XT1 - how to enable focus tracking?

Started May 3, 2014 | Discussions thread
zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 28,163
tracking focus versus 'tracking focus'...

57LowRider wrote:

I think that there's a misuse of terminology here which is leading people astray. From what I've read, the X-T1 will keep focus locked on a moving subject kept in the centre of the frame where the PDAF pixels are. Go outside of that area (9 AF points?) and it will let go.

With other systems mentioned, how do you "paint" (or "unpaint") your moving target?

I agree - this is a mixup in terminology.  People use the term 'tracking focus' to refer to a specific function of a camera, whereby a subject can be locked onto, and then the camera proceeds to track it within the camera's focus point coverage ability...but other people are using a more generic term of tracking focus, meaning continuous focus that generally keeps up with target movement.  Typically, AF-C mode, combined with the widest or multi focus area, will provide this basic ability - the PDAF system will typically prioritize the object closest to the camera, and will continue to focus as it moves around both fore and aft as well as across other focus points.  If you restrict the focus points to center or spot, then obviously it confines AF to just those active focus points.  It's not a 'tracking' mode, it's just tracking in a general sense, ie continuously focusing.

As for other systems, the painting of the moving target in a true tracking or lock-on AF mode is done one of two ways - either a dedicated button can be assigned on the camera to acquire the target desired, or you can often tie lock-on functionality to the shutter button which engages on the chosen target with a half-press of the shutter.  You can usually use spot, center, or wide focus area - though a lock-on or tracking focus will usually be easier when you narrow the focus point selection down to make sure you're getting the intended target.  Once you lock on the focus, either via shutter or independent button, the focus confirm box on the screen will 'surround' the subject, changing or morphing shape and size as the subject does - this is how you know it's locked onto the target you intend.  So if locked onto a bird, a square will surround the bird's body, and as he stretches out his wings, the square will morph into a rectangle to cover the entire wingspan.  Even if you were in a center or spot focus mode, once the target is locked in a tracking mode, the camera's focus system will continue to follow it anywhere in the frame that the camera has focus points - right to the very corners...and will continue for as long as it can recognize that the color, shape, and contrast of the subject is the same.  These systems can occasionally be confused by big shifts in lighting on a subject, or a subject like a face turning around which presents a completely different composition.  If the subject moves behind an obstruction, the tracking can lose the subject, but as long as the mode is still activated, it will generally attempt to reacquire the subject as the obstruction moves away...useful when tracking something moving like a bird flying behind a tree or pole - the camera will not refocus on the tree or pole like AF-C mode alone typically would.

I have been shooting DSLRs and mirrorless for years, doing lots of motion photography, primarily birds and wildlife, but always just using AF-C with various focus points engaged as needed - I didn't have a lock-on AF or tracking mode until two more recent cameras.  Having played more with these tracking modes on my RX10 and A6000, I learned a bit more about how they work and when they can be useful to use.  I still shoot a fair number of my bird in flight shots in AF-C and wide focus area, such as a bird against a mostly clear sky, as lock-on AF isn't really needed...but it occasionally comes in handy with a subject against a very busy foreground or background.

Hope that helps.

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