It’s fair to say this is an area where many users have experienced Fujifilm cameras falling behind the standards set by competitors for consistency, speed and accuracy. Since I purchased my first Fujifilm camera, the X-T2, I’ve noticed model by model improvements through the X-H1 to the X-T3 and X-T4.
The X-H2S not only continues to build on these autofocus improvements, but does so with an update which immediately demonstrates significant gains in this area.
As well as massively increased speed at acquiring subjects and maintaining tracking accuracy in single point and zone autofocus, we also have a very effective animal tracking mode. Just like previous cameras, users will benefit from gaining an understanding of the fundamental and more advanced custom autofocus settings.
Here in northern England, I’m lucky to have the Farne Islands in my local area. Each spring, the islands become the temporary home to thousands of breeding seabirds including the enigmatic Atlantic Puffin. Thousands upon thousands of them!
Puffins are a great ‘acid-test’ for evaluating the efficiency of a camera’s autofocus. They fly very quickly and often, very erratically with abrupt changes in direction. To make it even more difficult, they are a similar size to a pigeon, a lot smaller than many people often expect.
Atlantic Puffin – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (1/3500 f/7.1, ISO1600, 451mm)
With this in mind, I took a boat trip limited to a one hour landing slot on Inner Farne. Amongst some other shots, I managed a few bursts of flying puffins using the 15 frames per second mechanical shutter.
The galleries below show consecutive photographs from four different ‘bursts’, each lasting less than one second. The accuracy of the autofocus is incredible and consistent results at high frame rates are achievable. It is certainly fair to say that the limiting factor here was me! My abilities to compose while zooming and panning appear to have become a bit rusty having been away from this sort of photography during the last couple of years!
Atlantic Puffin – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (All at 1/3200 f/7.1, ISO1600, 352mm)
Atlantic Puffin – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (All at 1/4000 f/7.1, ISO1250, 406mm)
Atlantic Puffin – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (All at 1/6000 f/7.1, ISO1600, 391mm)
Atlantic Puffin – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (All at 1/3200 f/7.1, ISO1600, 485mm)
Elsewhere around the Farne Islands, common guillemots provide the same challenge with their speed and movement but with added complexities. Firstly, dark dolerite cliffs covered with thousands of birds, their nests and years of guano staining all combine to add a very confusing background and subject for camera autofocus systems.
Common Guillemot – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (1/1600, f/8, ISO 1000, 340mm)
Furthermore, these two guillemot photographs and the grey seal below, were photographed whilst I was onboard a moving boat at the bottom of the cliff faces in the North Sea. We know tracking and panning with any small and fast moving subject can be challenging for an autofocus system. Throw in the complexities listed above, together with the unpredictable movement of being onboard a boat, well… Years of experience and a few too many deleted photographs than I would prefer, informs me that this is where autofocus systems really need to shine and reveal their value and the X-H2S absolutely does.
Bridled Common Guillemot – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (1/1500, f/8, ISO 1000, 340mm)
At this point, the benefits of how the X-H2S In-Body Image Stabilisation (up to 7 stops) and the XF150-600mm Optical Image Stabilisation (up to 5 stops) intelligently combine to play their part in acquiring correct focus deserves a mention.
When stability is activated, unwanted camera and lens shake is immediately eliminated. It actually feels quite astonishing, and the movement of panning, and in this case caused by being onboard a boat becomes very smooth and vastly more manageable. Without this assistance, swift and accurate autofocus is incredibly difficult to maintain while panning with a moving subject or keeping a single autofocus point on target while the photographer is also moving while using a long lens with such a narrow field of view.
Grey Seal – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (1/900, f/8, ISO 640, 392mm)
Elsewhere, and in a completely different wildlife habitat, I was photographing red squirrels and woodland birds when a posturing male siskin caught my attention. One of the siskins began to repeatedly and rapidly move its head up and down in a threat display towards another male.
Quickly recomposing, with wide tracking enabled, the focus was immediate and the active autofocus point moved instantaneously and accurately with the siskin’s head. This moment of ‘micro-action’ lasted less than a couple of seconds. So quickly, I didn’t really have time to acknowledge if focus had been achieved as I took the shot and I had to review the images to check if I (well OK, the camera!) had hit the spot with sharp results!
Siskin – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (1/1250 f/8, ISO1000, 579mm)
Red Squirrel – Fujifilm X-H2S, XF150-600mm (1/280 f/7.1, ISO1000, 378mm)