How I Capture Motion With The X-Pro1

The Fujifilm X-Pro1! The apple of my photographical eye, the companion by my side, the camera I’ve used incessantly..

Overly beloved by a vocal minority, overlooked by a few and reviled by some.

Why? Well basically it’s the AF (auto focus), it’s pretty slow when compared to many other cameras on the market.

Even now, or perhaps – especially now (with the X-Pro2 and many other newer cameras available) some forum warriors purport the X-Pro1 to be unusable (and that’s a personal choice after all) and that slow AF stunts creativity

That last bit… Er what?

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, no one is entitled to their own facts. No one.

The AF’s not that substandard really, it’s just that for those that arrived to the inaugural Fujifilm mirrorless camera, from the world of DSLRs found that it just wasn’t as snappy in the AF department and not able to focus track a subject; also when the press (and users) compared it to more mature systems from Sony, or the M4/3 platform, the X-Pro1 showed its age, which was in comparison, embryonic.

Now of course it shows it’s age as end of life… from immature to retired, with nothing in between!

Of course they’re other complications too… Fuji’s X-Trans CFA makes a lot of work for the processor when compared to the Bayer CFA, and M4/3 sensors are not only also Bayer, but are smaller, so the internal chipset of these cameras can determine focus far faster (because there’s less data to crunch than APSC sized X-Trans)

So many people have simply stated that it’s impossible to capture moving objects with the X-Pro1

Of course lightening fast AF is a relatively new must have specification, you don’t have to go back so many years to find that the vast majority of cameras were manual focus, that camera original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) were quite happy to entrust the end user to focus the shot.

My how things change! Now in the 21st century, if a OEM can shave a couple of hundredths of a second off a AF run, then they have a sure fire sales success on their hands.

As they say across the pond “Gee” – it kinda makes you wonder how images of moving subjects even existed before about 2004!

I mean what a bizarre and antiquated concept right? Like the lunch time drinking and incessant cigarettes in Mad Men, or the notion that when cooking, sugar should be added as frequently as possible. Yup, the crazy notion that we should chose for ourselves what our cameras focus on…

…Wait that’s not quite right is it? That actually rings true, no? I -the photographer- should chose what part of MY image is in focus.

Why is that so crazy?

So that leads me nicely into this article.

I use the X-Pro1 EXCLUSIVELY in Manual Focus (MF) mode.

You can read how I set my X-Pro1 to achieve what I PERSONALLY feel is the best manual focus setting here

But basically, a BW film simulation helps you see the focus peaking, back button focusing may not be any quicker than AF, but you only have to do it once per camera-subject distance situation (unlike AF which will engage every time you press the shutter, whether or not you or your subject have moved). The easy access magnified ‘AF’ (sic) EVF box, along with instant full frame EVF, via my suggestion for the Fn button, make it very easy to achieve focus, and swap back and forth between the OVF/EVF.

I mean that’s why we love the X-Pro1 right? The OVF….?

Now I don’t wont to be too verbose… (read the above link for the full break down!)

So instead, lets see some shots!

Swing

This is a shot of a family friend and his daughter, I’m not claiming that it’s the sharpest image you’ll ever see, but it’s in focus!

I shot this with (the X-Pro1 obviously, and) the XF35 F1.4 with the aperture set to F2.0

How did I do this?

Well, as mentioned above; the X-Pro1 is no AF demon and I use it only in MF mode.

The trick for me; is to get focus as close as possible, as easily as possible, then tweak as necessary… Sometimes it’s easier to move yourself back and forth, than to keep turning the AF ring!

For this shot, I first focused on the beam of the swing, it’s static and only a meter or so away (behind in this case) from where I wanted to place critical focus.

Then I moved myself about one step back, so that the point of focus moved to about the desired place.

Then I watched the girl on the swing through the EVF (with focus peaking turned on), and tweaked the focus ring to ensure I had her face in focus where I wanted during the pendulum of her swing.

Then, because EVFs do tend to lag a bit, and the X-Pro1 is not exactly cutting edge tech in the EVF department, I switched to the OVF; primed the exposure (by half pressing the shutter button) and fired the shutter at the correct moment to get her face in focus.

Another example:

Slow Down

As I said, some users say the X-Pro1 is so bad that it’s impossible to capture a moving object, they also say the MF (manual focus) capability is terrible and that the built in aids to assist with MF are worthless.. I shot this in MF at F2!

It’s called a focus trap!

This is where you anticipate where the subject will be and set the focus to that point ahead of time. How did I know? Years of motorcycle riding gave me a reasonable idea where the rider would select the apex of the bend to be, and the ‘bumblebee in a metal can’ drone of the scooter gave me enough of a clue that he was coming

This next shot is a combination of a focus trap and judging the focus point ahead of time:

'Dem Crazy Porto Kids

The judgement part is not knowing 100% how far the (crazy) kid will arc away from the bridge during his dive… There’s no easy answer! I set focus on him before the dive, then stopped down (to give me deeper DOF) then I manually took the focus point back a bit, and it turned out ok…

Now of course, with certain cameras, you could just point and shoot, or turn on AF tracking and it would do the job for you.

Of course when using tracking AF, there’s generally some other settings that you need to have enabled to get the best from it… On the tracking capable Fujis, I hope you remembered to turn off the electronic shutter… Did you set your camera to release priority or focus priority? What about pre-AF? Good idea for these shots? Turn it on maybe? On your tracking AF (mirrorless at least) camera, did you correctly judge the imperceptible, but very real EVF lag? Did you manage to keep the tracking AF focus box correctly positioned on the target at all times?

If you correctly managed all the above, then for sure tracking AF is undoubtedly working out great for you!

But remember, some have said that it’s impossible to capture a moving object with a X-Pro1 – because it has none of the these features.

I disagree.

I also think that (and seriously – this is just my personal view point) there’s really no shame in being able to acquire focus in a way whereby you’re the boss of the camera, not the other way round.

Why?

Well DLSRs can back focus, AF in general is not infallible, tracking AF needs complimentary settings in order to fulfil the ‘Auto’ part of its name…

So it’s good to know how to do it yourself – to take some pride in selecting which part of your shot is in focus…

…Besides, using MF has been the backbone of photography since year dot…

…Why would you not want to keep that tradition going?

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