Monday, April 4, 2011

F550EXR – Video Auto Focus on the hunt – Review Part 11

By far the most popular question right now seems to be the issue of auto focus hunting. Some early videos showed rather extreme hunting with this camera and it has has a “rep” ever since.

What was going on, of course, is the use of continuous auto focus. When the F70 first came out, continuous AF during video caused the same issues, although I must admit that it hunted less than the F300 and the F550 do. But it was extremely noisy on quiet video passages since the slightest movement could trigger it. The fix at the time was to go in and set center AF mode for video. Fuji, in their infinite non-wisdom, had set continuous AF for video from the factory.

Fast forward to the F300EXR. Fuji added a button to the back of the body for quick access to recording in any mode. Great idea. But it came with a colossal brain fart in that they removed the ability to set center AF for video at all! The following play list contains 12 parts from a Josh Ritter concert (well worth watching if you are a fan) – the first 6 recorded with the F300EXR and the last 6 recorded with the Panasonic ZS3. You will see what happens when center AF is not an option.

Note: The AF hunting is not as bad as some people think … but it is there. The ZS3 does not hunt nearly as much and videos are therefore more pleasant to watch. The F300’s video was ruined far more by two things: poor low light performance and short clip lengths … 11 minute maximum  in HD because of their rotten motion jpeg codec.

So now we turn to the F550EXR.

And low and behold, Fuji have responded to what must have been a torrent of complaints about video AF hunting. They reintroduced the center AF mode for video. And it is the factory default.


So now you can zoom and then sit there without the camera trying to refocus all the time. Here is a very short test that I shot in 640x480 mode and the processed in Pinnacle Studio 14, which somehow squashed the 640x480 into something other-worldly … no matter though, because the message is still clear.

Considering that clips are now a much more useful 30 minutes and that the camera has stereo microphones, this might just be my concert cam for the future. I’ll need to test it in concert conditions to see if it can handle the same lighting as the ZS3 and of course to test the audio, but I could already live with the much-improved audio on the F300EXR … things are continuing to look up for Fuji compact fans …

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