New Fuji firmware - how does it perform? Some first impressions.

All above shot with Fuji X-E1 + Voigtlander M-mount 90mm f/3.5 using focus peaking.

The headline feature of the new X-E1 and X-Pro 1 firmware is obviously the focus peaking. The existing system isn't bad, but does Fuji's version of peaking enable faster and more accurate focusing than this? The answer is yes and no. It depends, like other similar systems its fair to say, on several factors. Lens used, aperture selected and the amount of light on and the contrast of the target.

If you're using a fast standard or medium telephoto in good light and on a high contrast subject then it works really well. But then those are the subjects that the previous system could cope with anyway. How about a serious wide-angle at f/8 in low, non-contrasty light? Well almost as you'd expect its not so good. Why is this?

Well first off its a slightly different system to that in other cameras, most notably the Sony NEX's which I have most experience of. When peaking is switched on the screen and EVF images changes and becomes less defined but with higher contrast. The areas that are then in focus depending on the aperture selected have a white 'shimmering' effect. Sometimes this is impossible to see without magnification. That magnifying is easy and is achieved by pressing the function wheel with my thumb. Moving the wheel left and right toggles between 3x and 10x magnification which is another of the updates features, and then lightly pressing the shutter button brings the full image back. So its easy to get into the peaking effect, but sometimes difficult to see. White is the only option though other colours are promised in the future.

Basically I'm undecided as to how well it works. The increased contrast on its own is an aid to seeing when an image 'snaps' into focus, but as to whether its quicker and more accurate, the juries out on that one. 

There is also supposed to be an AF speed improvement and while my 18-55mm zoom seems to focus faster and slightly more reliably in low light, I'm not sure that its as dramatic as Fuji would have us believe.

So initial impressions are positive but with some reservations. I need to work with it more to see if this is a significant update or one that is more like a 'work in progress' rather than a dramatic improvement.