Fuji X-T1 (fw 4.0) – Continuous Focus in Kid’s Soccer

Because I tend to shoot kid’s soccer players confronting other players (instead of running up the field), I prefer to shoot in the fastest bursts possible to get THE shot (or a nice set of shots)

  • On my Canon 7D, that’s 8fps in single focus mode
  • The Fuji X-T1 can also shoot 8fps in single focus mode
  • At 8fps, if the player kicks the ball, the ball might be in 2-3 frames. If you want a sequence of 3 shots (1 just before the kick and two with the ball in frame) you are more likely to get it with 8fps (but unlikely in slower).
  • Also at 8fps, you are more likely to get a useful shot or more as many frames before and after the kick are odd looking or less than ideal.

But what about Continuous Focus (AKA AI Focus on Canons)? I hate it on my 7D for soccer.

  • It reduces the frame speed down to 3-5fps
  • I found continuous focus to work about 75% of the time. That sounds good at first, but when you can see THE shot you like in a burst, and it is the only one out of focus, then it is AWFUL.

So how about the Fuji X-T1. Does it have better continuous focus than the 7D? My answer is, sadly, no.

  • It also reduces frame speed down to 3-5fps
  • And it also works only about 75% of the time in kids soccer

The samples below were shot with the soccer player inside the middle zone in zone focus which is supposed to be the best way to maintain continuous focus. It is hard to see the focus problem in some reduced size images. Click the photo to enlarge.

20150829 123552 3up_facepixelizer_DCE20150912 114539 4up_facepixelizer_DCE20150912 120451 4up_facepixelizer_DCE20150912 123945 4up_facepixelizer_DCE 20150919 091610 3up_facepixelizer_DCE  20150919 092437 3up_facepixelizer_DCE

Most of the time, but not all of the time, it is the 3rd frame in a burst of 3-4 frames. I don’t know if there is a pattern on the 7D for failure, but it was frustrating enough to abandon long ago.

If I had shot the above photos in Single focus instead of Continuous focus, most, if not all, of the shots would have been in focus (or all not in focus which is another issue).

These results may be different for other sports and for other photographers.

  • I still use continuous focus for zip lining and cross country (there really isn’t a choice).
  • I hear back focus is great for baseball and basketball (but I don’t shoot these)
  • With a thumbrest blocking both the AF-L button and AE-L (so you can reprogram the AE-L to be AF-L),
    • back focus isn’t a practical option
    • plus it would make 80% of the soccer photography more difficult (shooting players confronting other players)
  • Too bad there isn’t a feature that could temporarily activate Continuous Focus when you are on Single Focus to catch the 20% of the time I might follow a soccer player dribbling down the field with no players stopping them, but, quite honestly, this feature would have to be REALLY easy to use (and not blocked by a thumbrest).

For me, I’m sticking to short, single focus burst for kids soccer which gives me better results (especially since Fuji seems to be not only sharper, but more forgiving in focus than the 7D).

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