Join Steve Simon for an in-depth discussion in this video Configuring back button autofocus, part of Performance Tuning the Nikon D5500.
- I've been a back button autofocuser since I was first made aware of the technique quite a long time ago. And you know what? Even though back button autofocusing comes from the more professional, fast-action world of sports and wildlife photography, Nikon has allowed us, with the D5500 to disengage focus from the shutter button and program the little AE-L/AF-L button to take over focusing duties. This is what back button autofocusing is. Once you do this, you'll experience the difference and you'll never go back.
I'm going to tell you how back button autofocus will change your photographic life forever in just a minute, but first, let's make a few menu changes to set it up. To program the AE-L/AF-L button to focus the lens, we need to go into the menu. And it's in the custom settings menu and it's under f. So I'm just going to come back here. I could use the touch screen, of course. Go into the Controls and there it is. Assign AE-L/AF-L Button.
I'm going to touch it. AF on is highlit, and you know to hit the OK button to make it stick, but it's already there. And there we go. Basically we've just allowed the camera to focus with the back button and no longer with the shutter. The other thing we're going to do is we're going to turn on continuous-servo mode. And to turn on continuous-servo mode, there's a couple of ways to do it. If you happen to have the Info button on, you can press the i button on the screen, which gives you the option to make a bunch of changes.
Or you can go directly to the i button, find your way to the continuous-servo single-servo, which is down here, and make sure that AF-C is turned on. Once you make this change as a back button autofocuser, you leave it there. You're never going to have to change it back. So continuous-servo mode needs to be on when you're a back button autofocuser. The other thing that you need to do in order to make this work properly is go into the Menu again, Autofocus, AF-C priority selection.
It needs to be on release. If you're on focus, the camera won't shoot until it acquires focus, and that's just not going to work. That's something with single-servo that works well, but as a back buttoner we need to be on release mode. There you go. So now we've programmed our camera for back button autofocus, we're ready to go. So what's the big deal about back button autofocus? Well, I'll just explain to you a little bit. And, of course, you're going to try it, you're going to love it, and you're never going to go back.
With back button, because we're on continuous-servo mode, if I'm focusing on something that's stationary and not moving, I simply aim my focus point or points at that subject that I want to be in focus, I press the back button. It focuses. When I let go, I've locked the focus. When I let go, I've locked the focus. Now, if you're used to using the shutter to focus the camera, it's similar to focusing, holding the shutter release half-way down, and then recomposing to lock the focus, recomposing, and shooting.
Well, now you focus. You get focus. You let go to lock the focus. Then you can carefully recompose without losing that plane of focus to get the image sharp. The beauty of back button autofocusing is when you're going from a more stationary situation like that where you aim, focus, lock, and shoot to something that's moving, you simply aim your focus point or points at the moving target, you hold the button in, and you shoot while holding the button in, and the camera tracks and keeps your subject matter sharp.
So this system of back button autofocus is able to capture, very fluidly, anything, of course, that is not moving or is moving without having to make any changes. With one good long shooting session as a back button autofocuser, you're going to realize it's advantages and you're never ever going to go back. So I can't wait for you to practice this. I know you're going to love it.
In this course, photographer and educator Steve Simon demonstrates a set of customization strategies aimed at making a Nikon D5500 camera far more responsive and effective. That way, you can focus on composition and artistic expression, and let your Nikon handle the rest.
- Configuring the autofocus options
- Reviewing dynamic mode
- Understanding exposure modes
- Maximizing live view
- Zeroing out the camera to start fresh