X-T1 Face Detection AF with the 56mm @ f/1.2

X-T1 Face Detection AF with the 56mm @ f/1.2

Face Detection is one of those features, buried away in the AF menus, which you might happily ignore and never try.

I always associated it with point and shoot cameras, a nice feature to help people take their family photos, with the family in focus!

Including it the X-T1 peeked my interest – so I figured I’d check it out, but give it a really tough test at the same time.

How well would Face Detection AF work, when I was shooting wide-open at f/1.2 with the 56mm portrait lens?

I made a couple of adjustments to the camera before shooting – setting the High Performance Mode to ON in the Power Menu, the shutter release priority to Focus for S mode, and the minimum shutter speed for Auto ISO to 1/100. I used a Hoya Pro 4 stop ND filter to keep the shutter speeds in range on the X-T1.

The idea here was to give the camera the horsepower it needed to provide fast and accurate FD AF, and ensure that the shots were sharp and clean.

Even with this set-up, I was unsure as to how well the FD AF would pick out the model’s eyes as the key point of focus – DOF at f/1.2 is razor thin, so this was a significant challenge.

I assigned  FD AF to the front Function Button on the X-T1, so that I could quickly move from standard AF to FD AF – in case I needed to.

So why even try to use FD AF?

You could use the standard AF system – placing the AF box over the eye(s) to ensure this was the point of focus, and shoot that way.

This works ok, but you are constantly messing with the AF box location, as focus and re-compose at f/1.2 is a no-no – a guaranteed way to miss focus on your images.

You are also constantly fighting a battle – composition in the frame vs AF box position over the eye(s) – which tends to slow you down, and/or restricts your compositions. You’re constantly watching the AF box location rather than looking at the image as a whole and shooting for the optimum composition in the frame.

So this is where I hope FD AF would assist – as it looks at the whole image and then actively searches out the face area, then tracks it as you move the camera or the model.

No more worrying about AF box location over the eyes, I could (in theory) just line up the perfect comp, and shoot – the camera would do the rest.

So would this work out in practice?

I hit the trail with a selection of models to the Rockin’ G Ranch, to see what the Fuji could do…

(Click on any image for a larger version)

Sarah – Test shot at f/2 with EF -42 Fill-Flash – just in case FD AF couldn’t manage f/1.2!

Sarah @ f/1.2 – FD AF – ‘Lastolite’ style reflector for bounce fill

Sarah – 3/4 length @ f/1.2 – Reflector Fill – No issues with FD AF

Daniela – f/1.2 – FD AF picks the model and not the horse as the point of focus

Daniela – F/1.2 with heavy backlight and reflector fill – FD AF

Daniela – F/1.2 – closer-in with shallower DOF – FD AF

Daniela – f/1.2 – super close with very shallow DOF and face more than filling frame – FD AF still tracking eye focus

Teara – f/1.2 – Eyes partially obscured by hair – still good FD AF lock

Teara – f/1.2 – closer-in with shallow DOF – FD AF

Teara – f/1.2 – Shallow DOF with FD AF

Kat – f/1.2 – Fading light just post-sunset – FD AF still tracking at close range and shallow DOF

The pictures tell the story – I am immensely impressed with the Face Detection AF on the X-T1.

It took a little getting used to initially – you point the camera at the model and all of a sudden a green box appears around the face, and starts tracking it as you compose the shot.

If the model is out of focus as you bring the camera to bear, the FD AF may take a second or two to find the face – or you may want to pre-focus to give the camera a better target to assess. Sometimes just moving the face of the model towards the center on the frame for a second, would immediately trigger FD AF.

The box moves quickly with the camera/subject – so you can compose freely and just focus on the position in frame, background, lighting etc – leave the whole AF piece out of your though process.

The hit rate was just phenomenal – I’ll have to go back and do an accurate tally, but out of 250+ frames, I only saw a handful which were not sharp.

The high performance mode definitely helped AF acquisition times, but there is still a very slight delay as it locks-on, and that’s something you have to adjust to. Now I was also shooting with Focus as the priority on the shutter release, so that would play into the timing as well.

Power use was very good – I shot all afternoon with just one battery (I had the LCD off, and the EVF triggered by eye).

If you have the X-T1, you have to check this AF mode out – it’s something that really makes full use of the EVF and the extra horsepower in the camera’s processor

If it can deliver at f/1.2 – it’s going to handle pretty much any portrait.

The full set from the shoot is HERE

That you to Expressions Unlimited for the wonderful models