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Sony A7 III Fast Start

Lesson 6 of 29

Camera Controls: Back Side Controls

John Greengo

Sony A7 III Fast Start

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

6. Camera Controls: Back Side Controls
Demystify the controls at the back of the camera body. Learn essentials from focusing the viewfinder to AF modes to using the LCD screen.


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:16:37
2 Photo Basics Duration:04:38
4 Camera Controls: Mode Dial Duration:26:05
5 Camera Controls: Top Deck Duration:18:35
9 Left & Right Side Controls Duration:07:02
10 Bottom Controls Duration:04:59
11 Front Controls & Lenses Duration:13:16
15 Menu Page 6: AF2 Duration:05:42
16 Menu Pages 7 & 8: AF3 & AF4 Duration:05:56
19 Menu Page 13: Focus Assist Duration:06:03
20 Menu Page 14: Shooting Assist Duration:06:29
21 Camera Settings: Movie Duration:07:43
25 Network Menu Duration:11:19
26 Playback Menu Duration:07:18
27 Setup Menu Duration:26:52
28 My Menu Overview Duration:08:13
29 Camera Operation Duration:10:14

Lesson Info

Camera Controls: Back Side Controls

Let's take a look over at the back side controls now. Over on the top left we have a C3 button, once again, obviously a custom button that you can reprogram as you want by diving into the camera settings and the custom key option, and going there and choosing whatever feature you want of the 22 different pages that I think you have in there for changing it. By default, it comes set to changing the focus mode. I played around with this a little bit in the class before, but let me fully explain the different options in here. This is controlling how the camera focuses. And single is where it will focus on a subject and then stop. And this is good for basic photography, portrait photography, good for subjects that are stationary. The next type of choice here is AFC. C stands for continuous, and if you're photographing something that is moving towards or away from the camera the focus needs to adjust if you wanna get a series of shots with each photo in focus, or with video, where it's trac...

king the subject back and forth. And so the continuous mode is great on this. One of the issues with a mirrorless camera, it's a little different than an SLR, is that once you start to shoot, the aperture closes down to whatever setting you have. If you close it down to something smaller than F8, it's gonna prevent light coming in and enabling the camera to focus. And so it's very difficult to track subjects at apertures smaller than F8. Now, there's a bunch of sports photographers that are watching this right now that are going, what? Who would set F11 to track subjects coming toward you? Most sports photographers generally want to separate their subject from the background, so they're going to set the aperture to 2.8 to 4, 5.6 if their lens allows that. And they would never stop down, maybe one stop for sharpness or a little bit of depth of field on there. And so most sports photographers, this is like, that's not an issue at all. If you didn't know about photography, you'd be like wow, this sounds like a big limitation. It doesn't really affect the way most sports photographers would actually shoot. AFA. I hate this mode. AFA is where the camera chooses for you what it thinks you are shooting. I think this is a pretty easy choice on our part. Are we shooting action or not? If it's action, put it in the AF-C mode. If it's not, just leave it in AF-S. When you put the camera in the auto mode dial on top of the camera, this is the mode it's in, it's in AF-A. It looks for action and if it doesn't see it, then it's AF-S. If it does see it, it's AF-C. But you don't have any control over it. You can't change it. And that's why I'm not a big fan of the AF-A mode. DMF stands for Direct Manual Focus, which means the camera is going to use AF-S to auto focus just like normal, but if you want, you can reach up to the manual focus ring and readjust the focus. In fact, let's do this right now. All right, let's point the camera over at our subject, and this seems a little on the... Nah, that seems pretty good on screen so I'm gonna leave it there. So let's change this to DMF. And actually, I'm gonna change our focusing point, stupid simple right here in the center. And so it's gonna focus on our subject. Perfect, it's there. But is it really in focus, is it in front of the lens, or the back of the lens? So I'm gonna reach around, I'm gonna grab the lens, and you can see it automatically zoomed in. And I can just go in here, just to touch it up, or make sure that it's exactly where I want it to be. And so, it's a great way for anyone who likes to manually adjust or double check what the camera's doing when it comes to focus. And so, it's a nice system for manual focus cause it gives you kind of a combination of both. Finally, there is Manual Focus. Pretty simple. You just manually focus the lens. And I'll talk more about that magnification feature that we just looked at, cause that'll help you focus. There's also something called focus peaking, which will show you areas that are in focus, highlighted and there's an option to turn that on in the camera as well, so there's a number of options that make manual focusing very easy to work with. And that's something that I typically do in landscape photography, because it's very particular of where I want the camera to focus and I want it to remain there for many shots on screen at the same time. So those are our different focus options. But once again, you may want to reprogram that for some other button on the camera or some other place in the camera as well. Now you'll notice there's a little key there, and that is a lock feature that we'll talk more about when we talk about playback of images. If you wanna lock a photo, what that prevents you from doing is deleting the photograph in the camera. You can still reformat the card, you can still put the card in a computer and delete the photographs, so it's a very low level of protection, but it does prevent you from deleting a photo that you know you don't wanna get rid of. We're not gonna get into the menu system now, but the menu is the full comprehensive list of options available on the camera. If I recall correctly from my one-page outline here, there is about, let's see, 250 different features in the menu system. We'll be covering each and every one of those in an upcoming section in this class. Don't worry, we're not gonna spend a lot of time on each one. All right, we have a touch sensitive LCD screen on the back of the camera. Reasonable resolution, the touch screen is not real expansive as far as what it controls. You don't go through the menu system, you don't go through the function menus. You can change the focusing point, and I found that some people are really into touch screens and they're very disappointed, and other people are not into touch screens and they're like, whatever, that's fine. There's plenty of other controls on the camera if you don't wanna use the touch screen. It can be very nice when shooting video, and you want to wrap focus or change focus from one point to the other without making any sort of little clicks on the camera. You can just touch where you want on the screen for the camera to focus, or even shoot photos in still photography. We have an electronic viewfinder that we've talked about before. And there is a removable, replaceable eye cup that may wear out with years of service. We have an eye sensor, which can tell when you are near the viewfinder. It doesn't know what's near the viewfinder, it could be your forehead, it could be your finger, and it's gonna automatically switch from the LCD on the back of the camera to the EVF. So when you hold it up to your eye, it switches very well. And from somebody who's owned a Sony A7 Mark and an A7 Mark 3 series camera, it is vastly improved from the Mark 2. The Mark 2 was so bad, I had to program one of the custom buttons to manually switch between the viewfinder and the back of the camera. I have not done that with the Mark 3 camera, because the tuning is much better on it. If you want, you can manually control. If you still don't like the way this one works, you can manually control. You can set up a button that switches between the two different views on the camera. There is a diopter. It's a little tiny neural dial on the side of the camera, and that controls the viewfinder focus. It has nothing to do with the final focus of the image, and so what you wanna do is look through the viewfinder, look at the numbers and information around the screen, don't worry about the image that you see, just the numbers on the screen. Make sure that they're in focus by moving the diopter, and be aware that it does get bumped from time to time. I constantly think I am losing my eyesight, and it's just the diopter in my camera is getting bumped. That happens a lot. You can also go in and change a number of the parameters about the type of view that you are seeing from the screen as far as what sort of information it's showing you, and we're gonna talk more about it but it is fully customizable, trust me. Now, when you do look through the viewfinder, what are you seeing, what's some of the things that are going on in there. So the frame is 100 percent accurate, so what you see is what you get, which is nice. The focusing frame changes according to what you are doing, whether it's just sitting there, whether it's actively focusing, whether you're moving it, and so just be aware, there's a lot of different options as to the way the focusing brackets are going to look for you. For compositional reasons, you can turn on a variety of grids. This can be done through the menu system. This can help out for architectural photography, for composition reasons, or just alignment reasons, you're shooting multiple photos that need to be lined up in a particular way. You can go into the menu system, we'll talk more about this in there, and turn these different grids on. And so there are separate grids for video and for stills, and so we'll talk about that as well as we go through that section. What you see in here can be controlled by pressing the display button on the back of the camera, which is the top part of that dial. And you can choose to see more or less information. There is a level horizon that you can choose in there, which is kinda fun. Some of the options that you'll see down along the bottom are the focus light, and this can be checked to make sure that the camera is focusing. This can be handy because I like to turn the camera's audio beep off, which tells you you're in focus, there're two different ways, visual and audio. All sorts of information along the bottom. Usually your critical stuff, shutter speed, aperture, metering information, ISO. Extra settings are gonna be along the top, I'm not gonna go through all of these right now. A lot of them are kind of obvious, or ones that you'll learn pretty simply and quickly along the top there. The graphic display, I'm kinda split on this one. I love displays and I love graphic showing of, you know, faster shutter speed, slower shutter speeds, and so I like that concept of it, but dang, it's taking up a lot of the viewfinder and it's covering up your subject on there. And so I kinda wanna turn that sort of thing off. I like it but it just takes up too much space. The histogram is a great way of determining if you are under exposed or over exposed. If you're new to photography, you gotta learn about the histogram. I love it, but once again, it's taking up a lot of space and I wish they could put it into the border around the frame, not on top of the composition. But it can be really handy in tricky lighting situations. The level, for all of you pilots out there and wanna be pilots, this is gonna help keep your airplane or your camera straight. So there'll be green lines when you are correct and orange lines when you don't have it quite lined up properly. So this can be really hand if you're working off a tripod and you're trying to get things lined up, for instance. And you can go in to the camera settings and choose which one of these you see and you don't see, and as far as options, but if you wanna cycle through them, you just hit the display button as you're looking through the viewfinder to cycle through the different options. The color and brightness of the viewfinder can be adjusted, usually doesn't need to be adjusted, but if you do find that it's drifting and it's brighter or darker, or it's all kind of yellow, you can adjust that yourself in there, which is nice. Talked about the movie record button. Ideally, you wanna be in the movie record section on this. If you are, then you have more control over the aspect ratio that you get to see and compose with first. You'll also be able to set up the movie settings for program or aperture priority, shutter priority, or manual the way serious cinematographers wanna work with it. When you just press the button, you can just start shooting movies but it goes into a simplified, automatic basic recording system, so move it over into the movie mode if you are serious about shooting your movies. And you can control all those features by going into the camera settings 2 movie button and telling the camera how you want it to work. The AF-On button I've mentioned previously, but this controls the autofocus, so it allows you to focus with the back button rather than with the shutter release. And as I said before, this doesn't make a lot of sense until you reprogram the camera. It is by its nature, just a button on the camera that you can reprogram. So you can go in and customize this to something else if you think back-button focusing is goofy or you would like to do a different button with back button focusing, you could reprogram this to be something else. If you do wanna use this as a back button focus, the key thing is you wanna turn off the autofocus on the shutter release. And in order to do that, you go into camera settings 1, page 6 of 13, go into AF with shutter and turn that off. That way, the shutter does not control autofocusing anymore. You do that by the back button on the camera. And that's what I said before, a lot of serious and a lot of professional photographers really like that set up, so that's a good system that I recommend and recommend you try, at the very least. Our rear dial, which is gonna be used for shutter speeds, apertures, and a lot of other things. Over on the right we have our auto exposure lock button. We saw this before with the manual shift. But this also works with program, aperture priority, and shutter priority. So if you look on the back of the camera here, if we put it in the program mode, the camera is choosing shutter speeds and apertures, and if we move the camera around, you can see that those numbers are changing. But if I press in on the AEL button, you'll see the star indicates we're pressing down on the button, and everything is locked in place there. And so that'll be true in the program, the aperture, and the shutter priority mode. And so once we lock it in, it stays locked in. Now in the manual mode, well it stays locked in because that's where you've set it. But if you do wanna do that change, you can press this in and turn the front dial, and you can change both shutter speeds and apertures so that you end up with the same total exposure but with different settings. So that's a pretty useful feature, as well. But is also that little checkerboard there is thumbnails, and so when you're playing back images, you can get to multiple images so that you can scroll through your images a little bit more quickly if you're trying to find a particular image. Our multi-selector, which is gonna be used for changing our focus area, but we're gonna also use it for multiple other things like navigating the menu system as well.

Class Description


  • Use the advanced focusing system with 425 Contrast points and 693 phase detection points
  • Understand and leverage bracketing options for Exposure, White Balance and Dynamic Range Optimizer
  • Use the multitude of customizing options
  • Use video features like 4K video, slow motion, and time-lapse
  • Better use any modern mirrorless features like the EVF


Sony set the bar high by calling the Sony A7 III a basic mirrorless camera, packing the $2,000 body-only digital camera with a 24.2 megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and image processor capable of 10 fps. The entry level full frame camera is being touted as one of the best options for full frame, even among Canon and Nikon competitors.

This class helps you get the most of your Sony camera with a complete step-by-step walkthrough of the camera’s features, whether you are just picking up the a7 III for the first time or you want to learn new tricks for your well-loved camera. Join expert photographer John Greengo as he gives you all the information you need to understand this Sony Alpha camera's buttons, menus, and functions -- without the 642-page instruction manual.


Anyone who has purchased, or is thinking about purchasing the Sony A7 III

Sony A7 III


John Greengo is a veteran instructor and an experienced photographer with over 50 Fast Start classes in the CreativeLive catalog. He has dove into the complex menu systems of multiple Sony cameras including the a6000, a6500, a9, and a7r III, as well as mirrorless and DSLRs from Panasonic, Nikon, and Canon. Besides being adept at dissecting new cameras, John works as a travel and outdoor photographer. With his experience in analyzing camera manuals, he will discuss the complete breakdown of your camera’s exposure, focus, metering, video and more. After this class, you’ll be able to use your new Sony A7 III with confidence.


a Creativelive Student

John GreengO! What a wonderful teacher! As always to the point. You do all the testing for us and we get an amazing tour of the camera. Really thrilled with your class once again. Thanks a lot!


Thanks John. Another great class! I appreciate the thorough explanations. I many never use all of the features on this camera but at least I know what they do. Love all of your classes and would definitely recommend them.


Wonderful class. John is a great instructor. Learned a lot. Only wish he'd include a bit more on using a7iii to shoot video, such as using Clear Image Zoom, and including video in the ending Camera Operation settings section. Loved the course though.