Andy Westlake re-assesses Fujifilm’s popular CSC in the light of its latest firmware update
Fujifilm X-T1 Firmware Ver.4: Eye detection focus
Fujifilm was initially reluctant to include face detection on its X series cameras, but has now thought better of it and added not just face detection, but eye detection too. The mode works for both frontal and profile portraits; when enabled it outlines faces with a large green box and displays a smaller white box over the eye that will be prioritised for correct focus. It’s fascinating to watch these boxes track your subject around the frame, and reassuring to know that the camera is (usually) doing just what you want.
Eye focus is especially useful with fast primes like the 56mm f/1.2 and 90mm f/2; you can simply let the camera get on with focusing and exposing correctly, wherever your subject is in the frame, and concentrate purely on composition and shooting. Crucially, it more or less guarantees correct focus with minimal user effort when shooting off-centre subjects at large apertures. In contrast the phase detection systems in DSLRs often give slight, but persistent focus errors under these conditions.
What else has changed in Firmware 4.0?
While autofocus is the main theme of Firmware 4.0, the X-T1 has gained a few additional improvements. Perhaps most usefully, the camera now applies any exposure compensation you may have set when shooting in manual mode with Auto ISO. This means you can manually set the shutter speed and the aperture to suit the subject, and the camera will determine the necessary ISO, taking into account whether you want lighter or darker images than normal.
This may not be something you choose to do all the time, but in some situations it’s a useful way of working. For example, at the air show I selected a shutter speed of 1/800 sec to keep my shots as sharp as possible while still showing some propeller blur, and an aperture of f/8 to get the best from the lens. I then set the exposure compensation to +1EV to compensate for the bright sky, leaving the camera to control the ISO automatically to adapt for fluctuating lighting conditions.
A couple of small operational improvements have been added, too. The full range of shutter speeds from 30sec to 1/32,000 sec can now be selected using the front electronic dial when the shutter speed dial is set to the T position. This is particularly welcome when shooting with large lenses in portrait format using the vertical grip, at which point the shutter speed dial itself is well out of reach.
There’s a new Auto Macro mode, which allows the camera to employ the full focus range of the lens, rather than having to enter a specific mode for close subjects. This essentially fixes a quirk of the Fujifilm system: macro mode is inherited from the original X-Pro1, which has to switch from the optical to the electronic viewfinder for close subjects, but it’s unnecessary on cameras like the X-T1 that only use electronic viewing. The addition of Auto Macro means that there’s one less function to assign to the camera’s programmable buttons, and means that there’s now essentially no penalty to using the d-pad to directly move the AF area around the frame.