Continuing the blog serialisation of my popular X-Pro Series lust/hate/love story:
Part 34: The X-Pro2 Review: The X-Pro2 and the Electronic Rangefinder
The Electronic Rangefinder or “ERF” is, to my mind, simply a superb idea.
I don’t think there’s any other camera anywhere (X100T excepted of course) that has this function.
And before all you mechanical rangefinder users write in… PLEASE, aligning two images together in the centre of the screen is a completely different animal. Sure in certain situations that’ll be preferable, in others it wont. But at the end of the day it’s a completely different piece of tech.
There has been quite a lot of noise on the forums about the nomenclature of this feature (not a surprise), what is a rangefinder? Is it a mechanical device for achieving focusing or can it be digitised? If we can say it can (be digitised) then is not every camera with a EVF a rangefinder?
Yup, that one will run and run… For me? ERF sounds like marketing speak 🙂
Maybe we should call it a hybrid (as it features both OVF and EVF functionality in the same view) or maybe a split screen..
Or let’s just call it the ERF, as that’s what it’s been marketed as!
Call it what we like, the ERF is an exceedingly clever and well thought out feature.
I don’t tend to find that I use it all the time… But when I do I really like it a lot!
For me, in MF mode, the ERF is particularly handy for subjects that are neither moving nor sitting still! For example; someone sitting on a chair, they’re not exactly moving a lot, but equally they’re not 100% static either.
I find that for scenarios like that, I don’t re-focus between shots, but instead I move myself backwards or forwards a bit, keeping an eye on the ERF (with focus peaking enabled) to keep my subject in focus, whilst the OVF provides me with a real time live view to decide exactly when to take the shot.
The ERF has 3 view mode settings, 100% view, 100% of the focus box view and a semi-magnified view.
I’ve shown it above with the 100% view (as it shows up clearer in the picture) but for me, I prefer the semi magnified view.
The 100% view is effectively tiny – like the world’s smallest EVF!
The 100% contents of the focus box view, can be very hard to pin-point if the scene you’re shooting is busy and has repeated details.
The semi-magnified view is just about right, the figurative ‘Goldilocks’ setting 🙂
You can cycle through these three views by pressing (not scrolling, as per the focus views in the EVF) the rear command dial in. Personally I wish this was a scroll function, as the command dial is quite recessed and not always easy to press in.
The ERF isn’t just good at having your OVF cake and eating your EVF cake at the same time.
It’s also superb for determining parallax error. When using the OVF you are (of course) looking through a hole on the top corner of the camera, whilst the lens and sensor are (more or less) in the middle.
This means that in OVF mode – when you position the focus box to where you need it in the frame, it might not actually be where you need it! But a quick glance at the ERF will confirm whether or not you’re in the right place.
So why don’t I use the ERF all the time?
Well it can a little distracting. I wrote above keeping an eye on the ERF but of course that’s the problem, you can only use one eye at a time in the viewfinder – so for times when I’m shooting something where I don’t need the ERF (for example a land or city scape, or if I’ve zone focused the lens or I’m using a focus trap) then it’s easier just to turn it off.
The battery life is a bit better if the ERF isn’t on all the time.
Apparently Fuji have made either a coding error or a (in MY HUMBLE opinion) poor judgement call in how the camera meters in ERF mode.
According to Rico Pfirstinger (the author of several EXCELLENT books about Fuji X cameras) in this post (on Fujixspot Forum) here and also in his book “115 X-Pert Tips for the X-Pro2” he states the following
In ERF mode the camera’s histogram basically displays ONLY what the ERF patch is set too… So basically if you have the ERF set to one of the zoom modes, then the histogram will ONLY meter that portion of the total frame.
This effectively makes the histogram unreliable (and being luminance only, it already needs all the help it can get!) in the non-100% view ERF mode.
I don’t know if this is a bug or a feature… But I do know, that I make sure I’ve done any metering that I need to do before I switch the ERF on.
Which is another reason why I don’t use it all the time.
The big take away for me on this, is that the X-Pro2 histogram is basically driven by the EVF, not the sensor itself. This has implications on how you set the jpegs up… for example, like big black shadows? Crank your shadow tone setting up to plus 4? Well your histogram now tells you that you’re cutting signal far sooner than you really are.
Of course, now that we know this – it’s not so hard to work around. You can set your jpeg tone curves to make the best use of the histogram (which is -2 for shadow and highlight tones); and you can use the OVF or any of the 100% EVF/ERF views to use the histogram.
I understand that for SOOC Jpegs, having a EVF that displays the shot you’ll get is a very worthwhile feature.
But still – one is left with the feeling that the histogram really should tell you what the sensor is metering, not what a fraction of the sensor is metering.
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