Fuji Struggling with the 50-230

AndyMcD

Top Veteran
Jul 15, 2017
104
East Midlands, UK
I've been trying my hand at wildlife for the past few days. My only decently long lens (past 90) is the 50-230 and I tried it out yesterday on some local birds. I was using single drive mode and AFC with a 5x5 zone and found it a struggle to get anything sharp. These are the best three from the day. I had the lens stopped down to f9 rather than wide open. I'm wondering if I would be better with a 55-200 (or even a 100-400, which feels like complete overkill tbh) but I don't think I've given the 50-230 enough of a chance yet, and I know that some folks here (I'm looking at you @KillRamsey )

These two are both about 50% crops.
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This one is uncropped.
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I think I should try CL or CH plus a 3x3 zone. I have read somewhere about using some different custom setting (I *think* I was using Tracking Sensitivity=2, Speed Tracking Sensitivity=0, Zone Area Switching=Auto).

[sigh] I remember when life was a lot simpler, and I could get out of focus pictures of moving things without any effort at all :biggrin:
 
Nov 11, 2011
214
Milwaukee, WI USA
Is it only moving things that are soft or out of focus?

I'm one of those guys that ALWAYS uses single point AF. That is the only way I know that I am determining the point of focus. If you select a 5 x 5 grid, the camera can choose any point on that grid. We would assume that the dark thing amongst the field of light blue would be what the camera is choosing to focus on, but I'd rather not give the camera a choice in the matter. I kinda feel like your camera is grabbing focus on the background, but I could be wrong.

FWIW, I also think you could be getting into diffraction at f9. I would assume (but we know the dangers of assumptions) that a telephoto lens might be designed to be sharpest close to wide open and that as you stop down, you may be getting less sharp. I'm sure if you look at some test results from a lens review, you can find out right away where the lens is sharpest, but my guess is that it is not f9.

just my 2 cents....I am not a professional.
 
He's shooting with a X-T3, so there is no IBIS. If I remember correctly, the OIS in the 50-230 is always on.

When I attempt birds with the 50-230, I use single AF point and and single shot AF instead of constant. Also I try to pre focus if possible. The 50-230 is not fast at AF whatsoever. But it can lock focus quickly if you pre focus. A tip I got from a friend who is a serious bird photographer is to zoom out a little to focus and start tracking the bird. Then zoom in while keeping the shutter half pressed. It should keep focus while zooming in when doing that.

Kyle can offer more tips as he shoots a lot with the 50-230.

This is an example of the results from that method
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AndyMcD

Top Veteran
Jul 15, 2017
104
East Midlands, UK
He's shooting with a X-T3, so there is no IBIS. If I remember correctly, the OIS in the 50-230 is always on.
You can turn the OIS off in the menu - but I didn't for these pics. I have read that OIS could be a cause of blurriness so I wondered about turning it off. Of course, being able to easily switch OIS on and off is one of the benefits of the 55-200 over the 50-230 (along with the aperture control, which is something else that I struggle with on the 50-230).

When I attempt birds with the 50-230, I use single AF point and and single shot AF instead of constant. Also I try to pre focus if possible. The 50-230 is not fast at AF whatsoever. But it can lock focus quickly if you pre focus. A tip I got from a friend who is a serious bird photographer is to zoom out a little to focus and start tracking the bird. Then zoom in while keeping the shutter half pressed. It should keep focus while zooming in when doing that.
Really? I thought that the AF-S mode grabbed focus and then locked it. I am pretty sure that is what happens when shooting the kids walking towards me. Is there another setting I am missing here?

Kyle can offer more tips as he shoots a lot with the 50-230.

This is an example of the results from that method
Yeah, I am sure that Kyle will pop up at some point and he is certainly a 50-230 master. Great picture btw, that is exactly the type of result I would like.
 

AndyMcD

Top Veteran
Jul 15, 2017
104
East Midlands, UK
Is it only moving things that are soft or out of focus?

I'm one of those guys that ALWAYS uses single point AF. That is the only way I know that I am determining the point of focus. If you select a 5 x 5 grid, the camera can choose any point on that grid. We would assume that the dark thing amongst the field of light blue would be what the camera is choosing to focus on, but I'd rather not give the camera a choice in the matter. I kinda feel like your camera is grabbing focus on the background, but I could be wrong.
Not just moving things, some of the non-moving are soft too, which makes me wonder if the 5x5 focus grid is the problem.

FWIW, I also think you could be getting into diffraction at f9. I would assume (but we know the dangers of assumptions) that a telephoto lens might be designed to be sharpest close to wide open and that as you stop down, you may be getting less sharp. I'm sure if you look at some test results from a lens review, you can find out right away where the lens is sharpest, but my guess is that it is not f9.
Good point, I will take a look at some charts. Wide open for that lens at 230mm is f6.7 and iirc it is considered soft wide open - by my reckoning f9 is only about one stop down, which is why I picked it.

just my 2 cents....I am not a professional.
I appreciate you taking the time to reply :)

also, I'm not familiar with what camera you are using or how the Fuji OIS and IBIS systems work. But if you are using an OIS lens and you have stabilization turned on for your body, some systems don't work well with 2 stabilizations systems fighting each other.
It is an X-T3 so no IBIS, but I think OIS could be at play here with the movement to track the bird. Plus I was deliberately at a high shutter speed, so OIS probably isn't necessary in this case - but requires a trip into the camera menu to turn off for this particular lens.
 
Really? I thought that the AF-S mode grabbed focus and then locked it. I am pretty sure that is what happens when shooting the kids walking towards me. Is there another setting I am missing here?
I should have written that a little better. Her tips were meant for using AFC. I try it with AFS on the 50-230 because the AF motor is not very fast at all. Also I rarely use AFC so my skill set there is limited.
 
Nov 11, 2011
214
Milwaukee, WI USA
I've also never been to use the "spray and pray" method. But if I were getting results I was unhappy with, I might try some burst modes ....not sure which AF mode I would use.

Another thought I had is that are ALL of your shots soft....maybe you have a dud copy of the lens. But if you have any good ones (at full zoom), then it's not your lens.
 

AndyMcD

Top Veteran
Jul 15, 2017
104
East Midlands, UK
Just found this one from my archive, taken back in July 2017. This is 1/250, f7.1 @230mm - so OIS would have been working for me here. Also, this would have been taken in AF-S with single point focus I think (and on the X-T1, not X-T3).

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So, the lens certainly was capable of producing decent results at some point - I am going to try some experiments later as I am thinking that this is all down to poor technique on my part rather than the lens. I may end up shifting up to a 55-200 anyway because of the better ergonomics (i.e. aperture ring and OIS on/off button) but I wouldn't do that until I have worked out what I am doing wrong with this lens.
 

AndyMcD

Top Veteran
Jul 15, 2017
104
East Midlands, UK
So, I think I got to the bottom of this.

1. Release priority was set for AF-C :speechless:
2. Using single AF point greatly improves things at the scale I have been working

These four show that static/slow moving things aren't a problem.

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This proves that the lens is plenty sharp at 230mm @f7.1
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Relatively slow moving, and a good size (cropped slightly)
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Cropped quite a bit, this is our local buzzard (I think that is what it is) that is the thing that I really want to get some pics of.
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So, back to birds in flight.

These are much better than I was getting - they are all pretty heavily cropped. Still not as good as I would like, but I think it is all technique now (i.e. I need to get better at a) getting closer and b) anticipating what they are doing)
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KillRamsey

Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2012
124
Hood River, OR
You're doing most of what I would've said. Here's what I've settled on, and why:

First thing to remember is that the glass in that lens is fine, it’s the AF motors that are slooooow. Not glacial, but hell - if you’re trying to shoot birds in flight, then yeah they’re really not quick enough unless you help them out. I’ve never noticed a problem with OIS and sharpness, and f9 is fine, no diffraction yet that I’ve seen.


That help is, as has been said, to pre-focus to get them in the ballpark, so they have a chance to “get there” before it’s too late. AFC is out of the question, for me. I’ve tried (XT1, not the 2 or 3), and I’m done trying. Think about it: you’re giving that lens permission to CONSTANTLY hunt around. And it can’t hunt quickly worth a damn. Like telling your pet tortoise to go play tag with you golden retriever puppy in the back yard. You need to pick up the tortoise and put it in the puppy’s path or it’s got no prayer.

My actual steps, were I in your position, trying to get those birds:

  1. AFS, good fast shutter speed, AF box sized up a few clicks from smallest but not huge.
  2. Move AF point over the ~where you think you’d want your subject in shots, if you have that luxury. Birdy flying left to right? Knock that AF box a click or two to the left. In not, just leave it centered.
  3. Get zoomed out to about where you want it, and pre-focus by half pressing. That gets the glass in about the right place, leaving little for the motors to do.
  4. Now just get the bird in the box, as they say, and single press all the way down, one after the other.
What I think helps me get keepers more often than duds is managing that AF point. Keeping it big enough to use more sensor sights to pull data to focus, but not so big it grabs the background.
 

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