Fujifilm’s autofocus is inferior, apparently. There’s been a buzz on the web lately about autofocus. There have been several tests recently comparing the autofocus capabilities of different camera brands and models, and Fujifilm hasn’t come out on top, and sometimes they’ve come in last place. There’s been a lot of negativity towards Fujifilm in response to these articles, and I want to talk about that.
I have no problem whatsoever with these articles. There’s always something, no matter how hard one tries, that someone points out as unfair in these type of tests. It’s the nature of it, and it’s nearly impossible to be completely fair and unbiased. There’s always something that you didn’t consider, there’s always an apples-to-oranges situation, and somebody will undoubtably point it out. I think it’s important to understand this, as taking these types of articles with a small grain of salt will alleviate some of the frustration that comes with them. In other words, don’t take them as gospel, even though they mean well and might contain useful information.
When I started out in photography, autofocus existed, but many cameras (mine included) didn’t have it, and autofocus wasn’t very good on those cameras that did have it. The best autofocus systems of 20 years ago are embarrassing when compared to those found today. That’s not surprising as technology advances quickly. The best autofocus systems of 10 years ago aren’t as good as the “worst” found in any of those cameras that were recently tested. Sony, Canon, Nikon or Fujifilm, it doesn’t matter which one “wins” and which one is rated last, as they are all great! No one could imagine 20 years ago that autofocus would become as good as it is today, and the autofocus found on “pro” cameras 10 years ago aren’t as good as some “entry level” cameras today. Context is key.
It’s easy to get caught up in the results of autofocus tests, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter in practical use. Just because one camera did slightly better than another doesn’t mean that you’ll “get the shot” with one camera and not another. You’ll either get it with both or you’ll miss it with both, because the skill and vision of the photographer is far more important than the technical capabilities of the camera in hand, especially when the differences are so narrow. Cameras are tools, and one tool might work a little better for you than another, but they’ll all capable of getting the job done just so long as the photographer is also capable. One camera over another won’t make you a better photographer.
I don’t doubt that Sony’s autofocus is superior to Fujifilm’s. They’ve been working at it a heck of a lot longer, so they should be. What I argue is that it doesn’t matter, or if it does matter, it matters very, very little. Those saying that Fujifilm desperately needs to “catch up” or else are speaking hyperbole. A lot of the reactions I have seen have been overreactions. Instead of celebrating just how far autofocus has improved, people seem to be far more concerned about being ranked number one. Trust me on this: it doesn’t matter one bit. Fujifilm has made significant progress, and they’re continuing to do so. Autofocus on X-Trans II cameras is plenty quick and capable for most people and circumstances, yet it doesn’t compare to X-Trans IV. There comes a point where the improvements are more “gee whiz” than anything practical. It’s great for the marketing department, but is it something you’ll even notice? Will it really make a difference to your photography?
To answer the question in the title of this article, Fujifilm’s autofocus is indeed good. Very good, in fact! It’s more than capable, just as long as you are as well. So don’t worry so much where Fujifilm (or any brand) ranks compared to another in some test. It’s not important. Creating art is important, and you can use any camera to do that.
Very few of us take photographs that we don’t have time to manual focus and that’s a fact .I come from shooting film with a Nikon, Canon,Pentax 6 x 7 and sometime 4 x 5 , all using manual focusing. The sport magazines any fight is in the 50s and 60s even has some pretty good action shots in them all done with a manual focusing lens . Most of the time the problem is not with the camera are the len but the individual.
I agree! Not only did I manually focus for many years, but so did the “greats” from decades ago. There’s some amazing action pictures captured by photographers who were around before autofocus was invented. The equipment didn’t limit them.
In the furballs and flame-wars of the internet, tiny differences get exaggerated to absurd degrees. Dpreview’s recent round up of APSC cameras (which put the XT30 at the top, incidentally) actually acknowledged that few of these differences were very great. Everything was pretty marginal and really depended on which features were most important to you for a slight bump.
As you say, which modern ‘magic’ autofocus is more magical than the others. They’re all mind-blowing compared to my Nikon F100 – and I still consider that camera to have really fast autofocus. I manual focus a lot, and it seldom hurts me. When I need autofocus for specific situations, I’m pretty damn sure an XT30 or an XT3 is going to nail it pretty much the same as a Sony 6400.
It probably only makes a real difference for pro sports photographers who want tiny slivers of advantage over the competition.
The internet seems to make it easy to turn a minor difference into a wide canyon. Making mountains of molehills is commonplace. These type of articles have their place, and they can be helpful, but it’s important to not lose sight of the context, which seems to happen much too frequently. Thank you for your input!
The more I shoot and read about photography the more I see people trying to sell cameras and not being better at taking pictures. And on top of that there are a lot of snapshots that aren’t good enough that to save as a family picture.
So what about the fuzz of autofocus if pictures are boring in an artistic way? nothing….
pictures will be good when they make you feel something , not when they are clinical perfect exposed, focused and on an on
Nice topic to discuss 😉
I agree! As Ansel Adams said, there’s nothing worse than a sharp image of fuzzy concept. Thank you for commenting!
Argh! These stupid “X is the best at Y” comparisons are simpler stupid. Mac vs Windows. Nikon vs Canon. It’s exhausting.
“You’ll either get it with both or you’ll miss it with both, because the skill and vision of the photographer is far more important than the technical capabilities of the camera in hand…”
I rented a Fujifilm X-E1 several years ago and based on several articles I had read fully expected the autofocus to perform poorly. To my surprise, it wasn’t lacking. At lest not in my hands.
I never had a problem with the autofocus on my X-E1, either, but I think initially that model did. It took a few firmware updates to get it where it is now.
Nice vacation pics, btw!
Hello Ritchie, love the site by the way! I tend to agree with everything you covered in this article. I started in the 80’s with a Nikon FG with 50mm and 105mm lenses, shooting high school football games, I got many keepers. My next camera was a Nikon N90s, and it was so far ahead of the FG I felt like I was a Pro with that camera. The Fuji X-T3 I use today is just light years ahead of either of those cameras. My Fuji nails the focus and exposure almost every time, If I had the Fuji X-T3 back in those days, I could have been freelancing for every major publication of the time. I think we have become spoiled by how good our cameras are today. I also think many of those who use todays cameras probably forgot or did not have to use those manual focus cameras of yesterday.
That’s great insight, and I appreciate you sharing it! It’s amazing how far camera technology has come.
At the technical level that cameras have reached nowadays, what differentiates them becomes less and less important for standard use, or more precisely, these differences have no practical effects except in very specialized cases.
Regarding the speed of auto-focus, I am probably one of the worst commentators since I only use auto-focus for back-focus, which, by the way, provides a significant but not essential help to zone focusing.
However, it is understandable that a photographer who would earn his living by taking photographs where it is essential that the eyelashes of his models be perfectly sharp, attaches importance to the fact that his work tool ensures a high success rate in this exercise.
Nevertheless, one may wonder if in such a case, the compared cameras (say X-T3 / A7III) will be the ones that this photographer will consider using and especially what are the relevant criteria for him.
Those are good points! It would be interesting to ask a photographer who is camera shopping and highly values autofocus capabilities, what he thinks of different camera models upon trying them firsthand.