How to focus your Fujifilm GFX or XT in the dark!
Focusing in the Dark
It can be very difficult to achieve sharp focus in the dark with modern Auto Focus camera systems. Most applications require that you set your lens to focus at infinity. That can be done several ways, but many times, if you have a foreground element that you want to be sharp, you really need to do this in the field because the foreground can be closer than infinity. When we are doing this type of photography, we usually shoot at wide-open apertures such as 1.4 or 2.8; this leaves very little depth of field.
I have learned several techniques that I have used to ensure I get the image focused where it is most important.
Bright Light AF Focus
You can take your flashlight or even a headlamp and move it close to the object that you are trying to focus on. Set your GFX or XT camera to AF Single Point. You press the AF button and when it locks focus, you simply turn your lens or camera from AF Single to Manual. This locks the lens in at the distance you have just auto-focused your camera at. The way you test the accuracy is to expose an image and then preview it at 100% or 200% to ensure the areas you want to be sharp in focus. This works very well. The disadvantage this has is if you are in public places, like Arches National Park, others will call you out and tell you to turn off that light while they are exposed. You just blew their exposure because you added too much light to the scene.
You can also turn your camera to Manual focus to zoom into the area and view it 100% or 200%. As you turn the lens, you will see the image come into sharp focus. Expose another image and then preview it at 100% or 200%. This technique can work with Bright Light techniques or if the area has any ambient light, you can simply zoom into Live view and turn the camera lens manually. I got lucky on this shot below because it had a few lights that were already turned on. I just turned my camera to Manual Focus and zoomed into the Live view preview to 100% and turned the lens to see it come into crisp focus.
And do not underestimate your car. We were able to drive right up to this scene. Pointed the car lights towards the shipwreck in order to do a Bright Lights Focus technique here. We had hoped for the Northern Lights to make an appearance but it was too overcast that night. That is why I kept it dark and moody to see the separation.
I just learned this tip on a recent trip. I have used laser pointers for Powerpoint presentations in the past. Try the green laser pointers that are rechargeable. You will find many on Amazon and other laser stores. You are going to use the same techniques as above. You will point the laser pointer towards your scene or foreground. Turn your camera to AF Single, press AF and it will lock focus on that green dot. Turn your camera lens or body to AF Single or Manual Focus. Point your laser pointer towards the area you want to focus on. Press AF and it will lock focus on that laser dot. Turn your camera lens or body to Manual. This will lock the focus where the lens is focused so you can capture a test frame and preview it at 100% or 200%.
By Chris Snipes
Thanks for the read! If you have any questions, or interest in a photographic system upgrade, feel free to reach out.Chris Snipes