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Sony A7, A7R Focus Options

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.

This is a vertorama taken with the A7R and the 35mm f/2.8. Manual focus on the rocks jetty in the distance for the top image and on the shells in the foreground for the bottom image. Both images taken at f/8.0 - a very sharp range for this lens.

This is a vertorama taken with the A7R and the 35mm f/2.8. Manual focus on the rocks jetty in the distance for the top image and on the shells in the foreground for the bottom image. Both images taken at f/8.0 – a very sharp range for this lens.

  • Peter Lee - April 7, 2014 - 12:08 am

    Hi from Australia.I have just purchased the A7r and am having problems trying to lock AF for stitching RAW images- dead easy on my Sigma DP Merrills.There will be times when I will use MF but I do need an alternative.I have been told that the best way is to move the switch to AF/MF depress the shutter half way until it locks focus, ease off the shutter altogether ,select Fn and change to MF.The focus will then stay locked ?.I have tried it and although it seems to work I still have my doubts- what do you think ? Is there a better way- I would hate to go for that once in a liftime shot down a gorge and find focus has shiftedReplyCancel

  • Ferrell - April 8, 2014 - 3:08 pm

    Hi Peter, I think with a little getting used to the A7R you’ll find it very easy to capture the RAW images for stitching. I would certainly start by setting the AF/MF Ctrl to Toggle in Custom Key Settings (26) then move the switch to AF/MF (top back of camera). Begin the pano setup with focusing either AF or MF and then press the toggle to switch to Manual Focus. All shots will be taken in Manual focus and the camera will not revert to Auto Focus unless you press the toggle switch or turn the camera off/on.

    Remember it’s best to shoot in M mode so your exposure remains constant across the scene. BEST OF LUCK!ReplyCancel

  • GK - May 9, 2014 - 5:25 pm

    Ferrell, thank you for posting that setup, I have been searching for the concise equivalent of Canon’s “back button focus” and what you detail here is just about it.ReplyCancel

  • Tim - July 15, 2014 - 8:30 am

    Just came across this great article after spending the last hour trying to make sense of the poorly written a7R user guides. Really very useful and concise advice here, thanks very much.ReplyCancel

  • Maureen - October 20, 2014 - 8:07 pm

    Thank you! I found the manual useless in setting up my a7s. You have helped me a lot.ReplyCancel

  • Chris - September 4, 2015 - 6:06 am

    Excellent description and a gorgeous vertorama; thank you!

    I just bought a used A7r and should have it tomorrow. I note your comment about users asking Sony for a firmware update to change the front-curtain behavior: did Sony ever do so?ReplyCancel

  • Wag Col - October 9, 2016 - 2:35 pm

    I must say that this article gives the most elegant way of setting up back button focussing on Sony A series cameras. Much more elegant than most “internet experts methods” even those who write books about these cameras.ReplyCancel

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