A close look on Focus Tracking with Fuji’s X-T1

Searching for Track Focus Settings in your Fuji X-T1? You can stop here. This setting simply does not exist. Actually, an AF Tracking does not exist – or at least an AF tracking as I am used to on my Nikon DSLR.

AF-Tracking_Fuji-X-T1_Area-AF-1

You can also stop reading if you expect some kind of Fuji bashing here. I regard the X-T1 as a great camera which has already replaced my Nikon gear for travel. But I don’t dare to sell my Nikon equipment yet. Here’s why.

Last weekend I went to a children’s soccer game and gave my brand new Fuji X-T1 its chance to replace my D700 and 70-200/2.8 sport standard, always working super reliable workhorse. It failed.

Of course, the comparison is some kind of unfair: Fuji’s 55-200/3.8-4.5 can only loose against that wonderful piece of Nikkor glass, not only in speed and its option of a shallow depth of field. But that’s not the point. Actually I got a lot of good photos out of the Fuji. A lot more than I got with the same lens on my X-E1. I take these good results as a proof for the improved AF in Fuji’s current cameras.

The problem in sports photography is that you don’t get a feeling on how the continuous mode is working. The AF is focusing back and forth and never locks in. So you get a lot of sharp results – but you just don’t know why. In order to learn the right settings I’ve made a lot of research about this AF Tracking feature many reviewers have praised – like Dan Bailey or Nick Devlin for Luminous Landscape. Nick also talked about focus tracking in his video – as well as Fuji critic Kai Wong did for Digital Rev in his very entertaining style.

But neither myself nor the local photo gear dealer and his 3 colleagues found an answer on how to make the focus follow an object. Let me demonstrate the problem with a slow remote controlled toy car and a tennis ball:

Nikon D700 with a 50mm/1.4D, aperture wide open at 1.4, AF-C mode, using the dynamic area AF mode and shooting continuously low.

After I’ve focused on the car I let it move from the far left position to the near right. The camera took captures in the slow continuous shooting mode. While the car moved I could see the focus highlight in the viewfinder also moving. As usual. The 1.4 aperture did not allow to have the car sharp completely at this distance but at least there’s something sharp on the object.

So let’s see how Fuji is performing with similar settings:

Fujifilm X-T1 with a 35mm/1.4 (50mm equivalent), aperture wide open at 1,4, AF-C mode and Multi AF mode (“Mehrfeld” in German) chosen at low continuous shutter speed.

In the 3rd frame of the series the car is leaving focus. The X-T1 is unable to track the car and the focus point stays at the start position. Beside that I had to position the car in the middle in order to help the camera focusing for the first capture. The X-T1 definitely has its problems to focus objects outside the center in AF-C mode, unless you move the focus field manually in the viewfinder or on the display.

During my research for the correct settings for AF tracking I’ve recognized an advice to better enlarge the focus field in the AF menu. This is possible only in Vario AF mode. So here we go:

Fujifilm X-T1 with a 35mm/1.4 (50mm equivalent), aperture wide open at 1,4, AF-C mode and Area AF (“Vario” in German) with largest possible focus field chosen:

In the 6th frame the car is leaving the focus field. Obviously, the Area AF works better – as long as the focus field covers the object. When it leaves the field it’s getting blurry.

Conclusion

The X-T1 is able to track a subject when you use the Area AF mode and follow the subject with the focus point. The autofocus is so damn fast that the result are similar or equal to a focus tracking as known from a 3D autofocus. It works great.

But unlike my D700, the X-T1 is unable to follow an object. Even in sports photography you would like to compose your images. That means the person or object you would like to track in the picture may not be located in the frame’s center. And usually there’s no time to move the focus point in the viewfinder.

I am not sure if the tracking capabilities can and will be improved by future firmware upgrades. Such an improvement combined with the upcoming 50-140mm/2.8 XF Zoom may eliminate my doubts on selling my Nikon equipment.

3 Kommentare
  1. Gene Lowinger says:

    My tests with Fuji focus tracking were very satisfactory. Unlike my D700, the focus tracking is NOT predictive. But when I set my X-T1 on C(h) mode with continuous tracking, I was able to get 80% of the twenty frames I shot of a NYC subway car entering the station directly at me- no, I was not on the tracks – in focus.

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