After selling my Leica M9, I knew that I might have a bit of a challenge shooting work events with just my X-Pro 1. Although I have the three current Fujinon X-mount lenses available, I feel much more comfortable shooting with two bodies instead of swapping lenses in the middle of a job. I also wanted to have a 35mm equivalent focal length, a lens that I rely upon for shooting events.
Given all of that, I convinced myself that a workable option would be get a second camera in the shape of an X-100. I owned an X-100 when it was first released and sold it after a few months, partly out of frustration with it’s lack of manual focus, a la the R-D1. The sale of the X-100 helped finance my M9 purchase, so there is a bit of irony here; I have now gone full-circle by selling the M9 and have purchased the X-100 to cover my 35mm lens needs.
Today was the first opportunity to try the new combo for a work event, the release of government’s Public Accounts for the year (here is a link to the published photos). I have photographed this event for a number of years, using a variety of equipment, so I have a pretty good idea what works. After starting with DSLRs, I moved to rangefinders in the past couple of years. For the event today, I used the XP1 with the 60mm and 35mm lenses and the X-100, thinking that I would be relying upon auto focus. Well, to my surprise, I found I like using what I will call “automated manual focus” (AMF) instead of auto focus.
I find the AF on the XP1 fast enough and mostly reliable. The X-100 isn’t up to those standards, but it’s workable. In the course of shooting the event, hey how many podium shots do I need before I start to experiment with camera settings, I switched to MF for both cameras. In both cases, I have the AF-L buttons set to focus the camera when pushed. So, a quick push of the AF-L button to focus and a press of the command dial for an even quicker focus peek and I have focused using AMF. The results were great and, perhaps more important, very reliable. Once focused and as long as I kept the same distance to the subject, I could compose and fire away. I only needed to focus again if I changed positions. I believe this is a more reliable way of focusing the cameras, in the appropriate situation.
It was a nice surprise to find that I could work this way reliably. It may not be as fast as MF with a RF, but it’s close and once focused, I can concentrate on exposure and composition. Who knows, with a little more practise, I might be as fast with AMF on my X cameras as I was with MF on the M9 and the R-D1.
Note: although this post has dealt exclusively with focus and suitability for working with Fuji X cameras for shooting events, I can’t ignore the issue of image quality and high ISO performance. The X-100 delivers very good results in both cases. The X-Pro 1 and lenses are as good as or surpass any other camera and lens combination that I have used. I love shooting with the XP1!
Note 2: how to make the X-100 as responsive as possible. Ideally, I shoot events in burst mode, which the XP1 can accommodate, as long as you restrict your bursts to two or three shots at a time. Shooting bursts is a non-starter with the X-100.
To make the X-100 as responsive as I can, I do the following:
- Shoot in single frame mode
- Turn off image review
- Use the fastest SD card available
With this setup, I find that I can fire off single shots faster than I could with the R-D1, which required cocking the shutter between exposures. Although not as fast as proper burst mode, this setup certainly works for me.