Note: Numbers in parentheses refer to Menu tab and window within that tab, i.e.. Custom Key Settings(26) is the Second tab and 6th window in that tab.
AF dominant setups:
If your primary shooting preference is Auto Focus, change the AF/MF Button to TOGGLE in the Custom Key Settings(26). You will remain in AF and in the rare instance you want to use Manual Focus you just press and release the AF/MF button. It will stay in MF until you press the button again. I suggest turning on focus peaking as an alert that it’s in MF. If the camera is turned off, the next time you power up the setting will be AF. This is the setting that I use most of the time, it is easy to move to MF when I find AF isn’t up to the task.
If you set AF/MF Button to HOLD in the custom Key settings then for the occasional MF you will need to hold down the AF/MF button while pressing the shutter release – a little bit awkward but doable with some practice. If you release the AF/MF button then follow with a half press of the shutter, AF will be reinitiated and your manual focus efforts will be gone.
Setting the Focus Mode(12) to DMF (Direct Manual Focus). This will allow you to stay in AF and then if you decide to use MF then all you have to do is turn the lens focus ring while half pressing the shutter button. If you use DMF I suggest setting the Focus Magnif. Time(21) to 2 seconds. If you use No Limit then you will need to take the picture while in magnify view. Not really a bad way to work but takes a little getting used to.
DMF Pros: Using MF is a fluid action and doesn’t require pressing buttons. Simply turn the focus ring and activate MF. DMF shows focus peaking while in Auto Focus.
DMF Cons: It’s not good for tweaking or confirming AF – turning the focus ring activates MF and the magnifier but also changes any AF settings. Once MF is complete in magnify view it takes 2 seconds to return to full view. This can be too long or too short depending on the circumstances. It would be nice if a release of the half-press instantly returned to full view and a repress within say 2 seconds would keep the MF setting just achieved. It would give the user full control in timing the on/off of the magnify function.
MF dominant setups:
If your primary shooting preference is MF with intermittent use of AF, first change the Focus Mode to MF, then you can change AF/MF Button to HOLD or TOGGLE in the Custom Key Settings(26).
HOLD is good because it allows you to press the AF/MF button and achieve AF without touching the shutter button. You won’t accidentally leave it in AF too. The only problem with HOLD is you cannot move the flexible spot AF area – it’s stuck where you placed it. You’ll have to get out of Hold, go to Toggle in the Custom Key Settings(26), then move the AF area. If you are ok with AF spot position always being fixed, (centered for example) you’ll get along fine with this setup. This is my preference for MF, it’s just a quick blip of the button, then back again.
TOGGLE will give you control of the flexible spot areas for AF that HOLD does not. However, when you TOGGLE to AF you’ll have to follow with a half-press of the shutter to achieve AF. A little more cumbersome. When the camera is turned off it will revert back to MF.
When should you turn AF w/ shutter OFF(24)? That means a half-press of the shutter will not initiate AF. You really don’t need to turn this feature to OFF. Even when it is ON when the camera is in MF it is off.
Continuous Focus and Continuous Shooting
This is the ideal setup for action shooting except things are a bit difficult with the A7R. The A7R does not have electronic first curtain – something that has been discussed at length in the forums with many pleas to Sony to release a firmware update. The challenge with the A7R is the EVF goes black at the start of the first frame making it difficult to maintain the Flexible spot focus on the moving subject. It’s like juggling and someone momentarily turns the lights off.
A second option is to turn on AF tracking. This allows the camera to attempt to track the subject. I’ve not fully tested the reliability of this feature but in general I’ve found them to be hit or miss. Much like most “Auto” camera features, Exposure, AWB, Flash etc. they do not always do what you want.