Today, Fujifilm is releasing version 4.0 of the X-T1 firmware, and once again, they are trying to make Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Toothfairy appear at the same time. And off season for two of them actually. Did Fujifilm manage to pull it off? Well read on and find out…
This time around the Fujifilm firmware buzz really hit the roof, with claims of an all new autofocus system that would practically give existing X-T1 owners a brand new camera. Bold claims indeed. Claims not only made by those saying they had gotten hold of rogue and secret beta versions of the firmware, but also claims made by Fujifilm themselves in their marketing teasers.
So, since Fujfilm decided to play the cocky marketing game, I set out to prove them wrong. I mean, it can’t be that good, can it?! Again I mean, because firmware 3.0 was a pretty fab upgrade. So I begged my friends at Fujifilm Nordic for an early version, so I could weave my secret web and reveal to the world what v4.0 was really about. So with this devious plan in mind, and an evil laughter soon to come, I jumped in the front seat of a car, and we head out for the highway.
Having set the camera to the new Zone focus mode in the menu, continuous focus on the front switch, and Continous High as my drive mode, I told the driver to hit his continous high with the maximum allowed speed of 80 km/h. But that was only half of my devious plan. Because what lens did I choose for this test?! Well one of the oldest lenses of course, a lens that many people claim to be both slow and sluggish at AF. The XF35mm. And of course, I’d shoot it at maximum aperture, f/1.4, through a windshield that seemed to suffer from some bad programming. It wasn’t bug-free… In other words; The Impossible Test!
As we entered the highway, I started shooting objects alongside the road. Objects coming towards the camera at blazing speed, well 80 km/h that is (insert evil laughter here).
After 20 minutes with everything from pillars on a bridge, small and medium sized traffic signs, and a few meeting cars travelling at 80 km/h towards us, I decided that we’d stop to have a look at all the out of focus shots.
I started looking through the last series. A high-end professional photoshoot of a road sign. Great art! I had managed 7 shots before we had passed it. To my surprise all 7 where sharp and in perfect focus. Had to be the photographer I thought, gave myself a good pat on the back, and promised to buy the photographer a cold beer for doing such a great job.
But as I flipped backwards through all those great images, ending with the one we started with, the bridge, I had to throw in the towel. I had managed 23 shots of those pillars coming at us at 80 km/h, and well, they where actually all tack sharp…
And just to do another test that day, to see how it performs on more ordinary situations, I decided to throw a dark meeting room at the X-T1 as well. Same lens. Same aperture. But in ordinary single point autofocus mode. I quickly focused 20-30 times at different small key sized objects around the room. And the XF35mm, that usually hunts a little, and does its little in-out-in thingy when trying to acquire focus, really doesn’t do it that often anymore. And it nailed the focus all those times. Not once did it miss focus, and that’s a great improvement too.
A couple of days later, when my initial shock was over, I took the X-T1 out shooting some lifestyle images with a model. And continuing being a bad boy, I kept looking for difficult AF situations. Like shooting into the blazing sun with the model backlit. Placing her hidden behind straws in that same strong backlit situations. And shooting with the camera held high over my head, down on the model lying on the ground in a dark forest. I hardly saw the screen, and was just hoping that the camera would find the correct eye. Almost all images from that day are in perfect focus. Damn…
Both the XF35 and the XF56 lenses seems to be from another planet now, that’s how fast and precise the new AF system is, and that’s how much better existing lenses are with it. Earlier, I found the XF56 to be a little difficult to nail focus when shooting at f/1.2 and things where hectic. It’s easy to move slightly between shots. With the new focussing system, I can literally shoot from the hip or way over my head without looking through the EVF or at the LCD. Fujifilms new voodooware just seems to solve every problem thrown at it. As long as I place the Zone focus area somewhere loosely around the face, and have the new eye detection turned on, voodoothings happen. I know some might say that a few others have had face and eye detection in their cameras for a long time. But not with the level of speed and precision the X-T1 now delivers with a 56mm wide open at f/1.2. This takes things to a whole new level.
So I give up. How on earth can Fujifilm make so drastic improvements, just by reprogramming the firmware? Beats me. The more I think about it, the more I’m sure Fujifilm has their own team of secret Ninjas, sneaking into peoples homes at night and installing new hardware in cameras at night when we are at sleep. Or maybe they hired the Toothfairy?! Yes, that’s got to be it! Gotcha!!
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PS! All images in this blogpost are JPG files straight out of camera (only one have been cropped), and the model images where shot with the Classic Chrome setting.