How to Manual Focus a Digital Camera

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Updated July 26, 2022

If you are new to the world of digital photography, learning how to manually focus a digital camera is an important step, despite advances in autofocus performance in both new and mirrorless systems. This may seem silly since the best digital cameras and compact cameras come with more precise and sensitive “autofocus (AF)” points, better tracking, and faster acquisition times, but there are certain occasions where you need to use it.


  • Turn off the AF (Autofocus) mode on the lens of a digital camera, or in the camera’s menu.
  • Rotate the focus ring on the lens to manually focus on the subject.
  • In mirrorless cameras, change the Manual Focus assist feature in the camera to automatically magnify into the Live View, so that you can accurately focus, once you start rotating the focus ring.

How to Manual Focus Your Camera


Depending on your camera brand, locate the diopter adjustment control (i.e., a small wheel on the label + and – on some cameras). You will find this control close to the viewfinder, allowing you to alter the viewfinder focus to fit your eyesight.


Manually move the focus-method switch to the setting marked MF or M on your lens. Most camera lenses have this setting. Alternatively, if you have a compact camera, go to your camera’s menu and turn ‘ON’ the MF assist feature. Make sure you understand the different digital camera modes and symbols to find the right setting.

Insider Tip

If you are new to the world of digital photography, learning how to manually focus a digital camera is an important step, despite advances in autofocus performance in both new and mirrorless systems.


  • Enable grid lines on your camera by accessing the setting in the camera’s menu. As a result, you will see two vertical and two horizontal lines on your screen.
  • Place the horizon on one of the dividing lines, but not at the center. In addition, the bottom part emphasizes the background, while the upper part is for the foreground.
  • Leave some room at the top, and position the subject at any four points where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect.
  • The work of the frame is to lead the viewer. Use the negative space in the scene to show the viewer what they need to see. If you place your subject on one side and then require them to move across the field of view, ensure they stay within the frame unless you intend to have them walk out of it.

STEP 4 Select the Sharpest Focus Point

Press the zoom-in button on the top-right corner of the camera. Then, turn the main command dial to select the focus point you want. Most DSLRs use a phase-detection focusing system to focus on a point. On the other hand, most point-and-shoots and mirrorless cameras use a contrast-detection system.

Alternatively, you can look through the viewfinder and press the multi-selector tool. Then, switch to the left, right, up, or down options until the focal point you want to use flashes red.


Rotate the focus ring until your subject appears in sharp focus.


Press the shutter button to take a picture. Then, check the preview image and magnify to check if your shot is in perfect focus.

What Is Manual Focus?

Manual focusing is the process of turning the focus ring on the lens, even an old manual camera lens, by hand. As you adjust the focus ring, you observe the subject through the LCD screen in live view or through the viewfinder. Now, most modern cameras with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) or optical viewfinder use the image on the camera sensor to help with manual focusing. As a beginner, learn how to use the viewfinder to get a precise focus of your image. The best part is that the process is pretty much the same, whether you are using a new or a homemade digital camera.

Mirrorless cameras provide manual focusing through the viewfinder. In some cases, automatic magnification is active when you turn the lens’ focus ring. This quick, convenient, and on-demand precision has made manual focusing popular among professional photographers who want to shoot in low-light settings, as it will help them capture quality images and minimize glare on their digital cameras. Once you master this, you’ll be able to do moving photography and close-up photos with your digital camera.

Insider Tip

Manual focusing is the process of turning the focus ring on the lens by hand.


How can I use a manual lens on my Canon EOS camera?

You have to choose the manual exposure mode and manually set the shutter and aperture speed.

Do photographers use manual focus?

It’s your best bet to focus on a subject without any guesswork. Most professional photographers avoid using an autofocus system because manual focusing gives them maximum control of their shooting sessions.

Is autofocus a better alternative to manual focusing?

If we are talking about speed, then autofocus is better than manual focusing. AF is better because it can easily lock onto an object within seconds, making it ideal for fast-moving objects. But, of course, you can also use manual focus on moving targets by pre-focusing on the spot where the target will be moving to and shooting the selected location.

STAT: If you are looking for an affordable quality digital camera option, you can go for the Nikkor 50mm 1.4. (source)

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