Pro Tip: Using Manual Focus Assist for Video on Sony Alpha Cameras

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite settings on Sony Alpha cameras, the Manual Focus Assist, and how it can help you get your shots in focus even if you’re shooting video.

Manual Focus Assist, or MF Assist as it’s referred to in the menu, is a really cool feature that I think a lot of video shooters overlook, thinking that it’s only for photographers.

What it does is zoom in the image every time you adjust the manual focus ring on the lens. You can scroll around with the control wheel, and you can zoom in even further by pressing the center button. When you’re done, simply press the shutter button half way.

To turn on MF Assist on a Sony a6500, navigate to the first section, Camera Settings, and then to page 13. If you don’t like having to press the shutter button when you’re done focusing, you can pop up to Focus Magnification Time, and change it from No Limit to either 2 seconds or 5 seconds.

On a Sony a7S II, MF Assist can be found in the second section, Custom Settings, on the first page. Additionally, Focus Magnification Time can be found directly below it.

Now, a few caveats: one, this works with native Sony lenses, or with an electronic adapter like the Metabones T smart adapter, and two, this works in Manual mode only, not in video mode, which is why I think a lot of videographers overlook it. So if you want to use MF Assist, make sure you’re mode dial is set to “M,” and make sure in your settings, the MOVIE Button option is set to “Always,” otherwise, you won’t be able to shoot video in Manual mode. 

And actually, in addition to MF Assist, there is another advantage to shooting video in Manual mode, and it’s this: every Sony shooter out there knows the frustration of having a dimly-lit monitor while shooting in 4K. Sony does this because they know their cameras tend to overheat while shooting in 4K, so they automatically dim the brightness of the screen to help prevent that.

BUT, if you’re shooting video in “Manual” mode, the screen stays at the normal brightness until you press record. And as soon as you’re done shooting, it gets brighter again. So keep that in mind if you’re frustrated by the dark screen when shooting in 4K.

And that’s it guys, I hope you enjoy using MF Assist, I know it was a huge help to me when I discovered it, and let me know what you think down in the comments section below.