I have a Nikon D5100 and the auto focus works fairly well most of the time. But there are times when I have a subject in focus and want to fire off multiple shots fairly quickly. I do not need to focus every time on the subject yet auto focus will attempt to re-focus the picture every time that I press the shutter down. Only way I have found around this is to switch to manual focus. Is there a way to keep the camera in auto focus mode but have it not auto focus every shot.

An example: I was shooting the moon (no pun intended => ) the other night and the auto focus had the moon in focus without an issue. Every time I pressed the shutter the camera would attempt to focus. I was attempting to fire the shutter as quick as possible to show to motion of the moon rising and having it focus every time causes too much delay.

  • Ugh! You gave me flashbacks to the time I waited a long time for the opportunity to take a picture of a airplane transiting the moon which resulted in no picture because as the plane passed and I hit the shutter the camera decided to do the whole "switch focus from infinity where you already are back down to <1m and back trying to focus".
    – Michael
    Jul 16, 2015 at 21:04

3 Answers 3


You can configure the back button on your camera that is AF/AE lock to lock your focus. You'll focus, press the button, and the focus will lock until pressed again. You want to go to the menu and select "buttons' and then set the button to "AF Lock" I believe.

  • Thanks for that information, I realize now that I have seen that term and not realized what it meant. Now it is clear! =>
    – L84
    May 8, 2012 at 16:33
  • 2
    You can also just flick the lens to manual focus, but you have to be careful not to twist the focus ring after that May 8, 2012 at 16:34
  • I've been wondering for months what this button does. Thanks for the simple explanation!
    – Jonas
    Apr 28, 2020 at 15:15

Other bodies (e.g. the D700) have an AF-ON button so that you can move autofocus activation off the shutter release (so the half-press only does metering) leaving AF-ON the only thing that activates AF. Lots of people like this arrangement because it's very flexible, and they find this justifies the awkward getting-used-to-it phase. The D5100 may not have and AF-ON button, but the menus may allow you to assign that function.

Otherwise, once you're happy with focus, you can use the AF-L button to lock focus, though by default this will also lock the exposure value.

As a third option, you can switch to AF-C mode, in which there is release priority - when the shutter release is pressed the shutter will fire even if the camera thinks it is not in focus. Compare with the normal situation, focus priority, where the camera will not fire when out-of-focus.

Last option, you can probably change the camera settings so that AF-S also operates in release priority.

  • AF-C will not reliably take the shot if it is uncertain about focus. In such cases, sometimes holding down the shutter down for a second or two will cause it to fire, but by that time it's usually because it has decided to refocus somewhere else I don't want it to. I am horribly disappointed.
    – Michael
    Apr 20, 2020 at 19:12

In addition to all the answers above I find that setting your auto focus method to AF-S (Using the back menu) will allow you to do faster burst shooting. On AF-S with your first half-press the camera will find focus and then keep that focus for subsequent shots as long as you keep the button pressed. This yields the maximum burst rate.

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