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Fujifilm’s Manual Focus Assist Modes: What They Are and How To Use Them

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Fujifilm has some amazing manual focus assist modes that combine cutting-edge technology with decades-old principles. But who actually uses manual focus anymore?

When Manual Focus works better

Fujifilm’s autofocus system has been rapidly evolving in recent years. But there are times when manual focus is the better option. Here are some times when I personally prefer manual focus with my Fujifilm:

  • Ensuring maximum foreground-to-background sharpness in landscapes.
  • When my distance to the subject isn’t changing, manual focus helps me work quicker without worrying about an erroneous AF lock.
  • Areas of low contrast and/or low light can be difficult for autofocus, so switching to a manual focus mode can sometimes be quicker and more accurate.

There are a number of different situations for different photographers where manual focus is better than autofocus, but these are a few to think about.

Add in the advantages of mirrorless cameras and you have a robust manual focus system.

Dedicated back-button focus

One thing that really revolutionized my photography style was programming back-button focus in my Sony cameras.

This ability is “standard” in Fujifilm cameras by using the AF-L/AF-ON button while in MF, unless you’ve already reprogrammed that button.

Back-button focus allows you to take advantage of autofocus while staying in manual focus. Point the camera at your subject, press a button to quickly focus, and then recompose and shoot away.


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This is one more perk to staying in manual focus and learning how to back-button focus when the situation warrants.


Fujifilm Manual Focus Assist modes

XT2 manual focus assist buttons
Manual focus assist buttons on the back of the X-T2.

Fujifilm has four (or three, depending on how you look at it) Manual Focus Assist modes. They can be cycled by long-pressing the rear command dial (wheel). Not all are available in all camera models.

Manual Focus Assist modes cycle between Standard, Digital Split Image, Digital Microprism, and Focus Peak Highlight.

There is no “better” manual focus assist mode or default setting that I use. Each one is useful in different situations, so you’ll just have to experiment to find out which ones work best for you and when.

mf assist menu

Which Manual Focus Assist modes are found in different Fujifilm X cameras?

 Focus PeakingDigital Split ImageDigital MicroprismDual Display
X-T2XXX
X-T3XXXX
X-T4XXXX
X-T20XX
X-T30XXX
X-Pro2XXX (ERF)
X-Pro3XXXX (ERF)
X-H1XXX
X-T100X
X-T200X

1. Standard

No tricks here. You’ll have a clean image without any kind of overlays or special algorithms. This works best when the other focus assist modes are too distracting.

You’ll get the most out of this by pushing the rear command dial and zooming in (explained later), or using Dual Displays in the EVF.

2. Focus Peak Highlight

The Focus Peak Highlight manual focus assist mode will highlight the areas of strong contrast between edges. Or, in other words, areas in focus.

You can adjust the highlight color and intensity in AF/MF Setting -> MF Assist -> Focus Peak Highlight.

  • There are four colors available – white, red, blue, and yellow (not in all cameras). I’ve found that I prefer red as it’s easiest for me to see in most situations. Blue is the close runner-up. I can’t distinguish the white or yellow very well.
  • Each color has a High and Low selection available. Low has a higher focus threshold and will be harder to see, while high is less sensitive to sharpness and brighter. I prefer high, as it’s easier to see. But sometimes Low is better with super-dense intricate details so the whole frame isn’t entirely highlighted.
focus peaking levels
LOW focus peaking level on the left, HIGH peaking level on the right. BLUE works better for this red brick wall than RED.

When should you use focus peaking?

Focus peaking works well in most circumstances. In situations that don’t have any straight edges – where the other MF Assist modes don’t work as well – focus peaking excels. It also works well in portraits to ensure the proper eye is in focus.

Here’s Focus Peaking (red, high) as seen on an X-T30 LCD:

focus peaking gif

3. Digital Split Image

Did you ever use an old film SLR that had a split prism in the center of the screen to help you focus? This is the digital equivalent.

Things just won’t line up when your scene is out of focus. Straight lines will be broken up. They will be brought back into alignment as you bring everything in focus.

You can set either a color digital split image or a monochrome split image. I prefer the monochrome split image. This tool is hard enough to use, and color adds distractions. Adjust this by going to AF/MF Setting -> MF Assist -> Digital Split Image.

digital split image color monochrome
Digital Split Image COLOR (left) and MONOCHROME (right)

When should you use the Digital Split Image manual focus assist?

This tool is much more specialized. It’s difficult to use in scenes with soft edges, particularly curved, soft edges, like portraits. Hard, defined straight lines, such as those found in architecture, are perfect for digital split image.

Here’s the Digital Split Image as seen through an X-T30 EVF:

digital split image gif

Digital Split Image, like the other manual focus assist tools, is much easier to see when magnified.

digital split image zoom

Which one of these focus aides do you prefer for this image?

4. Digital Microprism

memberrect

The Digital Microprism is Fujifilm’s newest manual focus assist tool, found on cameras released with & after the X-T3 (X-T30, X-Pro3, X-T4…). This too simulates how you would manually focus older film cameras.

If you understand Digital Split Image, Digital Microprism is best though of as a bunch of little digital split images in the center of the screen. You’ll see the boxes accentuated when the image is out of focus, and then nearly disappearing when the image is in focus.

digital microprism manual focus assist gif

Digital Microprism, like the others, is much easier to use when magnified. It’ll take up the whole frame wherever your focus point is set.

digital microprism magnified

Other Fujifilm Manual Focus tools

Focus scale indicator

You’ll see a distance scale on the bottom of the screen (LCD and EVF) when in manual focus.

  • The distance scale can be set to either meters or feet (Screen Set Up).
  • The blue bar is the depth of field scale. It indicates the front and rear areas of acceptable sharpness. The white line indicates the hyperfocal distance.
  • The depth of field scale can be set to either Pixel Basis or Film Format Basis (AF/MF Settings). Pixel will have a smaller scale because there’s less room for error – this is the desired setting for pixel peepers. Folks using “zone focusing” – guessing your subject distance & setting the distance scale this way – should use Film Format.

Dual display

Some Fujifilm cameras like the X-T2 and X-H1 have a feature called Dual Display.

You’ll see two split windows when this is enabled; a large window and a small window. One window can display the entire composition while the other window will display a 100% magnification focus aide.

  • To enable Dual Display, cycle the DISP button while in MF and either looking through the EVF or at the LCD. It will not be mirrored in the other display; this allows you to have different displays in the EVF and LCD.
  • You can swap the window layout in the Screen Set-Up menu under “Dual Display Setting.”
  • Dual Display only appears while in Manual Focus.
  • The zoom area can be moved with the joystick.
Dual display manual focus
Representation of the EVF & LCD showing the Focus Scale indicator. Dual Displays are enabled with the Digital Split Image assist.
Fuji Dual display 2
Dual Display after swapping the magnification window.

Electronic Rangefinder (ERF)

The X-Pro2 and X-Pro3 have a similar feature called the Electronic Rangefinder. Cycle the Viewfinder Selector on the front of the camera until the ERF appears in the lower-right of the OVF.

Manual Focus zoom magnification

You can magnify the focus area for more precise focusing using any of the manual focus assist modes explained below. Simply press the rear command dial to enable/disable magnification.

  • Focus Peaking has two levels of magnification.
  • Focus zoom works in both manual focus and autofocus.
  • This will not work when looking through the EVF when Dual Displays are shown.

Focus Check

You can automatically enable focus magnification whenever you rotate the focus ring. Enable Focus Check in the AF/MF Settings Menu.

I’ve found this to be kind of annoying and leave it off. I prefer to have manual control over this, as it’s programmed to activate by pressing the rear command dial when I need it.

I hope this explains all of the great Fujifilm manual focus assist tools – please leave any questions or comments in the section below.

Satya

Sunday 5th of September 2021

Thanks a ton for putting info relevant to the Manual Focus topic together in one place - a comprehensive howto. Also appreciate that you invested the time and effort to write an article rather than create a video. I find written stuff so much easier to browse, learn and retain, videos seem lazy by comparison, and try browsing a video! Much appreciated

John Peltier

Sunday 5th of September 2021

Glad you found it useful - I'm partial to writing than creating videos as well :)

M.Ster

Thursday 20th of May 2021

Why Manual Focus zoom magnification cannot be used when using FujiFilm Cam Remote app on iPad? Or it is just me not knowing how to zoom the image on the iPad's display for more acurate manual focussing?

It would be a tremendous help for me to have focus zoom when using the app while manually focussing the lens on my X-T1.

GT Fish

Monday 14th of September 2020

What is the maximum zoom magnification for manual focussing on the X-T100 & X-T4 please?

Gene

Friday 24th of July 2020

Enjoyed the article and am still learning things about my X-T3. Any tips for pinpoint accuracy on shots of the Milky Way?

John Peltier

Saturday 25th of July 2020

Set your focus to infinity - using a far distant object, NOT the scale - before you lose daylight. Then don't touch your focus or focal length after that!

Graham

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

On a t3 can you disable the rear command dial long push so you don’t accidentally cycle the focus assist? It drives me nuts!

John Peltier

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

Hi Graham, press & hold the DISP/BACK button and set R-DIAL to NONE. Cheers.