After shooting with the FUJIFILM X100T for half a day around Chiang Mai, Thailand I arrived back to my hostel and viewed my days work. The results were at times disappointing; animals were blurred (due to delay in getting focus lock), the focus was inaccurate sometimes and the sluggishness of the camera focusing caused me to miss some candid shots.
The Autofocus (AF) setup on the X100T out of the box is great for stationary subjects, landscapes and predicable slower moving subjects, but when it comes to shooting animals (unpredictable), fast moving subjects (people moving quickly but predictably), low-light street scenes full of contrast or just being ready to fire at a moments notice it leaves me wanting more.
Yes, the look and feel of the X100T compels you to focus manually with its optical viewfinder…focusing at a meter and just going at it or using the split image focus assist but I am not at a stage where I have the skill or experience to do this all the time and even if I did at times using AF is a must.
For street photography you need to figuratively creep in the shadows (plain sight) and pounce when the moment is right, leaving your subject at the very worst bewildered and confused about what just happened or at the very best totally unaware. And blending in here in Thailand is tough (if you hadn’t noticed I am white as hell), and impossible when you are left struggling to get focus on your subject…it only takes a few moments before one person noticing you becomes the whole crowd and you become the subject of a composition, not the other way around.
So what can we do about it? Well it turns out, quite a lot actually, the amount of AF tweaking you can do with this camera is impressive (despite the lack of documentation for some features). This X100T’s AF system will never compare to my D750 or even a D1000 but here are a few options I have tested/am testing that improve the default AF settings of the X100T;
- DON’T SHOOT IN SILENT MODE —This disables the AF illumination. If you want to shoot “silently”, go to CUSTOM SETTING MENU 2 -> Sound setup —- set both the “OPERATIONAL VOL” and SHUTTER VOLUME” to “OFF”.
- USE PRE AF — SHOOTING MENU 1-> AUTOFOCUS SETTING -> PRE-AF -> ON — This setting means the camera is constantly focusing even without the shutter button half depressed. This means the camera is already focusing as soon as the lens has the scene in frame and there is less work to do when the shutter button is finally depressed and you engage AF on your target (s). (Drains battery faster).
- USE HIGH PERFORMANCE — CUSTOM SETTING MENU 1 -> POWER MANAGEMENT -> HIGH PERFORMANCE -> ON — Quicker AF on start up and more. (Drains battery faster).
- EXPERIMENT WITH FOCUS AREA — SHOOTING MENU 1 -> AUTOFOCUS SETTING -> FOCUS AREA -> USE THE “DRIVE” dial to make the green square (focus area) larger and press the “MENU/OK” button to confirm the focus area size — I am still investigating how this actually works but making the focus area bigger results in AF focusing occurring noticeably faster (in low light at least). Being unsure about the actual mechanics behind it I have it set to the third highest size out of the five possible (it defaults the the second biggest area).
- USE AFC IN COMBINATION WITH A LARGER FOCUS AREA+EVF — I know it sounds crazy, AFC on this things feels hideous at first but after tweaking the cameras settings and changing the size of the focus area I found this to be quite useful and it could be good for quick composition changes. It might seem hard as choosing AFC over AFS removes the green focus lock signal around the focus area(s) but with a camera so small…you can actually feel when the thing is focused…that combined with a sharp focused image in the EVF feels like an intuitive combination for obtaining quick focus. This can be set via the Focus Mode Selector on the front of the camera (left of the lens).
- TO OVF OR TO NOT OVF? — OVF or EVF —> The OVF Feels fast and more snappy but I feel this could be subjective. A good way to test for yourself is by disabling image previews. To do this go; CUSTOM SETTING MENU 2 -> SCREEN SETUP -> IMAGE DISP. -> OFF.
- DON’T USE MULTI AF MODE — Shooting in “Area AF” mode is much quicker…but as I found out when testing…there are situations when MULTI AF is needed. Just remember when using it will help you and when using it will hinder you. To change AF MODES go to HOOTING MENU 1-> AUTOFOCUS SETTING -> AF MODE -> Pick desired AF mode.
- Maybe extend power off time frame — CUSTOM SETTING MENU 2 -> POWER MANAGEMENT -> AUTO POWER OFF-> ENTER DESIRED TIMEFRAME — I haven’t played much with this but logic says this would make shooting even faster, the camera does not have to “wake” from sleep mode and can go to work straight away. I suspect this would be another huge drain on the already average (below average?) battery life for the x100T (CIPA rated for only 330 shots).
Below are some samples I shot after making the AF changes, note I took these before discovering a few of the above options so I think things could still be improved further;
Anyway, this post already became far longer than intended so SNIP (Let me know how you go or if you have any other secrets for improving AF on the X100T!).