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How Can I Use DMF on My Sony Alpha Camera?

How to use DMF in Sony Mirrorless Cameras

I was photographing some bicycles in the studio recently and decided to use Manual Focus (MF) to ensure that the exact spot that I wanted would be in sharp focus. I also decided that I would use AF before refining my manual focus. I’d do this by using the AF-On button on the back of the camera.

After having used it in this way for a while, I decided to try out the inconspicuous, but ever-present DMF mode. Here’s what I found out about it… It’s exactly what I needed! Maybe you need to try it out too!

The DMF Focus mode in Sony Mirrorless Cameras stands for “Direct Manual Focus“. I’m not sure that the name is very descriptive … it really doesn’t explain much. DMF is actually a merging of Manual and Auto Focus modes in Sony Mirrorless Cameras, and it just may change the way you focus in some of your photographs.

What Does DMF Focus Mode Do?

DMF or Direct Manual Focus, in Sony mirrorless cameras, blends the control that you get when using manual focus, with the quick acquisition of Auto Focus (AF). It’s a mode that you’ll find on many of Sony’s cameras from the Sony A7iv, to their APS-C mirrorless range, to their vlogging camera the ZV-1, and even on the compact RX100 vii. So you’ll definitely find this information useful.

How Does DMF Work?

One of the nicest things about DMF is that it doesn’t feel like manual focus… That’s right! It’s AF first, and then the camera hands over focus to you…

When you half-depress the shutter release button, the camera acts as if it is in AF-S (Single-Shot AF) mode, and focuses on the closest object. You can then use the lens’s focus ring to adjust the focus as you’d like it, before taking a photograph.

Now, some of you may be saying that this isn’t very different in behavior from what you first described… using the camera in MF mode, and using the AF-ON button when needed, and that’s true. However, DMF may be useful to those who aren’t as yet comfortable with back-button focus … who keep forgetting to press the AF-On button.

An additional benefit is that you can simply use the camera as if it was in AF-S mode. If you have focus peaking turned on, then you get an additional way to visualize the in-focus areas that would normally not be possible in AF modes.

When Is DMF Useful?

It was useful when shooting product photographs in my studio, taking multiple close-up photographs of bicycles from different angles in quick succession.

I found this mode to be quite useful when not photographing subjects that have specific AF modes… For example, when not shooting portraits (which can make use of eye-focus mode), or fast-moving objects which need AF tracking.

The official Sony website states that this mode is useful for portraits and macro photography. Personally, I think it isn’t very useful for portrait photography (Eye AF would be better), but could be quite useful in macro photography, or in any situation where you need fine control over focus. Of course, you can manually control the AF zones too, to get the same result.

How Can I Set Up My Camera to Use DMF?

You set up DMF in two ways:

  1. Set the focus mode from the main menu by pressing Menu > Focus > [AF/MF] > Focus Mode > DMF
  2. Set the focus mode from the Fn. menu by pressing the small Fn. button, and then changing the Focus Mode to DMF

What Are The Related Settings That Change The Way DMF Works?

Now that your focus mode is set to DMF, you have a few more options to change the way you focus, and so that you can visually ensure that your focus is spot-on.

  1. Turn on Focus Peaking (Peaking Display set to ON) to be able to see which areas are in focus, represented with a color that you can set (Red, Yellow, Blue, or White).
  2. Turn on Automatic Focus Magnifier in MF (Menu > Focus > Focus Assistant > Auto Magnifier in MF > On). This allows you to have a zoomed-in view (1x or 5.5x) of the image. You’ll want to set the duration of this focus magnifier function to about 2 seconds so that the magnified view turns off 2 seconds after you stop adjusting focus.

So, Why Should I use DMF?

If you’re a Sony shooter, you’d choose the DMF focus mode when you’re trying to learn how to focus manually, or if you’re trying to get used to back-button focusing, but aren’t quite there yet. This is an interesting hybrid mode with both AF and MF at call, but with a stronger emphasis on Autofocus with manual focus as a backup.

This focus mode isn’t for everyone, and honestly, it feels a little amateurish… Still, I’m not too ashamed to say that I enjoyed it and that it allowed me to get sharp focus quickly, and with less fiddling around. I could rely on the camera’s autofocus when I didn’t need to change anything, yet make manual changes quickly and easily.

Should you use it? I’d say, why not try it out? Let me know what you think when you do.

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Published: June 15, 2022 | Last Updated: June 19, 2022

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