Fuji X-Pro-1 back button focus

Goedenavond my photo friends. Today i want to show you how to setup your X-Pro-1 to take advantage of the back button focusing. But before we go into any details on how to engage this in camera, lets take a few moments and explore this idea in some more detail.

What is back button focus and why should you care?

I switched to using the back button (AE-L AF-L) to focus my camera a few months ago and can honestly say i could never go back to the traditional way of auto focusing using your shutter button. It will take a little getting used to at first, but if you stick with it, i can promise you will feel the same way i do. So what is it exactly? In the traditional way of auto focusing your camera, you would half press the shutter, which engages the auto focus system, get the camera to lock focus, and then take the picture by pressing the shutter button all the way down. Ok i am not undermining your intelligence by stating the obvious here, but i wanted to set a baseline for our discussion. With back button focus, you essentially disassociate the function of auto focusing your camera from the function of taking the actual image. You use two buttons instead of one which on the surface may seem quite odd and less efficient but works wonders once you get used to it. Things look even peachier (yes i said peachier) with the X-Pro-1 because the genius minds over at Fuji, know their ergonomics, and placed the buttons in a fantastic place. We will get to that in a minute, first lets continue exploring the idea of back button focus. Here is why you should care about this, and possibly give it a try:

  1. Decouple AF (auto focus) from AE (auto exposure). Normally the shutter button acts as the vehicle for doing both, you press it half way to focus at which point the exposure is measured, then press all the way to capture the magic. If you half press and then re-compose your scene, the exposure has already been measured by the camera which may not be ideal for your new composition. With back button focus, you can recompose all you like, and get a proper exposure for what the lens is pointing at, then all  you need to do is press the AF-L button to capture the correct focus and take the picture.
  2. Good for action. Track your subject with back button focus, and get a perfect exposure when you are ready to take the picture.
  3. Better thought process. This one is a little difficult to put into words, but from my personal experience, i can tell you that the number of keepers from individual shoots have gone way up. I tend to put more thought into composition and setting up my shot, and i know this is something that has very little to do with separating the focus from exposure, but it is simply my personal experience.
  4. X-Pro-1 specific – better focussing in low light. Don’t ask me why, or how but i have noticed that the camera tends to lock focus a lot better in low light situation using the back button focus. I have come across this same phenomenon beign described on other sites, so i know i am not crazy. Try it for yourself and you will surely notice a difference.

Fuji X-Pro-1 setup

Now that we have discussed the advantages of back button focusing, lets take a look at how to enable it in your Fuji X-Pro-1

First off, the button that will become your back button focus is the AE-L AF-L button located above the “Q” button on the back of your cameras.

Back button focus on Fuji X-Pro-1

Back button focus on Fuji X-Pro-1

In order to enable the functionality follows these steps:

  1. Click the “MENU OK” button to access the camera menu
  2. Navigate to Camera Menu 4 -> AE/AF-LOCK MODE as shown belowP1020061
  3. Press the right arrow button to access the menu and select one of the two options shown belowP1020062
  4. Select the options that best suits your style of shooting. The first option will force you to keep the button depressed as long as you want the camera to keep the locked focus. The second option will act as a switch, press it once and the camera will lock focus. Personally i selected the “AE&AF ON WHEN PRESSING” option, it just seems a little more intuitive to me but i would suggest you try both and see which fits you better.
  5. Go back out to the menu, and select the next option down “AE/AF-LOCK BUTTON”
  6. Press the right arrow button to access the menu items as shown belowP1020063
  7. Select “AF LOCK ONLY” to enable the back button focusing
  8. Switch your focus mode to M P1020064

That is it for the setup on the camera. I hope you found this useful and please leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts on the back button focusing using the Fuji X-Pro-1.

Happy shooting,


21 thoughts on “Fuji X-Pro-1 back button focus

  1. pinkopunko
    July 4, 2013 at 11:45

    I agree at 50%. IMO AF/C is the fastest way to focus whit xpro1/xe1 (done plus or minus 50.000 shots) . So I use this method (Set Af /C for the first focus setting, then block with AF focus lock only, then shot the others pics until the subject still there. BUT you are right, AF/AL Lock button is in a perfect position. Thanks.

    1. July 4, 2013 at 11:53

      Thanks for the comment, much appreciated. How do you find the battery life on the x-pro-1 with using AF/C?

      1. pinkopunko
        July 4, 2013 at 17:58

        Thanks to you. After the shot if the AF/AE remain locked the automatic focus is inhibited so no battery drain. Then the battery is not a BIG problem using OVF (as I do in 80% of cases) but for a “normal” day-shot you must have 2 ore 3 Batt. with you.

  2. July 4, 2013 at 15:54

    Great bit of info. I have used these features on my Nikons but for some reason have not tried on the Pro1. Will not go back and reevaluate. Nice article.

  3. July 28, 2013 at 08:42

    I have used this technique on my Nikons since about 2004. Works fine as in AF-C mode they focus as long as I keep the back button pressed. No way to get the Fujis to do this.
    Also, I don’t understand why the ‘Corrected AF Frame’ feature is not available when using this method. It would be nice what the camera has actually focused on. Hopefully Fuji will make this available in a future firmware update.

    1. July 28, 2013 at 16:47

      Yes i totally agree, hopefully this is coming in the future firmware releases

    2. MarkD
      July 29, 2013 at 09:06

      I second that – I used the back focus method habitually with my old 5D and the only thing stopping me using it on the x-pro1 is the lack of the green confirmation box showing me what I have focussed on. Maybe I will try it out some more anyway, as it used to suit my shooting style.

      1. January 2, 2014 at 16:53

        If you press the scroll in, you get a few focus helpers to cycle through

  4. Mike
    July 28, 2013 at 12:05

    Useful technique, I use it by focussing with the shutter button and then locking the focus by pressing the AE/AF button. I can take a few pictures and then unlock the focus by pressing the AE/AF button again. This is of course not in M mode.

  5. Les
    July 28, 2013 at 13:42

    Hi, thanks for the post, but:::::
    A few updates ago, Fuji stated a one button focus option was added. This, however, was not real! You could always use the ael- aef button in MANUAL as instant locked focus. Try moving the focus selector from S to C to M the and watch the screen now “announce” that you now have “one touch AF.”

    My request that has to date been unanswered is to have the focus rectangle available with default autofocus with the shutter button, the tiny little rectangle, available in manual focus. Unfortunately, manual focus mode still has a large rectangle that is about 8 times larger in area and not precise.

    If I missed something and you have the tiny little rectangle on screen in manual mode let me know. I still cannot get it that small.

    Lastly, a work-around to use the small focus rectangle and lock focus for multiple shots (like a stationary model?) is to use the shutter focus small rectangle to focus, release the shutter to save the focus point, and then move the focus selector lever to manual so it locks for the shots you take next. Change when your subject changes.

    I always used the DSLR rear buttons for focus and have been requesting the small focus area since getting my X Pro. I really would prefer a POINT focus SPOT. Fuji,Aubrey someone there is reading your customer’s posts. I have bought 2 pros and am awaiting to new model that should be announced at the January CES.

    As I write above, if you have the minimal focus area, please let me know how you did it. Thanks


    1. Les
      July 28, 2013 at 13:45

      Sorry -an auto spell changed: should read: Fuji, are you reading your customer’s posts?

  6. Yves Ste-Marie
    July 28, 2013 at 14:14

    Very good description to set up and use the manual mode. I use this set up for lots of my shootings. But there is more to that mode. In the auto focus OVF we have two focusing frames which, for a good focus, make it difficult at time to guess the right spot; the focusing in manual mode is faster probably because in auto focus mode the system as to figure out which is the “right” spot to focus on. In manual mode there is only one and more accurate; if you take a series of shot of an object at different distances, full aperture, you will notice that the focus is on the spot every time. From what I understand the camera is using the focusing point from the EVF; if you hit the AF to move around the focusing point you will notice that the camera switch to the EVF with the 49 focus points compare to the 25 for the OVF, then back to the OFV. With this mode the shooting is more like a Leica M experience, manual focus only and accurate.

  7. David S
    July 28, 2013 at 20:21

    Good post, very helpful. Helpful hint for you: the personal pronoun is always capitalized. Always.

    1. July 28, 2013 at 20:42

      Thanks for the tip David, much appreciated.

  8. David S
    July 28, 2013 at 20:59

    You’re welcome. Your post really was very helpful. I recently was shooting some moving water and tried to use a cable release, which of course, goes into the shutter release removing my ability to focus. I looked for a way to back button focus, as I used to do on my Canons, but was not successful searching the menus.

  9. tschnitzlein
    July 29, 2013 at 04:08

    Unfortunately, this description isn’t totally accurate because one fact is missing:

    When in AF-S mode, the AEL/AFL button does NOT start an AF measurement run, but only LOCKS the lens to the last AF-measured focus distance!

    If you don’t believe me, do the following test:

    * Use the camera’s EVF to rule out any parallax problems that could falsify the test.

    * Point the camera’s AF frame to a distant target and half-press the shutter button. Note the measured distance on the distance scale in the camera.

    * Now point the camera to a target close by and press the AEL/AFL button. The AF frame will turn green.

    * Now half-press the shutter button to display the locked focus distance: You’ll see that the locked distance is that of the first, distant target!!

    So, you first need to measure focus by half-pressing the shutter button, then lock the last measurement by pressing the AEL/AFL button.

    BTW, if you are using the OVF and you have the “Corrected AF frame” option enabled, you will get parallax correction displayed only when half-pressing the shutter button. There’s no parallax correction displayed in the OVF without half-pressing the shutter button, even if focus has been locked before (permanently green AF frame).

    PS: I am the admin of http://www.fujix-forum.com, the world’s largest Fuji X camera user forum.

  10. Steve Cullender
    July 29, 2013 at 05:54

    All you need to do is switch the X-PRO1 to manual focus and the same result is achieved using the back button to focus. you then still have the normal auto-focus on hand just by switching back.

  11. Brad Horn
    July 29, 2013 at 11:22

    I’ve been doing this for years. I love shooting this way. I dislike that the 14mm XF lens forces you into either manual or auto mod and locks out the manual adjustment after pushing the AF button, but it’s a small price to pay. Oh, and it means that most people who pick up my camera can’t use it because they can’t figure out how to focus. :)

  12. January 11, 2014 at 06:01

    is it not possible to have the back button focusing when leaving the front manual focus switch to single shot therefore have the option to use the shutter button to focus if need ? like on a pro dslr the back button focus and front shutter button both act as af switch ?

  13. Derrick
    June 24, 2014 at 10:24

    I love the step by step walk through. I learned something new with my own camera. Back button focusing on the xpro1 works IMO in environments where the distance between the camera’s sensor and the subject is constant. One could also achieve the same effect by pulling the focus ring into manual or toggling the small switch into manual focus, setting focus using peaking and leaving it for however many shots you want at that distance.

    When using my Canon DSLR, I saw the benefits of using BBF when coupled with Ai-Servo. Doing so, all I needed to do was put my focusing dot on the subject (moving or stationary) using BBF and the onboard software would track my object, while my shutter finger was free to capture a succession of images.

    With the xpro1, this ability is still lacking. Using the (AE-L AF-L) button to lock focus, I still need to properly expose the image, which means I still need to half-press the shutter release. I don’t find using the (AE-L AF-L) button convenient at all, as I am still doing the same number of steps.

    Instead, I have set the (AE-L AF-L) button to lock exposure first. When shooting outdoors, lighting is always changing, shadows are forever growing and shrinking, so setting the proper exposure for me, is key. No use in having perfect focus, when the image has massive blowouts, right? So, I lock exposure first using spot-metering to balance my final image, then I focus and compose.

    Until Fuji makes BBF usable with continuous focus, I won’t be using the BBF for my shots.


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