One of the things I love about Fujifilm is that they continue to add features to their cameras years after they are released. Yesterday they released firmware version 2.00 for the X-E1 and corresponding firmware updates for their lenses. (Yes, you read correctly – Fuji releases updates for the CPUs in their lenses as well as their camera bodies.)
In addition to improving autofocus speed and accuracy, firmware version 2.00 for the X-E1 adds an incredibly cool feature: “Focus Peak Highlight”. In manual focusing mode, as the subject comes into focus, it is outlined in high contrast – the edges appear white, as shown in this brief video from Fuji:
This great feature makes it much easier to manually focus using either the rear screen or the electronic viewfinder. In addition, pressing the “Command dial” activates image magnification, and turning the dial allows selection of 3x and 10x magnification. Keep in mind that while in manual focus mode you can press the “AE-L / AF-L” button and the camera will autofocus using the currently selected point of aim (by default the center of the viewfinder, but it can be moved around as you desire). Focus Peak Highlight provides an instant visual confirmation that your desired subject is in focus.
While testing the new X-E1 firmware I also noticed a feature I missed in my initial review. In addition to displaying the current distance for which the lens is focused across the bottom of the viewfinder (a vertical red bar across the green distance scale), the X-E1 also displays depth of field information by expanding or contracting a white highlighted area on either side of the red bar. This area takes into account focal length and aperture, clearly indicating the range of distances that will appear in sharp focus.
This combination of features makes manual focus on the X-E1 easier to use and more accurate. My usual technique is to leave autofocus turned on, half-press the shutter to focus, and then recompose my shot. It’s a habit I developed shooting with SLRs because it’s much faster than moving the point of aim around manually. However, with the new X-E1 firmware a better technique for portraits may be to place the camera in manual focus, aim at your primary subject, press the AE-L/AF-L button to focus, and take advantage of Focus Peak Highlight to make sure you get the shot you want.