Photo tricks. Part 12. Focus Trap

The focus trap is an interesting feature to catch the desired subject in focus without focusing itself.

Photo tricks. Part 11. Focus Trap

Photo tricks. Part 11. Focus Trap

The focus trap is also called focus trap... The essence of the reception is very simple, the camera focuses at a certain distance, and then waits for something at this distance to come into focus, that is, to fall into the so-called 'trap'.

First, how to configure:

If you have a professional-grade camera, such as Nikon D300, D700, D3s etc., which has a special AF-ON button

1. Set the 'AF activation' function from the 'Autofocus' menu item to 'AF-ON only'. In this position, auto focus is only available when the AF-ON button is pressed, and the shutter button when pressed halfway will activate metering exposurebut will not auto focus. This is the standard focus mode for professional photographers.

2. If using the AF-S focusing mode, set the focus priority in the camera menu using the 'Priority selection' menu item. for dir. AF-S 'to' Focus'. When using focus mode AF-C, then in the camera menu set the focus priority using the 'Select priority. for dir. AF-C 'is also set to' Focus'.

3. Set the focus mode on the lens to the auto focus position. Focus in any way at the desired focusing distance, press the shutter button all the way, and wait until an object appears in the focusing area, as soon as the subject gets into the 'trap', the camera releases the shutter.

If you have an amateur level camera such as Nikon D5100, D60, D80 etc., which does not have a separate AF-ON button

1. Using the camera menu, configure the button AF-L / AE-L to 'AF: AF-ON'. It's good that all Nikon cameras have this button and can always be reprogrammed. After this setup AF-L / AE-L button will simulate the operation of the AF-ON button on older cameras. When you press the AF-L / AE-L button, the camera will automatically focus. Auto focusing by half-pressing the shutter button will not occur.

2. Put the camera in focus mode AF-S or AF-A. Unlike professional cameras, almost all amateur cameras do not have the ability to prioritize focus, in AF-C trigger priority always works, and in AF-S mode, focus priority always works. Features of amateur cameras described here.

3. If the camera has the ability to set the focus priority for AF-S, AF-C modes, for example, such a function is in the amateur camera Nikon D5100, then you need to set the priority 'Focus' for such modes. If you don't want to set priorities, on amateur cameras just turn on the mode AF-A.

4. Set the lens focus mode to auto focus mode. Focus in any way on the desired focusing distance, press the shutter button all the way, and wait until an object appears in the focus area, as soon as the object falls into the trap, the camera releases the shutter.

Attention: Some new Nikon cameras cannot be set to focus trap mode. A reliable list is not known.

The focus trap works in any focus mode: one point at a time, with dynamic focus area selection and normal auto mode. Best to use a trap in single-point focus mode or with dynamic focus area selection.

Where to apply?

The focus trap can be used to easily catch moving objects.

Example: at motorcycle competitions everyone knows where motorcyclists will pass. On a tripod, we focus the camera on the place where we want to catch a motorcyclist. Press the shutter button all the way and wait for the rider to fall into our focus trap. With the usual focusing method, the focusing speed of the lens will not always help to quickly respond to a changing situation. In general, there are many examples.


The focus trap is an interesting way of working with a camera. With the help of the trap effect, you can simplify the shooting of dynamic events, or make manual focusing easier. I advise you to do your own research.

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Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Please, if this material was useful to you, help my project. And don't forget that everyone can write your review for one or another photographic equipment.

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Comments: 261, on the topic: Photo Tricks. Part 12. Focus Trap

  • tatianaput

    I re-read it again, and now almost everything is clear. If you set AE-L, AF-L to AF-ON, you just need to take a picture by holding down the trigger + AE-AF-L, and with the trap trigger + Lv. Only you need to aim the lens manually, but in M ​​\ A mode (which is why it doesn’t work on all lenses!) For example, on my macro 40, in macro mode, I had to be very close when the trap worked, and in normal mode about half a meter distance. But this is a fix. You need to experiment with zoom. Thank you for the article. Good luck to everyone.

  • Sergei

    Hello everyone, Nikon D5200. I checked all the settings more than once. Lens Kit 18-55. I tried Fix AF-S 50mm-1.4f ​​G. The shutter is released immediately after full pressing, regardless of focus, whether the “waiting field” is focused, whether it is the “waiting field” in milk. AF-C focus priority. The AF-L / AE-L button is set to AF-ON. Help to deal with the problem.

    • Vladimir

      The same thing doesn't work.

    • Michael

      Maybe your lens is in M ​​mode?

      • anonym

        You need to switch to AF-S mode and you will be right now

  • Vladimir

    There was no way to configure the trap on the D5300: (((

  • Vasil

    D810 does not work trap (

  • Oleksandr

    D750 Engraving from the exposition block.
    AE-L / AF-L - for AF lock only mode.
    Shutter release button AE-L - blocking exposure at low pressure - stand Off.
    Tobto, the blocking of expositions is not maти buti.
    Ale. When focusing and at the same time, the AF-L exposure may (!) Be blocked, wanting to change when pointing at the latest objects, with the latest illumination. When the AF-L is displayed, change the sutta and time.
    It seems not to be. Є ide?

    • Oleksandr

      A. ISO mode fixed.

  • Dmitriy

    I keep it simpler as it seems to me on the 5100. AF-C focusing, focus priority, burst, center point focusing. I press the full button and lead the central point behind the object, so I take pictures of the children on the run, the camera focuses on the point, as soon as the focus is caught, the series goes on, the focus disappears - the series was cut off, it found focus again - the series continued.

    • Julia

      Dmitry, first you focus on the object, and then you lead a point behind it?

  • Rust

    This is the most useful news! In a month, I am switching from the old D90 to the D610. Thanks for the most valuable advice for the right “transition”!

  • Alexey

    Yes, 610 is slowly becoming a national ff, thanks to its relatively affordable price. This is a plus for Nikon.

  • Dmitriy

    It seems to me that this trick is already outdated. For as I did not try to set the trap on my D610 when using the AF-ON button, the device simply ignores the focus priority settings and performs a descent even without being focused. = (

    • Michael

      This usually happens if the manual focus mode is set.

      • iyago

        Same stuff. Until AF-On is selected, the camera takes into account the parameters specified for AF-S and AF-C, and as soon as you turn on the AF-On button, priority is definitely set to release, not focus. Checked in both AF-S and AF-C. Aperture Priority Mode In manual mode, it does not work either.

        • Michael

          Interesting, apparently, and the truth is outdated. Although it seems to me that when AF-ON is pressed, the fotik must still take into account the parameters for AF-C, AF-S, otherwise it turns out completely nonsense. But in this case "does not affect the speed."

  • Timur

    And on the D7200, the focus trap is easier to implement than on earlier cameras. In the menu item a4 “AF activation” set “AF-ON only”. We aim the camera at the place where, for example, motorcyclists should pass, press the shutter button halfway so that the camera “captures” the exposure value. Then manually (or through Live View for the best result) we adjust the sharpness of the image of this place. If focusing is successful, a round icon will light up in the lower left corner of the viewfinder (when focusing through Live View, the focus is visible on the screen anyway). We take the camera a little to the side and squeeze the shutter button completely, while the shutter does not work. Again we aim the camera at the place where our motorcyclists should pass. We are waiting for the "victim". Until the rider is in focus, the shutter will not release. As soon as he gets into this zone: voila! The shutter worked!

  • Amateur

    Interestingly, on the kenons there is also such a button and the ability to reassign its functions, but it did not find its proper application.

  • Ivan

    Good afternoon!

    Tell me, please, there is no way to use a camera trap on manual lenses?
    I got a manual fix (85 / 1,4) and after that there is no longer any desire to take pictures with the whale zoom :) But there is a problem - on a fully or almost completely open aperture there is almost always a miss.

    • KalekseyG

      Dandelion Lushnikov will save you.

    • Oleg

      In extreme cases, if the shooting is not in a hurry, you can take several frames with a slightly different focus. This is if the subject stands still.

      And can check the lens for focus accuracy? Maybe it has a shortage or flight by definition, and since the sharpness zone is small on an open aperture, a small error takes the focus to the wrong place, with a closed aperture the sharpness zone increases and if the focus is a little blurry, this does not affect the result.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Only dandelion or Live View to help.

  • Micah

    Please help with advice. Trap problem on the D40. With a 35 / 1.8G DX lens, everything works as expected. I wanted to turn to manual lenses and first test the trap with the Nikkor AF 28-80 (kit for F65). Although the lens is autofocus, it was defined as manual and the carcass clicks the frame in any case, whether something is in focus or not. Is it possible on the D40 to make a focus trap for non-G lenses and how?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      This cannot be done. No way.

      • Micah

        Arkady, thanks for the answer! Will the trap work on the D40 for manual dandelion lenses?

        • Arkady Shapoval

          Only if you program AF-S on a dandelion. I don’t know for sure if all dandelions can do that. The dandelions that Lushnikov made knew how.

  • Micah

    Arkady, if you can, a couple more questions. I want to simulate work with a bunch of manual + dandelion on D40 + 35 / 1.8G DX. I go through an AF-ON to a close object, then I want to shoot a distant object, for which I twist the focus ring and press the shutter. I expected that while the distant object was out of focus, the D40 would not shoot; but in fact the carcass takes off all the time while I twist the ring. When the ring does not move, the carcass behaves as expected: it does not remove the object when it is out of focus, and removes when in focus. Questions: 1) D40 with a bunch of manuals + dandelion will behave the same? 2) with other carcasses, in particular S5 and D700, will it be the same as on the D40?

    • Micah

      Got an answer to a duplicate of this question in the Q&A

  • Nikolay

    Hello, Arkady.
    I read your site for a long time, but there was no chance to write.
    First of all - THANKS.
    But in fact, - I had a D610, Focus trap did not work, but the replacement of the AE-L, AF-L function with AF-ON took root. Then I managed to buy a new D750. Since I was already used to it, I changed AE-L, AF-L to AF-ON and was surprised to find that the shutter does not work with a small aperture, but if you move a little and the OPS is ready. Remembered your article. I deliberately tried it on the tit and for sure - it is. I tried 50mm 1 / 4G, 85mm 1.4D, 24-70mm 2.8E, the "infection" works.
    Thanks for the science again.

    • Grigoriy

      Did you manage to make a trap including on the D750 + 85mm 1.4D?

      Because having D750 + 50mm1.8D as I do not try, there is no trap and like the people above, the shutter is simply released.
      I set focus priority for AF-S and AF-C, automatic focusing on the camera is on (there is no switch on the lens), focusing is on AF-ON - in theory, it is with such settings that the camera should wait for focus. Other experiments with the settings also failed. There is a suspicion that there must be a lens with an M / A-> M switch.

    • Grigoriy

      Taki achieved that very trap. (Everything is as I wrote above, but it works exclusively in AF-S, AF-C ignores the focus priority set in the settings) But all the time it seemed to me that you could press the shutter button and then leave the camera, for example, on tripod, wait for the conditional bird / athlete. In fact, "out of the box" only works with the shutter release button held down. As far as I understand, the problem can be solved with a cable (?), Or, in the case of shooting conditional nocturnal animals (for example), already specialized motion sensors.

  • Nikolay

    And again - hello everyone.
    Today I checked out another nikon / nikkor 24mm f / 1.4G lens - it works at an open aperture. After f / 2,8, the shutter is almost always released. Which is understandable - the depth of field becomes quite large. (For sure depend of the distance to the subject).

  • Nikolay

    And compare D610 and D750. It's like a BMW and, no, not a Cossack, but let's say a Mazda. Both are not bad cars, but the difference is on the face.

    • Dmitriy

      Didn’t notice any big difference

  • le6681

    The D5300 in AF-S mode does not wait for the subject to appear in focus, the release immediately ... AF-ON is set to the button.

  • Sergei

    On my D750, it only works in single-frame focusing mode (AF-S). In continuous autofocus (AF-C) mode, focusing priority is set in the menu, but the camera does not execute, in fact, the shutter is released regardless of the presence of focus ... On the D5300, the focus trap did not work in principle and Nikon's technical support stated that the specification on cameras of this series changed this function is not supported ... It seems that the manufacturer is playing with the functionality ...

  • Alexey

    Colleagues, I ask for help ... I watched the 750 today, a problem was discovered - the focusing frame does not stand still after half-pressing the button, but begins to scour the sides on its own, not far away, but runs. For me, this camera is still a novelty, and the seller was also confused. Is it a marriage, or we don't know the settings ?! Tell me! It is hard to believe that Nikon is broken ...
    Regards, Alexey

    • Michael

      What is the focus frame?

    • Vlad

      Most likely you have AF-C mode enabled with 3D tracking. Autofocus is trying to track the movement of the object, here is the point and jumps

  • Garuvi

    For those who DO NOT RECEIVE and the camera starts taking pictures after a full press:
    After setting all the settings, you do NOT need to focus the machine automatically at the intended distance, but do this using the focus ring on the lens. Then press the shutter button and wait.
    If you zoom in with the machine gun, the camera “thinks” that focusing has already taken place and it is ready to shoot, which it does.

    • Still

      On 7100 it does not work. Although the car is at least manual. If the focus is locked, it still has focus in the frame or not ((

  • Vladimir

    On the Nikon D600, the autofocus trap DOES NOT WORK! I did everything according to the instructions: Installed on the back button AF-ON, shooting mode S, focus mode AF-S, in the menu I chose focus priority for AF-S mode. But the camera continues to take a picture both when AF-ON is held down and when released, despite full defocus

  • Basil

    A question for connoisseurs: please tell me how to turn on the autofocus illumination in nikon d3100 when using manual lenses?

    • Ivan

      You do not.

      • Basil

        Thank you.

    • Ivan

      There is one way though. Connect the camera to your computer. Using the service program, open the test mode for all buttons, bulbs, press the test of the autofocus illumination lamp indication and it lights up while you hold the mouse.

  • Paul

    Doesn't work on D3500. As soon as you press the shutter button, and the object is “not yet”, the camera waits for nothing and for no one, it just releases the shutter and that's it.

  • Robert

    Is there any implementation of shutter release with manual optics when focusing? That is, you twist the focus with your hands and as soon as you get into focus, the camera will release the shutter. This would almost solve all the inconveniences of manual optics.

    • B. R. P.

      With a dandelion.

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