Using Center Button AF on Sony a7 a7R a7S a7II a7RII a7SII Cameras

Sony a7 Center Button AF

The number one question I get about Sony a7 series cameras is “why doesn’t it have a joystick to quickly select my focus point?” Here’s the easy way to use the Control Wheel like a joystick to quickly select your focus point on Sony a7, a7R, a7S, a7II, a7RII and a7SII cameras:

Select Menu > Custom Settings 6 > Custom Key Settings

Sony a7 Center Button AF

By default, the Center Button is assigned to Eye Focus, but I find it much more useful to use the Center Button to adjust the AF Point. Select Standard from the drop-down menu.

Sony a7 Center Button AF
Once you’ve done this you can adjust Zone or Flexible Spot focus points while shooting simply by pressing the center of the Control Wheel to activate the focus point then pressing the sides, top, or bottom of the Control Wheel to move it around or you can rotate the Control Wheel to choose the size of the flexible spot: Small, Medium or Large – I prefer Medium.

For portraits, place the Flexible Spot focus point on the subject’s eye, and press the shutter button halfway until the focus point turns green and the camera beeps. While still holding the shutter button down halfway, recompose slightly if needed, and take your shot.

Sony a7 Center Button AF

Boom! Now you can use the Control Wheel to quickly adjust the Zone or Flexible Spot AF point.

As an added bonus, this setting also works with manual focus assist. The difference is that when Manual Focus Assist magnification is active you merely use the Control Wheel to navigate around the screen – the Center Button controls the amount of magnification.


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57 thoughts on “Using Center Button AF on Sony a7 a7R a7S a7II a7RII a7SII Cameras”

  1. Having to press the centre button at all is still superfluous, other cameras offer genuine direct control and it makes things that little bit quicker. I love my a7, but Sony really should take a leaf out of Fuji’s book and make some very simple firmware tweaks (proper implementation of Auto ISO, for example).

    It would cost little but would bring a lot of good will, the a7RII is getting both of these features I believe so it’s not impossible. The RX1 is another example of a camera that really, really should have received a firmware update to fix some very basic bugs and offer a few tweaks, but it never happened.

    1. I have to respectfully disagree with you on the direct access suggestion because that makes it much to easy to inadvertently change this setting when the camera brushes against your body (which is the reason I suggest a7/a7R Control Wheel setting be changed from ISO to “Not Set”). It’s actually very natural to press the Center Button with the knuckle of your thumb and then move focus where you want it with the tip of your thumb on the Control Wheel.

      But I absolutely agree with you that bringing some of the new a7RII menu settings such as ISO AUTO Minimum Shutter Speed, Self-timer during Bracket and the additional Bracketing Modes to the current a7-series cameras in a firmware update would make a LOT of users extremely happy.

  2. Speaking of inadvertent changes, that little AF/MF and AEL lever on the back of the A7 cameras delivered a nasty shock to me a few days ago. I use that lever’s button for back focus and while shooting a series of nine “portraits” of service dogs and their recipients in a somewhat chaotic environment, an errant finger mistakenly tripped the lever downward. Sadly, autofocus effectively ceased for all of my shots of that one team. At the time, I did chimp the LCD once or twice but in the rush, didn’t spot the problem. Thankfully, that lever somehow got flipped back up for the rest of the shoot. After discovering the mistake, my fix has been to assign both lever positions to “AF-On” since I never use the lower position anyway. As much as I love my A7II and A7s, their ergonomics strike me as not always the best. For example, I can’t count the number of times I’ve accidentally mashed the video “Record” button. No real harm done, I guess, since vid files easily can be deleted but if not immediately noticed and recording churns on and on, battery life might be whittled a bit. Regarding this, it is my understanding that vid record on new A7rII can be assigned elsewhere. Hooray!

      1. Can you re-assign the movie button to another button like c2 or c3? I’ve googled this question several times and can’t find any answer. I shoot a lot of video and want easier access to it. Hitting the button where it currently is, is difficult and requires repositioning my hands every time I start and stop. Your site is extremely useful. Thanks a lot.

  3. Brian, thanks for this – you just helped me out a load! I always went into the menu, through to the focus options, out, moved the focus point, took the shot… Coffee’s on me if you’re ever in Melbourne!

  4. I tried to do this with my new A7R2. but the drop down screen from the centre button does not have the Standard option – the options are completely different. It’s also in Screen 7 not 6 now – so a bit of tweaking on Sony’s part.

  5. Hello everybody,

    Is there a quick way to toggle back and forth between MF assist On/Off?
    I find this to be a great tool, but sometimes it’s useful to be able to quickly turn off the auto zoom, rather than having to go back and forth to the menu to turn it on/off. I haven’t been able to find it under FN or Control to have it added for quick accessibility. Do you know if there is some button that you can press while zooming, that will cancel out the auto zoom to allow regular focus? Or can it be added to FN or C somehow – just strange to me that this wouldn’t be available when there’s so many other pointless options available.

    Thank you in advance!

    1. I suppose I’ve answered my own question on this. Turn MF assist OFF and use a C function to turn on Focus Magnifier. Anyone have a better way?

      1. Yes, for sure.
        That’s doesn’t allow you to choose between focusing with the zoom or full screen though. With MF-Assist it’ll always go to zoom focus as soon as you start moving the focus ring – no way around it.

        The Focus magnifier ended up being the better option to get what I was looking for.

        Thank you man.

        1. You asked “Do you know if there is some button that you can press while zooming, that will cancel out the auto zoom to allow regular focus? ”

          And as I replied, you just need to touch the shutter button lightly.

  6. This is one of the reasons why I returned a7R, and are hesitating buying a7RII. Ideally I would want the D-pad to move focus point all the time, and use center buttons to enable the extra functions on the d-pad.

    I move the focus point much much more often then use those buttons.

  7. A friend of mine (PJ Karl Grobl if you know him) has the wheel on the back of his Canon 1Ds bodies set to mover the focus point left to right and vice versa. He likes that setting because he knows the shot as he is reaching for the camera on his Spider Belt and already has the focus point over to whichever side he wants it before it hits his eye.
    This seems broadly along the same lines but with some extra steps. A Canon wheel or Nikon joypad for focus point moving is a simple way (although I find the Nikon pad the slower of the two, despite being a Nikon user) and I am surprised Sony have not simplified that a bit.
    I’m looking at moving to the A7RII system following a wrist injury that makes using big DSLR bodies too difficult, so it’s good to know that the A7R II will work more or less the way I want.
    Sony’s demo unit should be with me next week and I am looking forward to that.

  8. Hi Brian, thank you for your gracious and patient help for those of us learning the A7Rii system… My question: Is it possible to use the focus magnifier while in AF mode? I know a way to do this with Fuji X and Olympus EM1, but I haven’t found a way with the A7Rii. It would be nice to magnify focus *while in AF mode* and then switch to MF mode to quick adjust, if necessary. Any help or is this not possible? Thank you!

    1. Try switching to DMF as your Focus Mode. It works like AF-S but once focus locks in, a slight turn of the focus ring will zoom it to the focus point you selected and allow you to fine tune focus using manual focus.

      1. Thank you, Brian, but for some reason the MF Assist isn’t zooming in DMF (I am using the Zeiss 35 1.4 and checked to see that MF Assist is active). Any other ideas? I appreciate you!

          1. HI Brian. Sorry about that, no, I mean the Sony Zeiss Distagon t* fe 35mm f/1.4 za. If I am in MF mode, MF assist works (i.e., zoom when turning the focus ring), but NOT when I am in DMF mode. At any rate, I was hoping to use the magnifier while in AF mode to ensure my focus before taking the shot rather than using manual focus by itself, which I am surmising might not be possible with the A7Rii?

          2. Let me try this one more time.

            1. Set Focus Mode to DMF
            2. Half-press shutter to lock-in Auto Focus
            3. Once Auto Focus locks in TURN the focus ring to magnify focus point and manually fine-tune focus

            Step 3 won’t work if you skip Step 2.

          3. Thank you for doing the “Dick-and-Jane” steps for me, Brian! You are a mensch, and indeed that was the problem alright: I was skipping step 2 to lock focus (doh!). One last question, however: after obtaining focus lock and turning the focus ring, is there a way to amp up the magnification or does it default to the 5x level and stay there? Thank you again, Brian. I am grateful to you for your help….

          4. That worked, though you need to hold down the shutter button and C2 while turning the focus ring, which is a bit awkward. Anyway, THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking the time to answer my question, Mr. Smith. You are really appreciated! Peace and good to you always.

  9. Thanks, a great tip. Although I lose a quick way to activate “Lock on AF” that I find useful.
    I assigned AEL button to “Eye AF”
    I could use AF/MF for lock on.
    Brian do you use back button focusing?

    I have the A6000 and I wonder why my A7 does not have AF-A like the smaller camera. The A7ii does not have either.
    I find AF-A useful as I use mostly AF-S but occasionally it would be good have the camera focus on a moving subject without fiddling with buttons, if the situation changes.

    the lack of AF-A and the crippled Auto ISO that chooses in A and P modes 1/60th of a second and ISO 100 when the light of day is waning are my main gripes of shooting with the Sony after a decade with Nikon DSLRs.

    I wish Sony addressed these 2 important issues with a firmware update to all the A series cameras.

  10. I have another Q. :
    when using “face recognitions” with a group of people, is there a way to choose one face, rather than having the camera choose for myself? To keep a main subject in focus.
    thanks

      1. Thanks – that is a bit cumbersome. On a shoot I can’t always dig into the menus (I also wish Sony would have organized menu items more rationally).

        I would have licked that by clicking the wheel I could have selected a face on the fly.

  11. Awesome trick! I didn’t know it, I had set the centre button to eye AF after buying the camera and totally missed on this extremely useful way to set up the camera. Thanks a bunch for sharing, I wish I had read this sooner. Keep up the good work!

    1. By the way, if Lock-on AF is set to ON, you can use the centre button to also start the tracking (by pressing twice) if in AF focusa area set to Wide.
      This is really the best imaginable set up to access a number of AF features really quick. It’s feels as a completely different camera!

  12. Brian I can’t think of anybody who could better address this issue for me. A7R2 Failure to Focus in a studio environment. I shoot primarily on location with natural light or continuous lights so I had this camera for a while before I encountered this problem. When you turn off the Live View Effect in order to work with strobe this camera cannot focus. I am using the 24-70 F2.8 G series lens. The camera appears to lock onto the subject but in actuality it isn’t even close. And manual focus is extremely iffy due to the fact that you are trying to focus through a stopped down lens. I am so incredibly disappointed. I was a step away from fully moving away from Canon but I can’t see a way to make the Sony a viable studio camera.

    1. That’s exactly how I shoot most of the time. Bear in mind that Phase Detection AF requires F8 or brighter. At F9 the camera drops down to Contrast AF which is accurate but its Slower than PDAF and it works better in AF-S than AF-C mode.

        1. I’ve been told that each lens is set to focus the way that ensures greatest focus accuracy. In other words if a lens focuses stopped down it’s because focus shift from wide open focus would cause inaccurate focus. I don’t see Sony adding an “inaccurate focus” option.

          1. Makes it hard to shoot street photography.

            f11 would allow depth of field to take care of inaccuracies. AF at f11 makes the camera hunt and miss the shot. or misfocus anyway. I understand the stopped down AF for landscape on a tripod, interiors / architecture and so on. But wide open AF should be an option for reportage.

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  14. Hi Brian, I recently purchased the A7 and have been trying to set the wheel to move the focus point. I tried to follow your instructions but the option for Center Button (and Standard) is not in my menu. Any ideas? (Went to Gear menu, #6, Custom Key Settings. There I have Control Wheel, AEL button, AF/MF button, Custom Buttons 1, 2 & 3 only).

      1. And not long after I sent my message I found it. didn’t notice there was another page. Thanks so much for quick reply.

  15. If I may ask another question: the built in diopter on my A7 does not adjust enough for my nearsighted vision. I wear glasses (trifocals) but take them off to shoot. I discovered there are eyepiece correction diopters that can be added on for additional adjustment (?). Of the ones I’ve found made by Sony they are either described as for farsightedness or don’t say. I also can’t find what the +1, +2, +3 means tho it sounds like how reading glasses work – more magnification. Any advice appreciated.

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