Faster autofocus in event photography: advice needed

Started 5 months ago | Discussions thread
Erik Baumgartner Senior Member • Posts: 1,026
Re: Faster autofocus in event photography: advice needed

Deep Indigo wrote:

I shoot event photography with a X-T2 and X-H1 pair, with the 23 1.4 and 56 1.2 usually on each body (along with a 50-140 in the back). The venues I cover are often low-budget, and I'm usually in the upper 6400 - 12800 ISO range wide open with both primes. Naturally, I've been finding difficulties with precise autofocus on moving people in such situations, with many images being slightly out of focus.

Simultaneously, I'm considering upping the production quality on my photos with a basic set of speedlights.

While this is definitely a skill I'll need to acquire if I want to improve in event shooting, I currently have no experience in artificial lighting, and would appreciate it if I could get some advice on this.

I'm considering 2 options. The first is to get a 16-55 for its fast continuous autofocus abilities, while making up for its lost light gathering capabilities with an on-camera bounce flash (with the option of getting a basic off-camera lighting setup for some venues). With the primes, it feels like a game of chance in capturing a sharp image of moving people in low light, and I'm hoping the 16-55 and additional lighting can help.

The second is to keep with the 23 and 56 pair, but to replace the X-T2 with an X-T3. I've heard it makes focusing much faster with the 1.4 / 1.2 primes, and I'd still get an on-camera bounce flash afterwards.

One thing I admire about the FE Sony system is that they have fast-autofocusing prime lenses (whereas with Fuji you have to choose between fast apertures or fast autofocus with the red-badge zooms), but I've found that swapping systems at this point would be too costly for me.

Which route would you recommend I take (and is there some other way I've missed?)
Thanks in advance.

Here’s what works for me (X-T2), YMMV - Using AF-C in low light with the slow primes (I use the 35 f1.4 and 56 f1.2) I’ve found the only thing that works consistently, is to use custom AF-C setting 6 set to: tracking sensitivity 0, speed tracking sensitivity 3, zone area AUTO, with AF on the shutter button (I use back button focus for AF-S) and focus priority ON (will only fire when focus is acquired, I keep it OFF for AF-S). Using the single focus box (NEVER the smallest box in low light) or the smaller zone box, follow the subject’s face, eye if you can, and don’t press the shutter button at all until you want to take the shot, the AF seems to do much better as it just initially acquires focus and fires (as opposed to tracking with a half-press and firing). It might take a second to find focus and fire, but it will usually yield sharp results, even in very low light - you will have to use a large aperture in low light, f/2 and larger - AF-C operates at working aperture. I mostly use the 16-55 and 50-140 for events (Community Theatre and related events), but sometimes the light is so extraordinarily bad (it’s always somewhat bad) I will break out my primes and even being the old, slower ones, they really work just fine. Yes, the zooms are faster to auto focus are far more versatile, though.

Good luck, Erik

 Erik Baumgartner's gear list:Erik Baumgartner's gear list
Fujifilm X-T2 Fujifilm X-T20 Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 R Fujifilm XF 56mm F1.2 R Fujifilm XF 50-140mm F2.8 +1 more
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