Autofocus

Out-of-camera JPEG from a pre-production model.
ISO 12800 | 1/250 sec | F2

With an autofocus system borrowed from the X-Pro3 (including even the most granular custom AF settings), the X100V is the best-autofocusing X100-series camera yet. But we do have a qualm or two.

Key takeaways:

  • Improved (i.e., quite good) overall AF performance
  • Lens focus speed is fractionally faster than previous models
  • Low light AF is impressive, especially in AF-S
  • Face and eye detection are accurate, but could be better implemented
  • We frankly don't need so many AF custom settings on this type of camera

Overview

We're going to cover a lot of details on this page, but suffice it to say, for the type of camera the X100V is and the types of photography it encourages, we tended to leave it in single-point with Single AF. Used this way, autofocus is swift and generally quite accurate. We did notice in some controlled testing that repeatedly re-focusing on a static subject resulted in varying degrees of critical focus, but it's not so noticeable in real-world scenarios.

All told, there are four autofocus area modes available:

  • Single-point, which allows you to vary the relative size of that point
  • Zone, wherein you're given a larger zone of varying size
  • Wide/Tracking, which decides among many focus points across the entire frame for you in AF-S, and gives you a box to choose a subject to track if you're in AF-C
  • All, which simply lets you go between the modes by varying the size of your AF point (achieved by clicking the joystick in and manipulating the command dials)

Tracking performance in terms of how tenaciously the camera sticks to your intended subject is on-par with the X-T3 / X-Pro3 when using the EVF or rear screen, meaning it's quite good if not as capable as the best-tracking cameras out there. But the unit-focus design of the new lens means that it may sometimes not be able to move fast enough to keep up with erratic subjects (uncooperative children, for example). Fujifilm says that a new focus motor gives faster speeds than the previous models, and that's true, but you really have to have the two cameras side-by-side to detect a difference.

Also on par with the X-T3 is the level of autofocus customization in terms of AF-C custom settings. We doubt that X100V users will be chasing cheetahs with any sort of regularity, but all the settings are at least familiar if you're coming from another recent Fujifilm camera. In short, we think some of these options could be stripped out and the menus thus kept simpler.

I don't think the 35mm-equivalent lens is going to be anyone's first choice for that type of photo. Unless, of course, Fujifilm is planning some much longer teleconverter options... But we're not holding our breath for that.

Happily, the X100V's algorithms have been tweaked so the camera doesn't do a focus hunt every time you half-press the shutter if your subject hasn't changed its distance to the camera. This means it's swifter when firing off a few shots in quick succession than previous models that would hunt with almost every half-press.

Low light autofocus improvements

This is one area where the X100V is remarkably improved compared to the older models. Fujifilm claims that the camera can achieve focus in light as low as –5 EV, which is dark. For reference, the X-Pro3 is claimed to get down to –6EV, but with an F1.4 lens – so the two cameras should be equals here.

This is a pretty accurate exposure for the light levels, and focus was easily and quite quickly acquired on the helmet, or in this case, the right-side handle of the basket.
ISO 12800 | 1/15 sec | F2

In AF-S, the camera would focus just about anywhere with some texture in the above scene; places with less contrast would take a bit longer, but the camera consistently found focus (and so should work with a posing human subject fairly well). Even in AF-C, the camera could keep focus on the brighter spot on the helmet and the right-hand side of the basket pretty well as the camera moved toward and away from the subject.

Face and eye detection

With face and eye detection enabled, the X100V very readily and accurately detects faces and eyes, even if they're relatively small in the scene, but as soon as it detects a face, it overrides your chosen AF area mode, and will revert back to it if it loses the face. As long as it continues to detect that face, you can override the camera and get back to your chosen AF area by moving the joystick.

Once enabled, face-and-eye detection can be really useful and reliable for portraits.
ISO 4000 | 1/60 sec | F2
Photo by Richard Butler

If there are multiple faces in a scene, you can enable 'Face Selection,' in which case moving the joystick around moves between detected faces. If you press in on the joystick, you can override face detection as before. The caveat is that Face Selection is only available as a custom button assignment, meaning you won't find it in the AF section of the menus. It also disables each time you power-cycle the camera, so you need to remember to re-enable it.

Unfortunately, we didn't tend to leave face detection on all the time – the camera is simply too prone to see faces in scenes where there aren't any (it happens regularly with foliage, among other textures). But we do find that face and eye detection can be helpful for portraits of individuals or couples to ensure precise focus at wide apertures, and is even usable with AF-C (another first for the series). And bear in mind, it's unavailable when using the optical viewfinder. Speaking of which...

Optical viewfinder autofocus

As with the X-Pro3, the optical viewfinder experience is a bit different, though you do get the same AF area modes as with the electronic viewfinder or rear screen. Because of the parallax from the viewfinder offset, you can enable a 'corrected AF frame' that will show where the AF box will be at the camera's close-focus limit, as well as where you're currently focused.

As mentioned earlier in the review, gone is the display of the AF box where it would be at infinity, making it more difficult to judge just where your AF point will end up. We should also note that AF tracking is available but far less reliable when using the optical viewfinder.