Terry Donnelly's Three Top Tips Back Button Focus Shutter Speed Anticipation - part 2 of 1 2 3 4

by Terry Donnelly Published 26/03/2020


On a camera we have three focusing modes (broadly speaking – within each mode there are variants), manual focus, single-shot autofocus and continuous autofocus (could also be called AF-C, Servo mode or Tracking Mode depending on your camera brand and model). Manual focus generally involves you moving a focus ring on the lens to find focus; single shot is an autofocus mode that finds focus and locks focus at that point; continuous focus is an autofocus system that finds focus and tracks the subject it has locked focus onto as it, or you move, until you release the focus button activating the autofocus.

You usually switch between the three focus modes mentioned by changing a dial, a switch or by entering a menu system to change modes. This can be cumbersome and time consuming, especially when shooting under pressure or bad weather conditions in which we need to wear gloves!

What BBF allows us to do is have all three focus functions available to us at all times and here is how this would work.


First, your camera needs to be set to continuous auto focus mode. Because we have removed the focusing operation from the shutter button, if we want single-shot autofocus (without tracking) we would hit the rear button we have reprogrammed to deal with focus, once the camera had locked focus we would then release that button and press the shutter button to fire the camera. If we want continuous autofocus tracking, we would press the rear button we have reprogrammed to deal with focus; once the camera finds focus we would keep this button pressed and the camera would track the subject until we stop pressing the rear button. That gives us two of the three focus modes. The third focus mode is manual focus; in essence the camera is in manual focus mode until we press the rear button we have reprogrammed. So, in manual mode we would generally focus the camera by turning the focus ring on the lens, then press the shutter button at the desired time to take a picture. BBF gives us all three focusing modes without needing to enter a menu system or change dials or switches.

BBF is also a much more intuitive way to shoot sport; it is much easier to press the rear button to activate focusing and press the shutter button when you want to take a picture. This may well seem a strange way to shoot initially but once you try it and get used to it, you will really feel the benefit.

Check your camera's manual or handbook to see how to reprogramme or assign a rear button to focus mode and don’t forget to disable the focus mode from the shutter-release button.

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1st Published 26/03/2020
last update 18/07/2022 16:35:44

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:35:44 Last Modified: Tuesday, 08 November 2022