Fuji X-T3 + Fuji 100-400mm. Will past problems be resolved?

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rwbaron Forum Pro • Posts: 13,477
Re: Fuji X-T3 + Fuji 100-400mm. Will past problems be resolved?
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richardD300 wrote:

rwbaron wrote:

richardD300 wrote:

I currently have an X-T2 and did have a Fuji 100-400mm. However, even with the latest firmware upgrades I always had an infuriating focus issue which I never experienced with my Nikon’s. That was that if I was focusing on a distant subject at 400mm and then wanted to capture a bird at a nearer distance the lens could never cope with the switch in distance. It would just hunt and I had to widen the zoom length before it would lock on. By which time the bird had flown! I have never had this on my Nikon 80-400/Sigma 150-600 or Nikon 300mm f4 PE, it just did it.

what can I expect with the X-T3 I wonder, anyone got any thoughts please on whether the T3 will be able to cope with fast distance focus changes?

This doesn't sound right frankly as I've never experienced this with my X-T2/grip and 100-400 even with the 1.4X. There are so many settings that apply to AF and camera operation I wonder if this could be due to the way your camera is setup.

Bob

Bob.

Thanks, I think you are correct. Today I visited a camera store and they allowed me to test a 100-400mm to try and replicate the same shooting style that I used on the model I owned. I focused at a subject around 200ft away at 400mm, I then swung down to focus on an extremely small flower which was only about 9-10ft away and only just over the lenses minimal focus distance. The lens snapped quickly back into focus! I repeated the exercise over a dozen times selecting both high and low contrast areas. Each time it was locking on. I never experienced this with the 100-400mm lens I owned which is why I sold it.

Could it be that I sold it before last years firmware update and that resolved it, were my settings somehow different or did I have a faulty copy?

That's good to hear Richard as your experience with the camera store lens mirrors how mine functions.

I'd been a Canon shooter since 1975 and Canon digital since 2003 and started my move to Fuji in 2014 after collaborating with fellow prior Canon shooter and now Fuji forum mod Jerry Astro. I'd been doing a lot of BiF and static shore birds on the Gulf Coast of FL with my Canon gear (7D, 300f4L, 400f5.6L). My first Fuji was the X-T1 but the 100-400 came later and then the X-T2 when it arrived in 2016. The X-T2 is so much better on AF than the X-T1 and with the grip and boost mode is more satisfying to use. I kept my Canon gear with the intention of using it for BiF but after my outing in FL earlier this year and dialing in the AF-C settings I returned home and sold the entire Canon kit and haven't looked back. I'm typically not an early adopter but I plan to buy an X-T3/grip prior to my return to FL in November and I'm anxious to see how the new sensor, processor and AF performs by comparison.

A few from FL this past Winter with and without the 1.4x. The AF performance was so spot on I decided the Fuji combo was exceeding what I was getting from the Canon gear.

crop of above

If it's of interest to you here's how I had my X-T2/100-400 setup for most of the above shots. It's a copy and paste job from another thread from earlier in the year.

This is to share what I’ve learned about capturing birds both static and in flight with the X-T2 and the Fuji 100-400. As a point of reference I have shot thousands of bird images with a Canon 7D and Canon's 300f4L and 400f5.6L and have finally achieved a performance level with the Fuji that exceeds what I was getting with the Canon. This became readily apparent after trying/experimenting/tweaking settings in February and March while reviewing thousands of files evaluating the results. This month I’ve been culling thousands of images in LR to free up disk space and finding the old Canon images lacking by comparison. I'm using the X-T2 with the battery grip and the 100-400 and at times with the 1.4X. I’ve limited experience with BiF with the 1.4x but use for smaller wading shore birds.

Here are several settings/considerations that are working for me. The settings are the same for static birds or tracking when in flight with one exception which is OIS.

Set the camera to "high performance mode". This is critical.

Set the front AF switch to "C".

Set the mode ring under the ISO dial to “CH" and use 8 FPS (more on this later).

In the menu under AF/MF set the AF-C to custom setting with the following parameters;

Tracking sensitivity "2" middle position.

Speed tracking sensitivity to "1" middle position.

Zone area switching to “Center”.

Zone Area Switching is something I’m still playing with but I’ve been getting very good keeper rates with it set to “Center”. The only time the keeper rate drops is when the bird is large and extremely close (within 5 to 10 meters or closer). If the bird is flying perpendicular to your shooting line then it’s not a problem but if the the bird is flying at you the DoF becomes so small that when set on Center the head of the bird might be soft but the body is sharp. Again, I need to play a bit more with this setting to know for sure.

Use zone AF and the 3x3 box. I’ve had some good results too with the middle size "5x5" but have used the 3x3 box most often.

Set the lens AF switch to 5M ~ infinity to start. As your skills improve and you become better at finding and locking on subjects you can experiment with "Full" as I've found several times I've tracked birds closer than 5 meters and lost tracking only because the AF of the lens was limited. The focus will hunt significantly more when set to “Full” and you’ll have more difficulty acquiring initial focus.

TURN OIS OFF. Yes, I know Fuji says it will accommodate panning in the horizontal plane but I've never once gotten what I consider tack sharp images with OIS on. Birds fly in unpredictable flight patterns and having OIS turned on will make you think you’re doing better because it’s easier to track the bird but you’ll find softness in images with OIS on. Following a bird in flight with an effective 600m FoV is not easy and an acquired skill but it can be done and OIS may make it seem easier in the viewfinder but you won't get the best results.

Use manual exposure. Tracking birds using auto exposure is extremely difficult unless the bird is neutral in color and flying against a background of uniform color and brightness. I usually set the lens wide open (f5.6) and the shutter at 1/2000th and then bump the ISO to 400 which on clear sunny days during the golden hours (Sun at low angle) provides a decent raw file to work with. If you're shooting white birds against a blue sky you can get away with ISO 200 but to start you need a minimum shutter speed of at least 1/1000th without OIS to have any chance of a sharp image. As your skills improve you'll find you may still get sharp images in the 1/640th range with larger birds but expect motion blur in the wings and less consistent results.

Shoot raw or raw plus Jpeg and use the excellent DR of the Fuji sensor to work things out in post when required. I shoot raw to a 280mb/sec Sandisk card in slot 1 and fine Jpeg to a 95mb/sec Sandisk card in slot 2. I will routinely check my results by selecting card slot 2 for review and then magnify to the max. You won’t get the maximum magnification if you’re not shooting fine Jpegs. I wish Fuji would give us the option to set slot 2 as the default for review but maybe in a later firmware update.

Use your AF-L back button to focus and the shutter only for capture. Get the bird in the focus square and keep pressing the AF-L button to acquire focus and once the camera does focus keep it pressed and concentrate on following the bird while pressing the shutter in short bursts. If you lose focus keep pressing the AF-L button until focus is again acquired. I have mine set at 8 fps and you'll eat up a lot of frames at that rate and the 280mb/sec card in slot 1 for raw files minimizes buffering problems. Having fine Jpegs on card 2 enables me to load the Jpegs into LR first for quick review of composition, exposure and sharpness and make my "pick" and "delete" selections. I then load the raw images and sort by capture time which groups the Jpegs and raw files together and makes it easy to delete the raw and Jpeg files simultaneously.

I found shooting at 11 fps actually dropped my keeper rate and created issues with buffering so I’d advise 8 fps as ideal. My theory is that at 11 fps the servo AF has trouble keeping up which may be due to the amount of blackout time of the sensor. 8 FPS is more than enough to have a nice variety of wing positions to chose from.

As for holding the rig I’ve found the best results holding the 100-400 by the hood, keeping my arms tucked in and pressing the camera back firmly against my face. Doing so helps a lot when trying to locate and then smoothly track the bird. It takes patience and practice so don’t get discouraged if your results aren’t what you expect on the first few outings. Start with more distant birds first and work up to larger and closer.

For static birds I’ve learned that leaving the camera set up as above works exceptionally well but I switch OIS on. I move the 3x3 focus square with the joystick to cover the birds head and rarely have soft images. I’ll do a 2 to 3 frame burst each time and the AF is still in the servo tracking mode. Fuji’s don’t have the PASM interface and because of that are not easy to configure for quick switching which I initially found to be a problem but having to change just the OIS switch position is no more difficult than changing the command dial setting on my 7D.

Using the above settings and technique I’m able to realize far more keepers than clunkers. I’ve deleted over a thousand images in the past few months because of wing position or it just being a boring bird but rarely due to it not being sharp. It’s typical if I keep the shutter pressed for a full second or longer to have a sequence of 8 to 20 shots with maybe 2, 3 at most not tack sharp. Many times the bird is so close only part is in the frame yet again, sharp so I’ve become very confident in these settings.

One last comment regarding electronic shutter. There was a recent thread where another forum member posted BiF shots with his X-T2/100-400 with strange artifacts and noise in the raw files. I downloaded the OP's raw files and was perplexed as I'd never seen anything like that in my Fuji raws using Lr. Another very astute forum member checked the EXIF data and noticed the OP was shooting in the electronic shutter mode which is not a global shutter and has many issues so I'd advise staying away from that for now.

I hope you get things sorted.

Bob

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