Experimenting with Fuji X autofocus

Winter racing, River Trent

I finally got the chance to try out the X-T1 autofocus with the new capabilities provided by firmware v4.0. I took the opportunity to try it out with my new 50-140mm f2.8 zoom lens. After all this is the lens I would most often use for sport and action subjects.

It was a bright winter' Sunday but I could not find any football (soccer) to use as a subject, all the usual pitches were empty. So instead I went to my old sailing club on the River Trent to try it out on racing dinghies in a decent breeze. The 140mm max focal length meant I was limited to action around the starting line but that meant the boats we rapidly moving across my field of view—ideal for initial testing the focus tracking.

I set the camera up for continuous autofocus (AF-C) and the Wide/Tracking mode that was introduced in version 4.0 of the firmware. The flickering focus points in the viewfinder were initially a little distracting but they also provided encouragement that the camera was tracking the subject properly, and quickly. I started by using f2.8 to give minimum leeway and to highlight missed focus.

Winter racing, River TrentOnce I slipped back into my usual autofocus sport mode of "locking on" to the subject by pausing the centre focus point on the subject for a split-second, recomposing and letting the subject move into desired position I was delighted by how well the Fuji X-T1 and 50-140mm was coping. In the picture alongside the blue and white boat in the bottom right has been tracked across the frame and the helmsman and much of the boat is bitingly sharp, the focus is spot-on. The boat would have been travelling at jogging speed so not the most challenging subject but better than I had managed in the past.

My impression is that the Fuji X-T1 with the right lenses should now be usable for many sports and over the next few weeks I will be trying to establish just how capable it is. My previous view of the Fuji autofocus may have been coloured by less capable lenses and the old firmware. I am now regretting selling my 55-200mm (to buy the 50-140mm) at least until I had tested it with the new firmware. I found it unusably slow even on single-shot AF in bright sun, but I would like to retry it if I can borrow one.

The  other lens I want to try out on sport is my 16-55mm f2.8 as it covers my favoured focal lengths for basketball. Basketball would be a good test as movement is highly unpredictable and takes place close -up, indoors in relatively low light. I usually position myself on the baseline just to the side of the basket so the action is only a 2-3m away (6-10 feet).

So this updates my Pros and cons of the Fuji X system article. I will be doing more testing over the winter as I find sports events to try it out on. I am hopeful that that the Fuji X-T1 with the latest high-end lenses will be up to covering many sports. In any case I would expect its successor (X-T2, in mid 2016?) to be a usable action camera. Please Fujifilm, can I borrow one when it is launched? Preferably with 100-400mm lens and teleconverter—with fast AF that would be a serious sports and wildlife outfit. It is certainly on my must have list!


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Alberto (not verified) on Thu, 05/05/2016 - 22:03

<p>Hi Martin, I'm digging yours articles and found a lot of good things to read and think. I'm in the fence; maybe like you in the past I'm not yet ready to pull the trigger but I think that this year I'll buy a mirrorless. I'm uncertain between Sony and fuji; and trying to evaluate all the pros and cons. Both pbrand have really good stuff, I like fuji design, ergonomy, colors. Also I think that they have really good lens, maybe expensive but not excessively, and in the end also every good lens it is so. One good thing about sony is the full frame that open a lot of opportunity mainly in the future but onestly I prefer the fuji lens at the moment and I think they have the best value for the money. Last the FF is not sometimes that I really want in a short time. My concern about fuji are raw converter and AF; so finally the question for you is about the Af. Since the firmware release of december I thought that you have had the opportunity to test it more deeply. What are yours impressions? The XT-1 is now more suitable for sport? Or the firmware was helpful but not so good to change thing enough so? Probably the best thing to do is waiting for the XT-2... Have you had the opportunity to test a x-pro2, if the af module will be the same as expected seems a lot better.</p>
<p>Thank you in advance I'd love to hear your answer and impression about the AF.</p>

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Martin P Wilson on Mon, 09/05/2016 - 09:01

Thanks for the kind words.


The autofocus is much improved with the latest firmware. I would happily shoot motorsport or other sports (with the faster pro lens: 16-55, 50-140, 90, 100-400) where the movement is generally predictable. I have shot football, and seen work from pro photographers of rugby, soccer, motorsport they have been happy (especially with X-Pro2) even if mirrorless s still not quite the favoured choice for sport.


Actually the biggest issue I found with football (soccer) is the viewfinder not keeping up with the action, the X-Pro2 should be better as will the X-T2 I expect. I tended to m,iss the moment although I think it would become easier with practice. I ham hardly shooting sport these days so I am out of practice.


I expect the X-T2 to be as good, or pewrhaps a little better, than the X-Pro2. I will be at the front of the queue to buy when the x-t2 is available.


Edited to add: I use Capture One Pro v9 as my raw converter (used it since about v1 in ~2002). I am entirely happy with the resulting images. I also have LR 6 but do not use it often enough to judge the results but the odd news pictures I have converted on locatioon have looked OK.

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Alberto (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2016 - 21:55

<p>Thank you for your reply Martin. I will consider Capture One, I heard and read that it is better than LR. Also I want try some other software like Affinity and Silkypix. This require a new workflow but the real concerns are about the management. I'll see how to do for the better, I don't want re-keyword all the photos. Meantime it is a though process, I'm uncertain... X-T1 or X-T10. I love the flagship but also I know that if the X-T2 will be like expected; not immeditely but in some months when the price drops a little bit I'll buy it. So maybe in the meantime I can buy the x-t10 save some money and buy a couple of lens with a "small" budget. Until the end of may I can buy the t1 for 1570 € with the 18-55 and the 35f2; same combo the x-t10 is 1276 both price including the cash-back... Maybe a little bit short but compact... tele with canon and I can survive!</p>

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