Soft Shutter Release Button

Nikon AR-11 Soft shutter release button for the Df camera
Nikon AR-11 Soft shutter release button for the Df camera

What is a soft shutter release button?

A soft shutter release button is a photography camera accessory. It is typically a small disc with a tapered screw on the bottom. The screw matches the standard for cable releases, enabling the button to be screwed into any camera with a threaded shutter release button. Adhesive backed versions are available for cameras with non-threaded shutter buttons. Soft shutter release buttons are a popular accessory among rangefinder-style camera users.

The name of the soft shutter release button is rather misleading, as most of these are anything but soft. The soft moniker comes from the adjustment in the shutter release process with the accessory installed. By providing a larger, raised surface for your finger to press, the soft shutter release button gives you better control over the process of pressing the button. This softens any disturbance the button pressning action causes to your grip on the camera and supposedly helps stability, especially at lower shutter speeds. Some models come with a rubber O-ring that is installed beneath the button to improve stability and cushioning.

Soft shutter buttons are usually made out of metal or plastic, with deluxe models featuring wood, leather or stone inserts. Some companies like Artisan Obscura even offer custom colours and engraving. The shape of the button can be flat, convex or concave to match different user preferences. Soft shutter buttons are as much a fashion statement as they are a practical accessory. Often, the buttons are color matched with accents on the camera or other accessories like hot shoe covers, straps or cases.

Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless camera with a red soft shutter release button
Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless camera with a convex red soft shutter release button / photo by Portuguese Gravity

How is a soft shutter release button used?

Threaded

Installing a soft shutter release button is a simple and easy to procedure. If you are using a threaded model, simply grab the button in your fingers and carefully thread it into the camera’s shutter release button clockwise. If your model came with a rubber o-ring, put that on the screw before you install it on the camera. Pay attention not to cross-thread the screw and do not overtighten.

A neat trick to go about this is to initially turn the button counter-clockwise while pressing it lightly in the threaded hole. You will feel a little skip at a certain point of the rotation. This means that the threads are aligned, and you can carefully start threading the button clockwise until tight. Tighten the button lightly, do not crank on it with all your might as this may damage the camera.

Once installed, the soft shutter release button should not affect anything in the normal use of your camera. You will notice that the raised profile and wider base of the button makes triggering the shutter a more controlled and pleasant procedure. Should you need to use the cable release socket, undo the button and keep it safe. When you are finished with the cable release, thread it back on.

Adhesive backed

If you are installing an adhesive backed soft shutter release, you will need to clean the camera’s shutter button thoroughly to ensure proper adhesion. Some buttons already come with alcohol wipes for this. If not, a cotton pad or tissue soaked with some rubbing alcohol will do the trick. Make sure you leave enough time after the wipe for the button to dry completely and do not touch it again. Carefully peel back the protective foil over the adhesive pad of the soft release button, and firmly press it onto the camera shutter button.

You want to do this with the camera off, as otherwise it will start focusing and snapping away while you try to center the button. If you have to use an adhesive backed soft shutter release, this means that your camera’s shutter button is not threaded for a cable release. Therefore, installing the accessory will not impede cable release use, and you should not need to remove it. However, if you do need to remove an adhesive soft shutter release button, simply pry it off with your fingernail or saw it off with some dental floss. The adhesive pad should stay on the button itself, but if any part is left on the camera it should rub off easily.

Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless camera with a concave red soft shutter release button
Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless camera with a concave red soft shutter release button / photo by Andrew Seaman

Do you need a soft shutter release button?

Whether you do or do not need a soft shutter release button is personal decision. Some people love them, others do not care. If you find your camera’s shutter button to be hard to press, too recessed or hard, a soft release button may help. These buttons certainly help ergonomics on some cameras, but do not expect miracles in terms of handhold-ability at low shutter speeds.

For most people, getting a soft shutter button is more of an aesthetic decision than anything else. And why not? It’s an easy way to add some character to your camera without doing any permanent changes. The buttons are cheap enough and easy to swap. You can buy a few in different colors and styles to and make sure your camera always matches your shoes or bag. Do bear in mind that these buttons do raise the profile of the shutter button. As a result, the camera can more easily snag or catch in clothing or bag straps.

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