Ricoh’s GR cameras and Fujifilm’s XE and X100 series are probably the most popular affordable street cameras. Although both are ultra-compact APS-C cameras, there’s at least one unique street photography feature that sets Ricoh apart from Fuji: instant focus. This allows the camera to be set to a fixed focus distance (such as 3 meters/10 feet) for lightning-fast shooting. When Snap Focus is enabled, the camera takes photos with minimal delay because autofocus does not hunt.
Additionally, Snap Focus minimizes the risk of misfocusing when a photographer has internalized the correct camera-to-subject distance and set a small aperture for greater depth of field. Snap Focus is therefore a direct functional equivalent of traditional zone focusing techniques in rangefinder photography but on an autofocus digital camera.
Ricoh’s GR cameras are unique in their ability to quickly switch between different preset Snap Focus distances. Another unique feature is “Full Press Snap”: when activated, the camera will only focus to the preset focus distance when the shutter button is fully pressed (instead of pressing halfway to activate conventional autofocus).
Although Fuji’s cameras do not have instant focus built in, it can be effectively ‘hacked’ as a camera setting on newer models such as the X-E4, X100V, X-S10 , X-T3, X-T4 and X-PRO3. The trick is to creatively use the camera’s AF range limiter (“AF Range Limiter” in the camera’s “AF/MF Setting” menu) for Snap Focus.
Normally the AF range limiter sets a distance range in which the autofocus is allowed to operate, for example from 5 meters to infinity. This prevents autofocus from temporarily losing track of its target, for example when shooting continuously or shooting video while an object is moving in the foreground of the frame. For Snap Focus on a Fuji camera, the trick is to set up the AF range limiter with identical start and end points, for example limiting autofocus from 3m to 3m (= 10ft to 10 feet). Indeed, Ricoh’s Snap Focus is also an autofocus limiter with identical start and end points.
This hack is best combined with Fuji’s “AF+MF” feature, which allows autofocus to be bypassed by manually rotating the lens’ focusing ring.
With this Snap Focus “hack”, Fuji cameras can even do some things that Ricoh cameras can’t:
If a preset instant focus distance (3m in this example) produces a blurry image, the focus square on the camera screen will turn red and display a “!AF” warning sign. Once the Snap Focus distance and subject distance match, the focus square will turn green.
If the Snap Focus distance does not match the subject and manual focus override has been enabled via “AF+MF” (with “MF Assist” set to “Peak” and “Focus Check” enabled), turning the lens focus ring will magnify the viewfinder image…
…and correct focus will be confirmed once the focus ring is turned to the required position:
With the replacement of manual focus, Snap Focus mode becomes usable in any photographic situation. However, for convenience and to avoid keeping the camera limited to a preset focus distance, it is a good idea to save the camera setup with all Snap Focus settings as one of the “Settings”. Custom” of the camera. This way Snap Focus will not be lost when the configuration is changed but can be recalled at any time. “Custom Settings” also allows you to quickly switch between Snap Focus mode and other camera setups during a photo shoot.
First, a disclaimer: this setup was only tried and tested with the Fujifilm X-E4 (as I had no other current Fuji cameras available).
Open the camera menu and from there navigate to the third screen of the “AF/MF settings” menu item. Set “AF Range Limiter” to “custom” and enter the submenu to configure the custom range:
Once you click “SET”, you will be thrown into shooting mode and prompted to set the starting point (“POINT A”) of the autofocus range limiter:
To do this, simply rotate the lens focus ring until the distance scale displays the desired value (such as 3m/10ft). Confirm it by pressing the “OK” button.
This is followed by the question to set the end point of the autofocus range limiter:
Adjust the focus ring so that point B is the same as point A. After confirming with “OK” and exiting the setup screen with the “Back” button, the Limiter/Snap Focus distance will change. will display in the menu:
At this point, Snap Focus is active. It makes a lot of sense to also enable “AF+MF” for manual focus override:
I also recommend enabling “MF ASSIST” and “FOCUS CHECK” for a magnified view with maximum focus when rotating the focus ring.
Finally, the current camera configuration should be saved as “Custom Setting” (on the third page of the “IQ” menu), in this example as Custom Setting no. 6 (“C6”):
The name of the custom parameter can be changed in its configuration submenu:
I recommend assigning “SELECT CUSTOM SETTING” to one of the camera function buttons – in the case of the X-E4: the unmarked button on the front right of the camera top plate . To do this, go to the camera menu, key menu -> “BUTTON/DIAL SETTING” -> “FUNCTION (Fn) SETTING” -> “Fn”, then choose “SELECT CUSTOM SETTING”.
When you press the function button, the following menu appears:
…and quickly and easily switch between instant focus and other camera setups.
Take away food
While this camera setup hack gives Fuji photographers a working equivalent to Ricoh’s Snap Focus, the following limitations remain and, to my knowledge, cannot be overcome (at least not with camera models and firmware currently available):
There is, as previously mentioned, no equivalent to “Full-Press Snap”.
Only one Snap Focus distance setting can be used. To change it, the AF range limiter will have to be reconfigured in the camera menu, as described at the beginning. Unfortunately, Fuji’s “Custom Settings” does not remember AF Range Limiter customizations. The AF Limiter configuration will always remain as it is now, regardless of the custom setting. In other words, one cannot set different custom settings with different instant focus distances and switch between them. (Unfortunately, Fuji’s custom settings modes are much more limited than other manufacturers’ user-defined camera modes. For example, it would be desirable to save a small aperture preset as part of the setting custom “Snap Focus”, but that’s not possible either.)
In summary, Snap Focus can be used on most current Fujifilm cameras, even with additional features such as visual feedback for focus accuracy and manual focus ring replacement with support. in focus on the camera. But the operation of Snap Focus as well as the configuration options will always be much more basic on a Fuji camera than on Ricoh’s GR series.
About the Author
Florian Cramer is an arts specialist based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Florian teaches at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and has authored and co-authored a number of books on various art and design topics. You can find out more about Florian on his website and browse his many video creations on Vimeo.