: AF-ON only & AF-C (nt)
In reply to Robin Casady, May 25, 2012

Another vote for AF-ON continuous.

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Fred Mueller
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yes - always
In reply to Drew O, May 25, 2012

Don't want to get too long winded - but by far the best way to use a camera with a dedicated AF button is to uncouple shutter release and AF activation ... which also removes the need for the AE/AF - L button to have anything to do with focus lock, because you automatically have shutter lock if you lift your thumb off the AF button.

Using the AF button leverages the strength of auto focus with the strengths that manual focus cameras used to have: once you are focused you can wait for moment and gesture without babysitting the AF system. Of course if the situation is dynamic, you just keep your thumb pressed on the AF button as subject movement warrants.

my D700 settings

a1: = release
a5: = AF-on "only" (no shutter)

additionally:

f7: = AE lock (hold)

focus mode switch set to AF-C

takes about 10 minutes to get the hang of it once set ....

only occasionally will I set a1: to "focus"

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4x5 Guy
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Re: yes - always
In reply to Fred Mueller, May 25, 2012

Fred Mueller wrote:

a5: = AF-on "only" (no shutter)

I believe you meant a4.

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JJ10
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Re: yes - always
In reply to 4x5 Guy, May 25, 2012

I used the AF - On button for a long time but found when I did nature photography, small birds, it/me was too slow getting to the shutter to take the shot as you need to keep the AF-on button pressed down to keep focus on the flighty birds, same was true for a lot of action type shots.

How do others cope in the above situation?

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Fred Mueller
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josiv - see my post below ...
In reply to Joesiv, May 25, 2012

to each his own but I disagree ... it is "half pressing" the shutter button that requires "management".

If you loose that half-press (happens all the time) you have to go back and re-acquire focus, and then re-compose.

Also in a situation where you the photographer are moving a lot with a heavy camera lens combo it is much easier to manage focus tracking because you can put lots of pressure on the AF button, only hitting the shutter release when you mean to ....

but like I said - to each his own

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tektrader
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Re: Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?
In reply to Drew O, May 25, 2012

I use AF-on but I find that Nikon really try's to make it harder because they put the button a bit far away for my thumb. Its almost a contortion to make it work for me.

Dont get why they dont reposition it just slightly to the left of the trigger on the back. Its way too far over.

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jfriend00
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Re: Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?
In reply to Drew O, May 25, 2012

It took me about a month of shooting to get totally use to exclusively using AF-ON for focus, but now it's second nature and sooooo much more capable than when focus is tied to a half press of the shutter. Just set the camera to AF-C for continuous focus, configure it to allow a shot to be taken even when not in focus (required for focus and recompose) and then you're reading for AF-ON.

Without reconfiguring anything on the camera and by only varying how you use the AF-ON button, you can have focus tracking, focus and recompose, pre-focus on a spot, pre-focus then start tracking, manual focus, etc...

I was initially motivated by the ability to have both continuous tracking and pre-focus on a spot for shooting sports without having to change anything on the camera, but once I got used to it for that, I realized it's great for all kinds of shooting. I find it's even great for macro work where a tap on the AF-ON button gets you initial focus and you can then fine tune manually.

Once you get used to it, you will enjoy the new power to have any kind of focus behavior without reconfiguration. It will take your brain some number of weeks to get fully retrained. Once retrained, it becomes second nature.

Here are some of the different behaviors you can have - all of which I've used:

  • Tracking: Point at desired target, press and hold AF-ON button.

  • Focus and recompose: Point at desired target. Press AF-ON until focus is achieved. Release AF-ON. Recompose.

  • Pre-focus on a spot: Point at desired pre-focus point. Press AF-ON until focus is achieved. Release AF-ON. Wait for desired action and shoot.

  • Pre-focus, then start tracking. Point at desired pre-focus point. Press AF-ON until focus is achieved. Release AF-ON. Wait for desired action and shoot. When you want to start tracking again, just press AF-ON.

  • Manual-focus. Don't press AF-ON. Just reach for the manual focus ring.

  • Auto-focus initially, then manually focus. Press AF-ON until focus achieved. Release AF-ON. Manually tweak focus manually as desired. Works great for macro.

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Fred Mueller
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Re: yes - always
In reply to JJ10, May 25, 2012

Your thumb is on the AF button - no? - index finger on the shutter .... it's actually really simple

I would think it is more awkward to have to hold shutter half press, indefinitely, especially with a long lens involved. Keeping you thumb pressed on the AF button is simple (if you want to keep the AF system active) ... your shooting finger just rests on the shutter - how is this delay inducing? Holding "half press" in any non-static situation without getting miss-fires loosing focus, is nearly impossible.

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Russell Proulx
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Re: Do you use AF-ON or shutter half-press to focus?
In reply to Drew O, May 25, 2012

AF-ON + AF-C always, with every Nikon dSLR I've owned.

My only wish is that there would be a way to turn on the focus confirmation beep when in that mode. I wouldn't want it all the time as it would drive anyone crazy. But with some commercial shoots where the shot HAS to work it would be an added safely feature.

But to use the AF-S mode with focus on the shutter button would just have me missing 90% (or MORE) of my best shots.

R

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Fred Mueller
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a5: for D700
In reply to 4x5 Guy, May 25, 2012

ntntnt

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Fred Mueller
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agree totally ... well put
In reply to jfriend00, May 25, 2012

the real cool part is you can hit the shutter button any time in your examples (provided you have set AF-C = "release"

Funny - when I got my D700, this made so much sense to me I had it down in just a few moments. When I have to use a camera without an AF button I am fine half pressing too, but just really prefer the extra AF button.

While I had D7000s I put the AF function out front - that was ok too, but the AF system on those bodies was probelmatic ...

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Fred Mueller
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then set a1: = "focus"
In reply to Russell Proulx, May 25, 2012

you won't get a beep, but you won't get any OOF frames either

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Many Feathers
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doesn't seem to work all the time with d800
In reply to Fred Mueller, May 25, 2012

I'm wondering if anyone else is having this problem.

I am shooting flying birds...usually only 1 bird in the frame with sky all around. Sometimes, if I aim and shoot fast, it DOES shoot even though none of the bird is in focus and I have it set to "focus" only. Other times, it won't shoot. (I'll have to save an example...I've been using the delete button a lot with the huge D800 files

Any ideas...?

MF

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