I know what you’re thinking. We’ve all said it before. A camera is a camera is a camera. You change a couple of settings, press a circle and a picture shows up on the rear LCD (and hopefully a good one!). You could pick up any camera and after a minute or so be snapping away just like it was your own. If that is the case there is a good chance that you’ve never dived far enough into the pits of your camera menus to find the Custom Function settings!
The Custom Functions were first brought to my attention by professional wildlife photographer Roy Toft during a workshop I was attending. He kept talking about something called Back-button Auto Focus and that we all needed to, at the very least, give it a try. I just assumed my camera (at the time I believe it was a Canon 40D) didn’t have that and brushed it off. The next day, while getting some 1-on-1 with Roy, he asked if I’d had a chance to give it a try and I just told him that it wasn’t something that my camera offered. He quickly corrected me and showed me the awesomeness that is the Custom Function menus!
Now, almost a decade later, I have trouble picking up a new camera out of the box and working it correctly. The first thing I do when I get a new camera body is to go straight to the Custom settings and make the camera mine. You can remap almost all of the buttons on the camera body, change the direction the dials operate, move the focus, exposure lock, and metering to separate buttons to allow for much more precision and so much more. Your camera should fit you like a glove when it’s in your hand and the Custom Functions let you get there. Each camera maker has a different wording for what they call these custom menus, but with a little effort they should be pretty easy to find. I would recommend looking through your camera’s instruction manual to get a full description of what each of them do, but definitely experiment and try different things.
The button assignments are probably the single biggest thing that these menus allow for, so make good use of them. On every camera I’ve used there are always functions that I wish were on the back to begin with, and others that I really never use at all, so being able to decide for myself what I want access to on the camera (instead of having to get into the menus) is a huge timesaver for me. Other things that you have control of are things like additional Auto Focus settings, mirror lockup for long exposure photography, flash customization and shutter button function. Each camera has many more available settings so check them all out and see if you can get your camera to fit like a glove!