Lightning fast and responsive AF systems that take hundreds, if not thousands of shots on a single charge are a must have for many photographers. Typically such a combo is only ever found in high end DSLR systems that have a bulking mass, particularly when battery grips and the 'must have' 70-200 zoom lens are attached.
Prior to owning the FujiFilm XT-1 two of the most sought after pieces of information I Googled before purchasing it were how well it performed in fast-paced sports situations and whether or not the battery was as 'bad' as many proclaimed. Coming from a Canon rig (7D and 6D) I was used to very solid cameras that did well on the sports field and provided high IQ in low light and responsive focusing. So, with just over a week of experience into the very talked about XT-1, how has it performed so far in comparison?
In case you've not seen it, I documented my first and very awesome day with the XT-1 here. The next thing I really needed to knuckle out was how well this thing handled fight photography and similar fast action. What better place to test it than with my fellow training partners in MMA and Muay Thai.
EDIT 4 April, 2015: I have had a completely opposite experience to this recently using the 18mm F2 in Continuous focusing. I'll post about it soon.
I'll be straight up. The XT-1 and 56mm 1.2 didn't perform adequately or well enough to the point that I feel I could photograph an event thoroughly with enough images that were on point. This experience could've been exacerbated by the lens I'm using, since it has so many big heavy glass elements and simply isn't designed for such circumstances.
I've done a fair few different fight and sport shoots in my time and they were typically done with my Canon 7D and 135mm F2 lens, or my Canon 6D for indoor stuff like fight nights with my Sigma 35mm 1.4. Those combos always performed admirably and provided me with an extremely high keeper ratio. The XT-1 at a simple training session on the other hand simply missed focus far too often and its Continuous Focusing function was a sluggish and unresponsive headache. It was frustrating to see the camera focusing near and far despite only using the central focus-point at maximum size and often when I wanted to take the shot the delay was that split-second too late. As a fellow martial artist I'm pretty good at predicting when the hit is coming and I NEED my camera to be able to snap within that instant otherwise it's just a lousy post-hit shot.
That said, it wasn't all bad news!
I decided to mix up the focusing modes to see what it was like with Single-Focus mode and briefly dabbled in the manual focusing modes. I actually found Single-Focus to achieve better results because it was really quick and responsive between focusing and taking the shot. The PRE-AF mode also worked quite well here too and combined with high speed burst got some sound results. Overall though the 1-2 hour shooting experience left me feeling like the worst photographer in the world, particularly when looking at how many shots focused beyond the subject and in contrast to my previous experiences shooting with Canon gear in the same environment that went very well.
So how did the battery life perform in such a demanding situation where the camera had a busy time focusing?
Well, quite exceptionally! I managed to shoot ~650 shots without passing the 1/2 way mark (I know it's not technically halfway and probably closer to 1/3 or less) and deliberately kept the same low battery in there for another day, rounding out my single battery to...
782 shots! Yep. 782 shots on a single battery on the XT-1!
How did I achieve such black magic? I have the camera setup so it's EVF only with the eye-sensor but also run it in High Performance Mode. It sounds unbelievable but I've been able to achieve it twice now with similar results on one battery charge. Switching the camera off when not in use for extended periods may also prove beneficial.
So where does this leave me with the whole DSLR vs Mirrorless or Canon vs Fuji argument?
For now the Canon gear will stay until I can get a hold of something like the 50-140mm f2.8 and see if it performs any better than the 56mm on the XT-1. I will also be testing the XT-1 in some better lit settings that don't feature lots of background movement and objects that could be causing issues for the camera's focusing system.
The X-series is such a great system and the results I have achieved in other areas of photography have been nothing short of exceptional. I simply love the colours and how sharp the images are coming out of the XT-1 and shooting the 56mm 1.2 @1.2 a hell of a lot is a total blast!
Check them out below.
The XT-1 is an inspiring camera and a definite keeper!