X-T20 has excellent AF: buts needs to be understood

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DogShot Contributing Member • Posts: 557
X-T20 has excellent AF: buts needs to be understood
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I am getting excellent auto-focus performance from my X-T20 with sports and fast moving subjects, but I notice that if I leave it in a mode that is not suitable for what I am shooting I have problems. I also find that results can be lens-dependent.

I shoot a fair amount of tennis, and find that autofocus mode 5 with continuous AF and set on a mid-size zone works very well. If i have a single subject in my frame (on court) I switch on face detection and performance is even better. If I want to grab a shot of someone in the crowd, I have to switch to single-point and turn off face detection; luckily this is fast and easy to do without taking the camera away from my face.

I was photographing Purple Martins a few days ago. These birds are fairly small, and are incredible in the air, which makes them challenging to photograph. At first I thought it was going to be hopeless, but then I switched the camera from my tennis settings to mode 4 (for subjects that rapidly appear) and a larger zone, and when I pointed the camera in the sky it instantly focused on the birds. The performance was excellent using the 50-140mm f2.8. Here's an example of how well the lens found the birds and focused. (Not really a usable photo, but it shows how good the X-T20/50-140 is at finding and focusing on a fast moving subject when using the right setting). BTW these settings also focused on the birds over wavy water.

I changed lenses to the 50-230mm f4.5-6.7 and it couldn't perform this task at all.

After this experiment with the Purple Martins I photographed some tennis later in the day, and noticed that the 50-140mm was hunting for focus even while I had the focus zone sitting on my subject. I also noticed that the fence behind my subject was sometimes the point of focus. Then I realized I had left the camera in mode 4. I switched to mode 5 and my usual settings, and everything returned to my expectations.

So I read a fair amount about the issues with AF in the X-series cameras, particularly around their usability for sports and wildlife, and I think that the only real issue is that the cameras offer so many combinations of settings and modes that it easy to choose a setup that is sub-optimal. When the settings are optimal, performance is excellent (no worse than my rate with the Nikon D3 and 70-200mm f2.8). If Fuji could automate this level of user involvement so that the AF performance was not so dependent on user settings, I think a lot of the discussion around the usability of X-series cameras for sports and wildlife would disappear.

Fujifilm X-T20 Nikon D3
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