Nikon focus and recompose: identifying behaviour on different models

My Nikon D3000 refuses to take a picture if I focus and recompose with the AE-L/AF-L button set to "AF ON". (The focus point is on an out-of-focus part of the image after I recompose, so the shutter doesn't fire. See further info here.)

On my Nikon F80: I select the single focus point I want to use, focus on the subject by pushing/releasing the AE-L/AF-L button, recompose to put the subject where I want it (focus point is now on the out-of-focus background), push the shutter release and the shutter fires.

Reading the manuals for these two cameras, the description is very similar but the behaviour is obviously different. What is the name of this feature? How can I determine if a camera has this ability? Is there a menu setting on the cameras which do have this ability which controls this?

I realise that there are other methods of achieving the same effect: using manual focus entirely, switching to manual focus after autofocusing, setting the button function to AF-L to lock the focus when held down etc. I am more interested in the exact functionality as described for my Nikon F80.

• Don't know about the D3000, but I can say how it works on the D5100 with AF ON enabled: For AF-S, press the shutter button halfway down after AF lock but before moving the focus point, and hold it half pressed while recomposing. This locks both AE and AF, and allows shutter release (until you lift the half-press). For AF-C this doesn't work; instead there's a menu option a1 AF-C priority selection: Option Focus (the default) behaves as you describe, while Release always takes the picture when you press the shutter. The latter is the most convenient IMO. – j-g-faustus May 5 '16 at 22:35
• I can confirm that the desired behaviour is possible on a D3300. So, it appears that it is a fault/oversight in the D3000 rather than Nikon choosing to be "helpful" etc. Unfortunately, there has never been a firmware update to the D3000 :( – RoG Nov 16 '16 at 1:28

As the question you've linked to says, this is a limitation of the camera. A workaround would be to flip the lens into manual focus after you get what you want with the focus-and-recompose method. That's an annoying extra step, but at least it will work.

• Or just skip AF and focus manually in the first place. – Caleb May 5 '16 at 16:14

Not sure if this will help you but I had the same issue. I discovered that mine was set to show me a preview of the last picture I took and when that picture was on the screen if I pushed the ae/af button to refocus it would lock the ae and not allow me to take a picture. I turned off the picture preview and this fixed it. Then if I need to check my picture I quickly hit the play button.

• I don't use that picture review feature, unfortunately. Which model do you have? – RoG Sep 16 '16 at 6:46

I think this may help though I'm not sure what mode you currently have set... make sure that the AF-Area setting is on "Single Point" (pg45 of the user manual). I believe using any of the other AF-Area modes may mess up the feature.

The manual seems to indicate that the functionality you desire should work.

I have a D7000, and it does not have the issue you are mentioning, like your F80.

• I have the AF area set to Single Point. I have seen a fair amount of information (e.g. the link I provided in the question) indicating that it will not work, but I would be very pleased if it can be done. Good to hear that it is not the case on the D7000! – RoG May 5 '16 at 18:02

The closest behaviour is achieved with the following settings:

• Use single mode autofocus (AF-S)

• Use single point autofocus

• Set the AE-L/AF-L button to "Autofocus ON"

Then, take a photo with the following steps:

• Choose the autofocus point (e.g. the center point)

• Point the camera so that the chosen focus point is over the subject

• Push AND THEN HOLD DOWN the AE-L/AF-L button

• Recompose so that the focus point is now on an out-of-focus area

The key parts are the AF-S mode in combination with holding the button down. However, this negates the benefit of the back button focus technique which is to have both AF-S and AF-C styles available at once: by leaving the setting on AF-C, the button may be held down for continuous autofocus, or pressed momentarily to achieve single mode autofocus.

Also, this offers no real advantage over using a half press of the shutter button to start the autofocus and then holding down the AE-L/AF-L button to lock focus (with setting "AF Lock only").

There is an option to set the AE-L/AF-L button to "AE lock (hold)"; I think the missing setting would be called "AF lock (hold)" or similar.

• The lack of firmware updates for this model, inadequate desription in the user manual and inexplicable differences in behaviour between models (e.g. D3300) are disappointing from a supposedly leading manufacturer! – RoG Jan 20 '17 at 9:21