Fuji X-E2 - Review and User Experience - Part 4 - Firmware update - PDAF and LMO.

'The firmware update Ver.3.10 incorporates the following issues:  Addition of compatibility with “Phase Detection AF” function of FUJIFILM X-E2. Addition of compatibility with “Lens Modulation Optimizer” function of FUJIFILM X-E2.'

The promised lens firmware updates have arrived for the X-E2, promising even quicker AF with Phase Detection AF added and something called Lens Modulation Optimization. So I've downloaded the one for the 18-55mm zoom and updated my lens. It seems that the 18mm and 27mm lenses don't have an update as yet. I can't say whether this is coming or not. Plus the 16-50mm zoom has the AF update but no Lens Modulation Optimization support. The 23mm lens apparently has both already.

So how well do they work?

Well the AF addition does show a slight improvement from what the X-E2 could do already, which was an improvement on the X-E1 and X-Pro 1. Depending on the target, there are times when the AF seems to be instant. Moving between close up and distance is also lightning fast. I even tried it in a very dark cupboard and again it worked very well and locked on quickly and accurately. Like all AF systems, the more light and contrast the target has the quicker it focuses. 

So how does it compare with my Panasonic GH3? Well its actually very difficult to tell which I guess indicates that its pretty good, since the GH3 is one of the fastest out there. It is going to be impossible to make any 'scientific' comparative judgements here. I have no test rig set up to measure this so any judgements I make will necessarily be subjective. With that in mind what I can say is that the X-E2 with this update has demolished the notion that Fuji X cameras are sluggish at AF. There is now (unfortunately for the people who own them) a significant and observable difference between this camera and the X-Pro 1 and X-E1. I tried both of them out on the same target and it does make a difference. The X-Pro 1 and X-E1 still 'hunt' for focus. The X-E2 + 18-55mm, after this update, didn't do that once when I tested it.

Its as well to bear in mind that we all shoot different things, plus as I always do, I used centre spot fixed point focusing, so others may get different results. In addition after years of doing this I know the problem areas for focusing and avoid them. However I am comparing like with like and I used the same methods before the update and with all three cameras. Bottom line - I really can't believe that anyone would now have a serious issue with the X-E2's auto focusing capabilities. If other systems are faster then we are talking very small fractions of a second here and if you miss the shot then its probably down to you and not the camera.

The Lens Modulation Optimizer is somewhat different and its difficult to see just what it does and how much it does it. Its supposed to compensate for diffraction which occurs when you stop down a lens. This is what Fuji say:-

'In addition, utilizing the enhanced performance of the EXR Processor II, Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO) factors are calculated to compensate for aberrations and diffraction blur that occur when light passes through the lens and then are applied to produce images with amazing sharpness.'

Well OK. But my results with the camera on a tripod and the lens set to f/22 are subtle, to say the least. I'm not going to post any samples since I'm not sure you'd see much difference with Google+ reproduction. Can I see a difference? Well yes I can (just), but as I said it takes some seeing. Plus the 18-55mm is actually pretty good at its narrowest apertures anyway. There seems to be some sharpening and a very slight increase in contrast in the images with LMO switched on. Now I can see it in the OOC jpgs. but try as I might I can't see any difference in the raw files I processed identically via Iridient Developer. Certainly I'm seeing nothing like the difference that's in the samples on the Fuji website and applying some sharpening in post processing probably gets much the same result anyway. I would point out that the samples on Fuji's website without LMO do seem somewhat soft, and certainly softer than I'm used to with my Fuji X cameras, so there might be a bit a 'creative comparing' going on here and they are trying to exaggerate any difference. (Or if I was unkind saying they are trying to create one that doesn't exist!!) 

I will, over the times I use the camera in the coming days, report back on whether there is more to it than I've discovered up to now, but my initial judgement is that owners of 18mm, 27mm and the 16-50mm zoom lenses aren't missing a great deal.

For all my posts on the X-E2 CLICK HERE

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