If you are curious how much is improved the A12 50mm AF speed with recent FW, here is a little test I did yesterday. What I did was recording the AF sounds with wife's iPhone
Below you can see the results...
First test shows the dramatic boost of the AF speed under the low light conditions and with very low contrast target (and no AF assist light!). What you don't see in this test is that it's not only the AF speed what's improved but also the precision of the focus! Another major improvement is zero screen freeze while focusing! With previous FW, you could choose between the faster AF with screen freeze and slower AF without screen freeze. With FW 1.29, the screen freeze is gone and the speed of AF under the low light conditions is dramatically improved. Yet another improvement is decreased shutter speed value when the camera switches between the faster and slower AF algorithm.
Previously, the speed of AF automatically switched to slower mode when the shutter speed dropped under 1/17 (at ISO200). I described this behavior here
. Basically, there was no difference between the QK and FR AF under 1/17sec. With recent FW, the AF switch is done around 1/10 (at ISO200). And even the slower AF algorithm is much faster than previous (FW 1.18) low light AF.
Next test shows difference between FR/QK AF (FW1.18) and new AF (FW1.29) in case of high contrast scene and normal light (well above 1/20). The speed boost between the QK AF (1.18) and new AF is not that dramatic. But you can definitely feel it. And the increased precision is good enough to love this new FW.
Finally, here is the Macro AF test. And also here you can see very nice speed improvement. In case of well lit scene and with high contrast subject, the speed of Macro AF can be nearly as fast as normal AF! Very well done Ricoh!
In sum, new FW made the A12 50mm a completely new module
I think it's now what it should have been from the very beginning. But it's great to see Ricoh engineers finally cracked the contrast detection AF riddle and made the Macro lens usable even in low light. Of course, all the above results should be taken with caution. The actual AF speed depends on many factors, mainly the contract of the target and also the actual focus position. The far is the actual focus from the ideal position, the longer can take the lens to lock the focus. However, new FW shows much lower tendency for focus hunting.