We have set up our a7II and a7RII cameras with similar custom buttons and functions, so that we can easily switch between them.
We bind back button focus to the AF/MF/AEL switch lever. Normal autofocus is the up position of the lever, and Eye AF is the down position of the lever. The thumb rests around there naturally, so we keep the button pressed down when we need to lock on a subject, and press the shutter as needed to take a photo. This is a very fast and intuitive method for autofocusing.
A particular face can be selected for Eye AF by putting the center AF point over that person’s face, holding down the back button and recompose. The autofocus will continue to track the person through the frame.
We also turn off shutter AF, so that half-pressing the shutter does not trigger the autofocus again and cause the camera to stop focusing on the eye. It also means we don’t have to refocus every time we let go of the shutter, and we can react quickly to a great moment by pressing the shutter as soon as it happens.
When the person we are tracking is turned away from the camera or if the face is sufficiently far away, we switch the lever to the up position, using continuous lock-on AF instead of Eye AF. The lock-on tracking keeps its target fairly well, though it tends to prefer tracking larger objects (faces, whole bodies, cars, etc). In this case, the whole object will be sharp on average.
Custom Button 1 — Focus Mode. Can switch between AF-S, AF-C, AF-A, DMF, or MF.
Custom Button 2 — Metering Mode. Switch between Multi, Center or Spot.
Custom Button 3 — Smile/Face Detect. This has the zoom or magnifier button. Can switch off face detection here so that the autofocus does not get sidetracked by faces.
Custom Button 4 — SteadyShot. This button has a trash can icon next to it, which helps us remember to use this to turn off 5-axis stabilization or SteadyShot for mounting on a tripod.
Center Button — Focus Settings. Push the button, use the direction buttons to set the focus spot, or turn the dial to change the autofocus mode. We often use Lock-on AF: Flexible Spot, Center or Wide.
Left Button — Drive Mode. This is the default. Switches between Single Shooting, Continuous Shooting, Self-Timer or Bracketing. We leave it on Single Shooting most of the time.
Right Button — ISO Auto Min SS. By default this button says ISO, and it is useful to remember this function. We usually set this to Faster setting for taking portraits or otherwise Standard. On the a7II this button is set to ISO, which is the default.
Down Button — Finder/Monitor Sel. We shoot with the LCD or “monitor” most of the time to have more awareness of our surroundings, but in bright sunlit situations we use the electronic viewfinder. Make sure to set this option to NOT “Auto” for the custom button to work as a toggle between the LCD and the view. Note that on the a7II this option is not available.
AEL Button — Eye AF. This is the down position of the toggle. Hold the button down to use continuous Eye AF.
AF/MF Button — AF On. This is the up position of the toggle. Hold the same button down to use normal AF, either continuous or single.
Function Upper1 — Picture Profile
Function Upper2 — Flash Mode
Function Upper3 — Flash Comp.
Function Upper4 — White Balance
Function Upper5 — Grid Line
Function Upper6 — Zebra
Function Lower1 — ISO
Function Lower2 — Silent Shooting (not available on the a7II)
Function Lower3 — Quality
Function Lower4 — Creative Style
Function Lower5 — Peaking Level
Function Lower6 — Peaking Color
Audio Signals: Off. This is probably the first thing we do on the camera, because the beeping is annoying!
Auto Review: Off. During shooting, the auto review just slows us down.
Quality: RAW or RAW+JPEG.
Color Space: sRGB.
Picture Profile: Off. It is advisable to set this to a color profile for video (PP5 is Cine1, PP6 is Cine2, and PP7 is S-Log2), but to leave it off for stills.
Long Exposure NR (noise-reduction): Off. Generally speaking it is easy to post-process the noise, but you may want to turn this on if you plan on taking longer than 15-second exposures.
E-Front Curtain Shut.: On. This will result in sharper images due to dampened shutter vibrations. In some situations such as extremely high shutter speeds, this can cause banding. Use at your own discretion.
Silent Shooting: Off. Only turn this on when you absolutely need to, because it results in 12-bit images instead of 14-bit.
MF Assist: On.
Focus Magnif. Time: No Limit.
We also set our camera to Airplane Mode, which disables the Wi-Fi function and helps conserve battery. We can get over 1000 shots over the course of a 2-3 hour photo session, on a single battery charge.
Brian Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, has a great guide to adapting Sony A-mount and Canon EF-mount lenses on Sony E-mount, as well as a more in-depth look at some great new settings on the a7RII.
Interested in more?