Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)

Started Mar 27, 2013 | Discussions
Sulis2
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Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
Mar 27, 2013

Sadly, I'll be sending back my X100S, and sticking with my X100.

It's not that I don't appreciate the many, many subtle improvements that Fuji have made:

  • Manual focus using the lens is now more than usable.
  • The closer focusing distance alone makes it far simpler to shoot without having to go in and out of macro all the time. 
  • The new EVF is far more detailed and much brighter.
  • Moving the focal point is way easier.
  • The whole device feels more responsive.

However, the main problem I had with my old X100 - that I didn't trust the AF - still has not been resolved. I had wanted to believe that it was better - it's certainly faster - but today while walking the street I took these:

F4, 1/210, 200 ISO, AFS - using the largest AF box

F4. 1/280. ISO 200, AFS - using largest AF box

How on earth could it fail to lock on to the object? The AF box was at its largest in the middle of the frame and had gone green*. I have two other frames on either side of the last one, both of which are similarly out of focus. I wasn't keeping a half press on the shutter button, either.

I had seen a few examples in previous testing that made me very slightly nervous, but this is just unacceptable to me (YMMV). If I can't trust the camera to get such a straightforward subject right, then I can't trust it at all. At least with my old X100 I was used to using manual focus and the AFL button... If I'm going to be using that process then I don't see the point of upgrading.

I must stress that this in no way invalidates the X100S for anyone else. It's capable of great things. But, for me, the AF still has too far to go.

* I checked in playback and the focus was square on the man's neck and the baby

Fujifilm FinePix X100 Fujifilm X100S
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VladimirCZ
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to Sulis2, Mar 27, 2013

Hi Sulis,

I may suppose that the shutter speed was not fast enough to freeze the movement or which is more probable, there was a slight delay between a focus confirmation and a shot itself. Have you pressed the button all the way down or half-pressed first? My conclusions are drown from the fact that nothing is in focus (at least I cannot see any sharp part)

Vlad

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smatty
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Focus area
In reply to Sulis2, Mar 27, 2013

I did not find the largest AF box to be the best approach for good results. I usually use the smallest or second to smallest AF rectangle to narrow down on the region that the AF should lock.

In my tests I found that the largest box is the shotgun approach. The rectangle turns green but it probably locked on the strongest contrast edge it could find. And that does not have to be the subject you were aiming for...

I would have zone focused in this kind of street photography situation...

Cheers,
Smatty
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Sulis2
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to VladimirCZ, Mar 27, 2013

VladimirCZ wrote:

Hi Sulis,

I may suppose that the shutter speed was not fast enough to freeze the movement or which is more probable, there was a slight delay between a focus confirmation and a shot itself. Have you pressed the button all the way down or half-pressed first? My conclusions are drown from the fact that nothing is in focus (at least I cannot see any sharp part)

Vlad

If you look on the second image, the extreme right side (where the streetboard says "JMS") is in focus. I half-pressed to lock focus then pressed down, but was walking at the same speed as the man, so that really shouldn't have made any difference.

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Nastavnik
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to Sulis2, Mar 27, 2013

Why use the largest AF box? My experience is that, when using the AF with the X100, having the largest sized box could result in focus locking on something more contrasty in the background, even if it only filled a little bit of the box (compared to the main subject I wanted to focus on). Maybe you should try with other box sizes before sending it back (unless the other points you mention are not enough to justify the cost) ?

I am still in the fence about upgrading, mostly because of money issues. If I manage to sell my x100 when it comes back from having its lens replaced (SAB syndrom), I'll decide. I got used to the x100 AF, so I don't think the x100s can be a step back, even if I do expect the odd incomprehensible misfocus. It is like a proof that my camera is a genuine fuji

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Sulis2
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Re: Focus area
In reply to smatty, Mar 27, 2013

smatty wrote:

I did not find the largest AF box to be the best approach for good results. I usually use the smallest or second to smallest AF rectangle to narrow down on the region that the AF should lock.

In my tests I found that the largest box is the shotgun approach. The rectangle turns green but it probably locked on the strongest contrast edge it could find. And that does not have to be the subject you were aiming for...

I would have zone focused in this kind of street photography situation...

Cheers,
Smatty

I agree - zone focusing would have made much more sense. At the time I was testing the camera's AF, and this was just a nice opportunity that appeared in front of me.

However, the green box was nicely covering exactly the subject I was aiming at (using the EVF, so no parallax issue). Maybe a smaller one would have been better, but it really shouldn't have found any way to get this wrong.

And, to reiterate, if I'm just going to be using zone focusing, or MF, then I don't see the value of upgrading from the X100.

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nixda
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to Sulis2, Mar 27, 2013

I agree with what smatty said about the size of the AF box. If there are both subject and background in the AF box, the camera can't know what you want it to focus on. Often, it focuses on something completely different than intended. Use the smallest focus box and make sure it contains only the subject, or focus manually.

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mbb101
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Re: Focus area
In reply to Sulis2, Mar 27, 2013

Sulis

You were walking whilst taking the shot it is camera shake, not out of focus, if it were an AF problem then at least part of picture would be in focus. If you are testing AF then you have to be still whilst taking the shot in order to eliminate camera shake as a possible cause of blurring of a picture.

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mbb101
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Re: Focus area
In reply to mbb101, Mar 27, 2013

If you look at the bottom right of the second pic on the manhole cover there is clearly a double image that is camera shake for sure.

You should modify your technique be gentle on the shutter, brace your arms to your side, but most importantly after the shot has been taken hold the camera in position for a couple of seconds before removing the viewfinder from your eye.

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mbb101
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Re: Focus area
In reply to mbb101, Mar 27, 2013

Sorry that should be the first pic not the second.

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Nikkorforever
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to Sulis2, Mar 27, 2013

I wouldn't be too hasty making decisions. Its a new camera, learn to adapt for a couple of month. AF is not that bad, but not perfect either..well, yet.. And as others pointed out, be careful in identifying in where the fault lies. It could be on your technique or you just not knowing the best shooting parameter for your style yet.

Sure the X100s is not perfect but I have good faith that Fuji will shell out a few firmware to fix the problems.

-- hide signature --

Cheers, Reza

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mr moonlight
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to nixda, Mar 27, 2013

With the first image shot at 1/200 you can expect some motion blur since both you and the subject are moving. The focus point is slightly in front of the subject where there's nothing for the camera to focus on so it was probably a case of the distance becoming less from the time of focus to the click of the shutter. At f4 your DOF was likely around 4' so a half a footstep could bring you out of focus. If you shot it at ISO 1600, 1/500 and f/8 you'd get the same exposure, but no motion blur and a over twice the DOF. That would have solved the problem.

The second shot is basically the same, but the camera locked focus on something in the background. Likely the other guy carrying a kid. As others have suggested, a smaller focus box would have solved this issue.

I have to agree with the OP though that focus with the X100 is a little tricky and on rare occasion I still miss focus. Mainly because I misjudged the point of most contrast when my focus box was too big. For shots where I have time to adjust my settings, focus is always perfect. For shots that are on the fly, I have more misses if my settings aren't what they should be.

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Zack Arias
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to Sulis2, Mar 27, 2013

Having shot A LOT of photos with x100's and now the new S I can tell you that the box locked on to that window in the background just between their heads. Give it strong lines like that and it's going to lock to that.

Go smaller with the box and lock on the baby's face and hat. Click.

I have two images with the same thing you're talking about here. Filled the green box with two heads and it locked to the stronger lines in the back. Quickly put that AF box on the arm of one subject and split the green box with that strong diagonal line of dark on light and it locked. Shot at f4 and it held focus to their faces.

AF locks to strong contrast in the background.

Locked focus around here and quickly recomposed.

Turns out... neither shot is really worth a sh!t so at the end of the day... I'm not crying over lost frames.

Note that the green overlay in these images do not correspond exactly to the size of the AF box nor it's location in the viewfinder. I'm just putting it there for illustrative purposes to show where in the frame I was focusing. Walking the streets I usually keep it in the middle, about medium sized, and focus (half press and hold) and recompose.

Oh boy. I hope I don't get sucked back into forums! I used to be on here a long time ago.

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Cheers,
Zack

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Zack Arias
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PS - ---
In reply to Zack Arias, Mar 27, 2013

I've put the x100s through the paces for the last 4 or 5 weeks. It's AF has become FAR more accurate than the original.

Don't give up on it yet. It's a fantastic camera.

And no... I'm not being paid by Fuji to say that!

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Cheers,
Zack Arias

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Sulis2
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to mr moonlight, Mar 27, 2013

Thank you all for your comments. I absolutely admit that my technique was not great, especially for the first shot - but this was an unexpected opportunity, and I had only just pulled the camera from my coat pocket.

Yes, there is some camera shake in the first shot - less in the second - but in the second shot focus is clearly visible on the right hand side. I felt happy being at f4, as I wanted some separation between the subjects and the cluttered background. I could see that the shutter speed was around 1/200, which seemed fine at the time, too.

In retrospect, of course I should have kept the camera a bit stiller, but I don't think that would have stopped it being a nice grabbed shot (when the baby smiles). And, yes - perhaps the focus box could have been smaller (though it was absolutely filled with the man and baby, with only the tiny gap between them). Could I be sure that a smaller AF box still wouldn't have looked through that tiny gap? Nope.

Ultimately, though, for me it still means that getting impromptu shots like that become far harder than they need to be. If I'd had my X100 instead, I would have been using Manual Focus and used the AFL button to grab focus and then shot like that - and it would have been more likely to work.

So "better" AF is no good to me if it means missing dead straight shots. It either has to be rock solid or I'll use MF (and stick to my X100).

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Edit: Thank you, Zack, for taking the time to pass on your experience! I do see that focusing elsewhere would have been better (and that means a smaller focus box). With a small subject like the baby's head I would still be nervous that I'd got it right unless the focus box was very small indeed - and I didn't feel I had time to go through the button presses to make it smaller at the time... I will try using a smaller box for a while!

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Massimo Cristaldi
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to Zack Arias, Mar 27, 2013

Zack Arias wrote:

Walking the streets I usually keep it in the middle, about medium sized, and focus (half press and hold) and recompose.

Sure, focus and recompose is the way to go, not only on fuji bodies.

It's the task of photographer to find a focal plane that is somehow at the same distance of the main point of interest, if, as often happens, the area of interest that one wishes in focus is a "complicated" one.

I would give the camera another chance,

Massimo

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Sulis2
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to Massimo Cristaldi, Mar 27, 2013

Thank you, Zack, for taking the time to pass on your experience!

I do see that focusing elsewhere would have been better (and that means a smaller focus box). With a small subject like the baby's head I would still be nervous that I'd got it right unless the focus box was very small indeed - and I didn't feel I had time to go through the button presses to make it smaller at the time... I will try using a smaller box for a while...

If only Fuji were able to show some sort of focus peaking inside the green box (so you could see what was being locked on to)!
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Pasaguy
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to Nastavnik, Mar 27, 2013

How do you change the size of the AF box?

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NachoYogi
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Re: PS - ---
In reply to Zack Arias, Mar 27, 2013

Zack Arias wrote:

I've put the x100s through the paces for the last 4 or 5 weeks. It's AF has become FAR more accurate than the original.

Don't give up on it yet. It's a fantastic camera.

And no... I'm not being paid by Fuji to say that!

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Cheers,
Zack Arias

A free lesson from Zach Arias - very cool.  Please keep them coming!

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itairom
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Re: Why I'm sending back my X100S (autofocus)
In reply to Sulis2, Mar 27, 2013

So "better" AF is no good to me if it means missing dead straight shots. It either has to be rock solid or I'll use MF (and stick to my X100).

AF aside, I find the MF experience to have greatly improved on the X100s.

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