Back Button Focus on Steroids! The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Feature That Blew Me Away

by planetMitch13 Comments

I've not been more excited about learning about a new feature on my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (or any body) in a long time – but yesterday I was so thrilled to learn this new feature I not only tested it out I fell in love – the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV gives you the ability to have up to 12 unique sets of “back button focus” buttons!

I was so excited about it, I had to show you more so I made a video.

Back Button Focus on Steroids!

But really, I couldn't be more excited – and a bit goofy as well.

I almost used the “game changer” phrase LOL!

But really. This is an awesome feature of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and it has opened up my eyes to using AF in new ways.

I confess, the vast majority of my photography has been done with a single center point focus and then recompose. Yes it works, but I've always felt/knew I was missing something. But I was also always troubled/hobbled by my lack of willingness to really sit down and explore the different focussing options – mainly because changing the settings all the time was a royal pain.

But not any more. This ability to customize the back button focus with multiple buttons, multiple options, and multiple custom settings just rocked my boat.

Now, if only Canon would give us a way to save our settings to a memory card so we could permanently have one master set of settings we could always get back to… or share with others (maybe you have 2-5 cameras on set and want the same settings for all!) that would really send me over the moon!

I spent the morning at the Missouri Botanical Gardens shooting with my new friends, the 3 focus buttons I set up just after watching the video at the bottom from @tallyWacker — you can see those photos here if you want. I came home with a bunch of keepers and a new fondness for exploring new autofocus settings!

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV “Menu In Depth” video from @tallywacker where I learned the technique above… and there's a lot more in this than what I showed! From this forum thread

What's your favorite new setting on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV?

(cover photo credit: snap from me and my trip to the missouri botanical gardens)


  1. It does not matter how good the focus is when the image is uninspiring. The HD image in practically unchanged since 2008, full of moire and aliasing (same crappy line skipping), and the 4K is severely cropped (1,75x in 4K UHD) with an ancient, very inefficient, non graphically accelerated codec in editing software’s.
    For me the 5D mk 4 is a clear statement that Canon has abandoned video uses and those who value a good hybrid still-video camera must look somewhere else!

    1. Eno-What camera would you suggest that is a “good hybrid”? I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, but am curious as to what you would suggest.

  2. Mitch are you sure this feature is only available on the 5d4?
    I was hoping it might be available for thee canon 80d, and or 7dmarkii

    1. Author

      My understanding now is it is on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II (tho I haven’t verified that)

  3. I’m new to the concept of backbutton focusing so I had a question for you…

    If I leave the shutter release button with AF on half press as you suggest, then how do I release the shutter without overriding the back button focus that I have just set?

    For example, I press the Asterisk button and setup AI servo focus. I’m ready to take a picture, so I click the shutter release button on the front of the camera. Wouldn’t that then refocus to whatever method you have set to that button and override the AI servo focus that you just did on the back button?


    1. Author

      This is a common question and I should have explained better in the video. Sorry.

      IF you have the shutter set to Meter and AF, then to use the BBF on say the AF-On button, you have to HOLD the AF-On button (or * as you mentioned) which will override the settings on the shutter button because you pressed (and held it) first. The shutter button only activates the shutter at this point.

      So if you want to be able to truly use the BBF and not have to hold the buttons down continuously, you definitely want to set the shutter button to metering only.

  4. Hi Mitch,
    I have the 5D III and just got the IV. I have back button focus set up on my III which I use all the time so I set it up on the IV using the AF-ON button and also tried the AE-Lock button. Once either button was setup I noticed that the focus points no longer display on play back of an image which in critical for BIF. I changed the settings on AF-ON and AE-Lock back to default and voila the focus points now display. The firmware version is 1.03 which I believe is the most current.

    Have you encountered this problem and do you have any suggestions? I would hate to have to give up back button focus!

    1. Are you leaving the back button pressed when you trigger the shutter ? I have seen this happening when that happens

  5. Brilliant and funny post! Thanks so much! This really solves the issue I have during family portrait sessions where I go from a static pose to seeing the kids doing running around and not being able to change settings fast enough.

    You’re right, this is very exciting! Thasks from Oahu.

Leave a Comment