Continuing the blog serialisation of my popular X-Pro1 lust/hate/love story:
Part Six: Fixing My Focus Issues with the X-Pro1…
This is how I set up my X-Pro1 up to focus.
The root cause of the problems I was having with the X-Pro1 the first time around was that I expected it to work like a DSLR. Having spent a lot of time with SLRs over the years, I wasn’t really prepared to work in a different way. That’s also why I gelled so quickly with the X-T1
When it came to the X-Pro1 this was a mistake. MY MISTAKE.
This is how I use my X-Pro1, you may find this useful, or worthless. But it might help someone reading, even if only to form a base for their own settings.
I’ve written about this before, in my blog post here. But this page will share the settings I use in greater detail.
If you have any questions or queries, then please don’t hesitate to ask me, either via email or in the comments section.
I always have my X-Pro1 set to manual focus (MF). This is set using the focus dial on the front of the body.
I always have the MF assist set to peaking high; this is set in the settings menu.
I always have the film simulation set to B&W (Y). Why? I like this setting, but most importantly the highlight peaking of the X-Pro1 is not the best, and shooting with a B&W view in the EVF really helps see the focus peaking. I also set the camera’s sharpness setting to -1 as this helps with the focus peaking.
I use a combination of the OVF and the EVF to take shots.
When the camera is in MF mode, pressing the AF-L button (located just above the Q button) will instigate an AF run, what I mean by AF run is that the camera will attempt to acquire focus on a target.
Using this button in this way is called Back Button Focusing
Depending on the critical nature of the focus I want; I may do this in EVF mode or the OVF mode. By critical nature, I typically mean the type of shot, for example if I want to focus on something big, that’s 10 meters away, then I feel confident to trust the camera to focus correctly and the OVF view is fine. If I am shooting a portrait of someone close to me, then I use the EVF view to ensure that I have focused correctly.
The advantage to using to using MF in conjuncture with the AF-L button is that once the AF run has completed, then the camera will retain this focal setting until you either press the AF-L button again or physically move the focus ring on the lens.
This focal setting is retained even if you switch the camera off! Next time you start the camera; the focus will resume at the point you left it. It will resume focus (to the previously selected point) even if you change a battery.
Separating focus from the shutter button means that ‘all’ the shutter button has to do is to meter the scene (because focus is already acquired)
This is particularly useful if you are standing still and waiting for a scene to unfold in front of you, for example, perhaps in a street photography scenario. Once you have set the focus; you know it will stay put and you can concentrate on anticipating the shot.
Another use for this technique is when you know something will be at a specific point, for example your child running towards you! Set the focus ahead of time, use the EVF to ensure that focus is correct, then select the OVF for a real time view, half press the shutter button to meter the exposure and when your target reaches the part of the frame that you know is in focus, then press the shutter all the way home to take the shot.
I have the Fn that is next to the shutter button set to DOF Preview.
The reason that I set the top plate Fn button to preview DOF is not to actually preview the depth of field! No, pressing this button when you’re in OVF mode instantly takes you to the EVF view, to do it this way is way quicker than reaching down for the EVF/OVF lever on the front of the camera.
The EVF mode gives you (provided you are not in manual exposure AND have ‘preview manual exposure’ set to OFF in the menu) a very, very good indication of your end shot. Framing, focus and exposure are all faithfully shown to you in the EVF.
So I use this setting to quickly and easily check this important criteria ‘on the fly’ in conjuncture with the OVF. This gives me the advantages of both the EVF and OVF.
Another OVF ‘trick’ is this; if you are in the OVF mode and in MF, pressing the rear command dial in, will bring up an enlarged EVF view showing the contents of the focus box, scrolling this wheel whilst using this feature will toggle between 2 magnification sizes. The displayed view is always the content of the focus box displayed in the viewfinder (even if you have moved the focus box away from the centre of the frame).
So to recap on that, press the rear command dial in to activate enlarged EVF mode, turn the dial to toggle between the two sizes of view on offer. One word of warning/advice, if you LONG press (ie press and hold) the dial in, it’s a short cut to de/re-activating the focus peaking feature. So if one your day your focus peaking has apparently stopped working, then that’s what has probably happened!
So as you can see (and perhaps agree) by taking back control of focus from the shutter button, we still can utilize the benefits of AF, but gain the cachet of controlling when we instigate an AF run, slightly tweak focus to suit our needs, and by assigning preview DOF to the Fn button, quickly check overall focus, and still have the ability to zoom in to check critical focus, using the 2 different magnification levels via the rear command dial.
Alternatively of course, you can set the camera to AF, in which case every time you press the shutter button, the camera completes a AF run, sometimes this can be quite laborious (it’s a bit lens specific, the 60mm in low light can literally be measured in seconds, not milliseconds or hundredth seconds but full seconds), then if your subject moves or you move, or more annoyingly if nothing at all moves and you wish to take a second shot, then you must instigate a AF run all over again.
You pick your settings, you make your choice!
Another advantage I find of using the camera in MF mode with focus peaking is that it greatly aids the ‘focus and recompose’ technique, in all but the most critical of scenarios. With a subject fairly close to you and a fast lens (set at a wide aperture), it’s easy to lose focus by recomposing the frame after focus is acquired. For example: the focus box is set to the centre of the frame; and your subject is to the left. You point the camera at the subject, acquire focus using the centrally placed focus box, then move the camera to frame the shot. When you do this you can lose critical focus because the distance between the camera and subject has moved (because when you set the focus, the subject was directly in front of the camera, but now the subject is on a diagonal plane from the camera).
The way to avoid this if you are using AF mode, is to press the AF button on the Left hand side on the back of the camera (NOT to be confused with the AF-L button)
This enables selectable AF points, move the AF to the correct place by using the D-Pad (having first framed the shot), then press the AF button or half press the shutter to save the selection. Then half press the shutter to engage an AF run, and take the shot.
This is how I cope with the same scenario using the MF/back button focus technique.
Focus on the subject, with the centre focus point using the AF-L back button focus technique. Frame the shot. Using the EVF, slightly turn the focus ring to correct the change in focus back to the desired subject (with the focus peaking you will see the subject glow when it is in focus) take the shot. Does that sound easier and quicker with far less button presses?
I NEVER use my X-Pro1 in AF (Auto Focus)
I ALWAYS use my X-Pro1 in a B&W film simulation to get the most from the focus peaking
For CRITICAL FOCUS I use the EVF, either full view or magnified to obtain focus
I can QUICKLY CYCLE between OVF/EVF/Magnified Focus using just 2 buttons
Once I know I have focus I can use the OVF with confidence to anticipate shots
For accurate, but not SUPER CRITICAL focus, I can recompose without moving the AF point
I can do all of this EFFORTLESSLY, without taking my eye away from the camera
All of the above is achievable with a SLIGHT move of my shutter finger and thumb
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