Autofocus Performance and Accuracy
With a whopping 325 focus points, the AF system on the X-T2 is without a doubt one of the most advanced focus systems in the world today. Coupled with a faster image processor and an updated algorithm, the new AF system is superb in terms of autofocus performance. Take a look at the two grids below that show the difference between the AF system on the X-T2 and the X-T1:
This gives you a pretty good idea about the way the AF system is designed on the X-T2 when compared to X-T1. First of all, when using a single point AF, only the center 9 focus points on the X-T1 have the ability to use phase-detection AF, whereas, on the X-T2, the grid is much larger, with a total of 49 points (7 vertical x 7 horizontal). Second, when using Zone AF, the grid on the X-T2 is a bit more refined as shown above, so the camera can track a total of 9 focus points and you can move those points anywhere in the AF grid. Third, if you enable all 325 focus points (AF/MF Setting -> Number of Focus Points -> 325 Points), when using the camera in Single Point AF mode, you can move between all 325 points and really fine-tune exactly where you want focusing to take place. The grid is quite large – although it does not cover all of the sensor space, it covers a great deal of it from top to bottom and left to right. When switching to Zone or Wide/Tracking modes, the number of AF points automatically goes down to 91, with a grid of 13 horizontal x 7 vertical focus points.
At the end of the day, these stats don’t matter all that much, if the AF performance is not there. The big question is, is AF truly improved on the X-T2 when compared to X-T1? After shooting with the X-T2 extensively, I must admit that the AF performance on the X-T2 is indeed superior. While the X-T1 is no slouch in terms of AF speed, it does hesitate at times and misses focus. The X-T2 is very different in this regard – point it at the same subject and reacquire focus a few times and the camera locks on very fast and does not move.
The X-T1 on the other hand, can lock on a few times, then hesitate and rescan the subject again. And that’s when shooting in Single shooting mode. Switch to Continous tracking and we are talking about a night and day difference! The X-T1 fails miserably at tracking subjects, always hesitating, always adjusting. The X-T2 is vastly better in comparison – the system locks on the subject fairly well and does a pretty decent job at tracking it, even when compared to DSLRs. We now have the ability to tweak AF-C tracking, similar to how it can be done on DSLRs, and the X-T2 has a total of 5 presets that can be found under AF-MF Setting->AF-C Custom Settings. These presets have different levels of tracking sensitivity, speed tracking sensitivity and zone area switching. And if you want to fully customize the tracking behavior, you can set your own through the sixth “Custom” set.
I personally found AF tracking to be quite acceptable for shooting moving subjects, which is the first time I can say something like this on a Fuji camera – shocking to see just how much Fuji has been working on its AF systems ever since the X system was launched. It literally went from downright unusable to acceptable in a matter of a couple of years. I shot a few sequences of test images at varying distances and subjects and I am happy to say that the X-T2 performed well with slower subjects (such as people) and fairly well with faster subjects. I would not recommend any mirrorless camera at the moment (including the X-T2) for shooting ultra-fast, unpredictable action and tough subjects such as birds in flight, but I am sure that the recommendation will change with the advancements and improvements in AF tracking within the next few years. Take a look at the below sequence of a model, who walked directly at me while I photographed her with the X-T2 set to Continuous AF mode:
These are just some of the random images that I grabbed from a large sequence captured at 8 fps using the excellent 50-140mm f/2.8 lens. When looking through all the images, I could not find a single one that was completely out of focus – the camera did a good job at tracking the model. However, I cannot say that the camera nailed focus 100% of the time – some images were slightly out of focus, especially when the model got closer. Still, it is not bad by any means, as even some high-end DSLRs can occasionally misfocus.
The camera also does well when shooting in low-light conditions. If the conditions are too dim, the focus speed obviously slows down as the camera transitions to contrast-detection AF, but the overall accuracy is still quite high, especially in Single AF mode.
Overall, AF speed and accuracy have improved across the board, which is a huge achievement on behalf of Fuji. I hope the company continues to improve the continuous autofocus capabilities of the camera and brings it to DSLR levels. From there, the next step will be to introduce some long telephoto lenses and it might make Fuji a very desirable system for shooting sports and wildlife.
The beauty of the Fuji X-T2 is how accurately you can focus, whether shooting in autofocus or manual focus modes. If you want to manually focus Fuji XF or XC lenses, or want to use third-party lenses via adapters, the Fuji X-T2 gives you plenty of tools to nail every single shot – something you could never do with a modern DSLR! The large, high-resolution electronic viewfinder is superb for manual focusing because you can use such features as Focus Peaking, Digital Split Image and Dual Mode with a zoomed image to the right of the frame. Simply switch to Manual focusing using the switch on the front of the camera, then press the rear rotary dial and you are in business! The camera will zoom in where the focus point is and let you tweak focus before you take a picture. You can zoom in and out to your comfort level using the rear rotary dial (two zoom levels are available). With manual focus, you can also switch to other modes such as Digital Split Image and Focus Peaking.
If you are used to Nikon’s one-click zoom feature on advanced DSLRs, you can do the same thing on the X-T2 by simply pressing the rotary dial while playing back images, which is very nice. Once zoomed in, you can rotate the dial to zoom out and the joystick allows you to move around the image.
If you are a fan of the focus and recompose technique, then you will love the X-T2. All you have to do is set the front focus switch to manual (“M”) mode and you can press the AF-L button on the back of the camera to acquire focus – no need to change anything in the menu. If you want to set any other button for this, or perhaps want to stay in Single shooting mode, then you can deactivate the focusing function from the shutter, and set up one of the buttons to do focusing. It works like a charm as well, although I personally prefer the above method, as it is much faster and does the same thing without changing button assignments.
Additionally, you can set up the EVF in a “Dual Mode” (switch to manual focus, then toggle with the “DISP BACK” button on the back of the camera), which splits the viewfinder into two separate images. The larger one shows the whole frame, while the smaller one shows a zoomed area where the focus point is. Now that’s an insanely useful feature that sets these mirrorless cameras apart from a DSLR – using manual focus is now extremely handy, as you no longer have to think about focus errors. And if you have bad vision, you can zoom into the focused area by up to 100% view! Keep in mind that dual-mode only works when you are in manual focus mode. If you switch to Single or Continuous AF, toggling the “DISP” button will not show this mode. Also, you have to make sure that your screen is set up correctly and the “DUAL IS MODE” is checked under “Display Custom Setting” in “Screen Set-Up”.