Fujifilm X-H1 Review

Updates – 18 April 2018

I’ve updated the article on the 18th April to incorporate some feedback from a shoot I did in Warburton. All positive, so no need for concern. This is primarily surrounding IBIS.

Preface

I’ll be adding more photos as I spend more time with the camera. Unfortunately the last couple of photo shoots I have had to test the camera were children’s birthday parties and I can’t post up the results due to other children being at the event.

I’ll continue to update this review as I spend more time with the camera, along with updating it based on any firmware updates that may improve performance considerably.

20180309-AJH20916

Fuji X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, ISO 800, Focal length 60mm, Aperture f/8, Shutter 1/125 – The X-H1 looks incredible with any of the square hooded lenses.

Introduction

The Fujifilm X-H1 launch has come and gone and I have had my hands on one for a little while now. It’s the most expensive APSC camera developed by Fujifilm to date and also the first one to feature IBIS. The arrival has not been without controversy, there have been some changes made to exposure compensation, a larger size and it probably wasn’t helped by Sony’s release of the full frame A7iii which has come in at a similar price.

Who is it targeted at? Fujifilm is saying professional photographers, video and sports shooters. My knowledge of video is somewhere between terrible and horrible, and as a result, this review will be focussed primarily on photos. If you want a video review, I can 100% guarantee you there are better and more reliable sources than me. I’m reviewing the grip and camera in combination, as it is sold as a combined option.

20180330-DSCF1847

Fuji X-H1 with XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, ISO 400, Focal length 400mm, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter 1/1000 – Not a fan of seagulls but I really like the way this came out.

Pricing

The X-H1 is offered in two versions, one for body only and the other with body combined with a battery grip. This is the first time I’ve seen Fujifilm package the grip as a single boxed entity with the camera but happy to be corrected if they have done it before. Either way, it’s clear they see a large portion of their user base buying the X-H1 with the grip. The X-H1 comes priced in at a recommended retail of US$1,899 or US$2,199 with the grip, it’s about $300 more than the release pricing of the X-T2 which is good, and still $100 cheaper than the release pricing of the D500 so it isn’t the most expensive APSC on the market in case you are wondering. Pricing may be closer to recommended retail now, but expect this to drop fairly quickly.

Should you buy the version with or without the grip? I’d personally recommend getting it with the grip if it’s within your budget. There are times where the grip comes in handy and it’s only US$300 difference. In conjunction to this, you also two extras batteries as part of the package deal, and the grip allows you to charge 2 extra batteries at the same time. It’s important to note that the kit contents may differ by country. If you live in Australia as an example, Fujifilm Australia are supplying the camera and grip separately even when you buy them as a kit, so Australian customers will not be benefitting from the 2 extra batteries unless the dealers package these in. I’d recommend you negotiate with the dealer to have these included at a discount as getting the batteries discounted after purchasing will be harder.

20180325-DSCF1347-Edit

Fuji X-H1 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, ISO 200, Focal length 44mm, Aperture f/8, Shutter 1/250 – My beautiful wife let me take some portrait shots of her which she never does. This was a once in a lifetime event, of which she has first right of refusal over the editing bin to decide which photos get deleted and which can be shown.

Packaging and contents

Contents and number of boxes will depend largely on the model you get and what country it’s purchased in. The packaging is classic Fujifilm, black box, nicely packaged. Inside the box you find:

– Camera with body cap

– Battery Grip

– 3 x W126s Battery (most of the world)

– 1 x W126s Battery (Australia)

– Single battery charger

– Grip charger

– Connector thing

– Eyelets for strap attachment

– Mini external flash

– Manuals, warranty stuff

– Strap

20180402-DSCF2076

Fuji X-H1 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, ISO 200, Focal length 18mm, Aperture f/4, Shutter 1/1600 – A frontside grind at St Kilda Skatepark

In the typical Fujifilm fashion, it’s missing the USB3 cable, something that is a complete mystery to me. It really should really be included at this price range. The oddity is Fujifilm give you tethering accessories and no USB cable. Fortunately they splashed out 10 cents and gave you a hotshoe cover.

The camera/grip combo comes with 2 chargers (3 if you include charging the camera via USB3), one charger for a single battery and a dual battery charger built into the grip so you can charge 2 batteries at the same time. You can actually charge 4 batteries at the same time, if you use the external battery charger, the grip and the USB 3 cable to the camera. That aside, the ability to charge two batteries in the grip is something I really like from Fujifilm and I’m shocked to see that no one else (Nikon, Canon etc) has introduced this on their grips. If you’re a Nikon buyer, you’re having to charge your batteries separately or buy a dual battery charger.

20180415-DSCF3369-Edit

Fuji X-H1 with XF90mmF2 R LM WR, ISO 640, Focal length 90mm, Aperture f/2, Shutter 1/125

Strap is a slightly upgraded version as a result of the heavier weight. I believe this is the same offered the GFX but having never had a GFX, I can’t comment. It’s actually a really nice strap although not the sort of strap I would consider with the grip. I’m not a fan of the neck straps as I prefer straps that are easily removable, or slingstyle straps. If you’re not a fan of neck straps, I’d personally recommend a sling style strap, either something like the RRS or Black Rapid sling strap with the arca clamp as this will give you the flexibility to move the strap between camera and lenses depending on what lens you have on. (XF100-400 requires the attachment on the lens, not the camera)

As is usually the case, Fujifilm give you the little external flash with the kit. It’s better than a built in flash but not very good for photos in general. Mine is still untouched and if you are considering using this, I would recommend rather looking at a TT350 or TT685. Please do not construe this as a complaint about Fujifilm, this flash is still better than any internal camera flash I’ve seen to date, but I’m not completely sure it’s necessary for a camera of this type. I would hazard a guess most stay in the boxes and never get used.

20180415-DSCF3292-Edit-2

Fuji X-H1 with XF90mmF2 R LM WR, ISO 1600, Focal length 90mm, Aperture f/2, Shutter 1/125

Construction

If you thought the X-T2 construction was good, wait until you feel this camera. Construction is very solid and the camera feels far more robust than the X-T2. Construction quality is impeccable and it’s exactly what I expected from the higher price range. Fujifilm’s quality on all of the X-series has always been very good, so this should come as no surprise. The weight on this camera will also come as a surprise for X-T2 users. It is only about 150grams more than the X-T2, but its actually not far off the weight of a Nikon D750 and it’s about the same weight as a D7200 camera. Add the grip and it’s a monster by Fujifilm’s usual standards.

If you compare the X-H1 side by side with some of the DLSRs, you’ll however find the D7200 seems to be more lightweight plastic, where the X-H1 is more metal so it has the construction of a high end Pro DLSR. The construction extends to the buttons and controls. The dials have a more solid feel with slightly more resistance. I prefer this but I can understand if some users might find it frustrating. The finishing overall just seems to be more reflective of a professional piece of equipment.

20180309-AJH20907

Fuji X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, ISO 800, Focal length 60mm, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter 1/125

Features & Controls

I’m going to review this to some degree in the context of the other Fujifilm cameras, so I apologise if this doesn’t cover the camera from a “I’ve never seen a Fujifilm camera” perspective. I see X-H1 as the evolution of Fujifilm design. It’s modern, but still has some retro genes in it’s blood. I find the Sony cameras to be a little soulless with their designs. They almost look too clinical from a design perspective, and I despise the orange ring on the lens mount. The top display is a welcome addition to the camera and this will appeal to DSLR users. I like having this on the camera, I don’t like having to look at the rear of the camera to get access to settings. This comes at the expense of the exposure compensation dial, which is not a big loss from my perspective. It was to easily bumped and I think the button will work well for most users.

There had been talk that the shutter button is a little too sensitive (and potentially that it can be adjusted through firmware). I don’t know if that is correct, it is sensitive, but I’m a big fan. It’s simple a case of getting used to it, like moving to a car that has ABS. The quiet shutter comes as a bit of a shock, when you hear it’s silent, you don’t quite understand how silent it is. Within a matter of days I was fine and my X-T2 shutter feels like a tank. I’m personally hoping this is something they introduce across the entire line.

20180313-DSCF0391

Fuji X-H1 with XF90mmF2 R LM WR, ISO 640, Focal length 90mm, Aperture f/2, Shutter 1/1000 – My daughter having fun on the grass after school

Ergonomics

Given it’s a brand new body, I included ergonomics to talk about the difference in the feel compared to the existing bodies like the X-T2 and X-E3. I didn’t buy into Fujifilm solely for small bodies, although the reduction in size has been great for some occasions when you want to travel light. I have big hands so there are times I actually like using the X-T2 with the grip when size isn’t a constraint. I think this is what people fail to realise on occasion, smaller size isn’t always better. For those with bigger hands, the X-H1 is definitely more comfortable for everyday use.

Then there are the buttons. Ah, the buttons. It’s also great to see a shutter button that doesn’t require a soft shutter. I don’t miss a lot of things from my Nikon days, but the Nikon buttons were one of those. The X-T2 buttons were designed for 5 year old and I’m going to be honest and say I don’t think there are a lot of toddlers and children with that sort of disposable income required to justify an X-T2. It’s great to see Fujifilm finally implemented a usable AF-On setup. This is what buttons should look like, no sugru required. The rest of the buttons are also better. They stick out enough to provide firm and easy access and it’s easy to keep the AF-On button down for extended periods. Positioning of the AF-On button is great, although I’d like to see the design of the AF-On switched with the AF-L to make it easier to keep down.

This section on ergonomics was going really well until I switched the camera to portrait mode and…um…what the? Yes, Fujifilm made amazing buttons on the camera but if you are holding the camera horizontally with the grip, they left the AF-On buttons exactly the same as they did on the X-T2…our vertical grip has buttons still designed for 5 year olds again! I’m not sure whether the grip were designed in isolation but the only thing I can come up with in this case is *face palm*. Buttons aside, the grip is great, but it becomes large when you add the grip, and whilst the X-T2 was also large with the grip, this is larger. The deeper grip helps but I can’t help feeling they didn’t need to go this big.

20180309-AJH20872

Fuji X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, ISO 800, Focal length 60mm, Aperture f/8, Shutter 1/125

IBIS

I haven’t had a camera with IBIS before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve heard people make a lot of excuses for having IBIS. 1 second landscapes? Sorry, I don’t buy it. If you know you are headed out for landscapes, you take a tripod, not IBIS. I think the challenge is some people see IBIS as the holy grail of bad photography. There is a limit to what IBIS can do. People move so you can’t use it to take photos of kids in the dark.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s useless, I see a lot of value in IBIS. Having a stabilized 90mm or stabilized 16-55 is amazing, but it only works for a limited amount of scenarios.”

I put the above comments in italics because that was the original statement I made. I have to say, I was wrong to some degree and I underestimated the value of IBIS. I’ve typically taken the approach that IBIS has limited value because when you are shooting flash, the requirement for IBIS is reduced, but this isn’t strictly true as I discovered on a recent shoot. You still have to consider ambient so whilst the flash may save the subject, when you need ambient lighting in the frame, the flash doesn’t solve this.

In my recent shoot in the Warburton forest, I found the advantages of IBIS to be substantial. I could shoot 1/30th for a lot of photos and keep the ISO lower knowing that the photos would still be very sharp, where typically I would run my 90mm at about 1/125 as a minimum. In the cold and wet conditions

One , even 1/125 would typically be problematic without a tripod, because if you are cold, you shake and IBIS helps a lot with this. So, yes, I am now a big fan of IBIS. Happy to say I was wrong. I’ve included a couple of the 1/125 photos below this I’ve included the one taken at 1/30, no tripod.

One of the other areas that appealed to me for IBIS was stock photos. I take a lot of photo’s for my site, so I use an Orange Monkie Foldio for photos. I hate using a tripod because it limits my flexibility to get the angles I want. That typically means I have to shoot at around ISO800 or higher to maintain the aperture and shutter I want to get sharp photos, and that’s only shooting at f/5.6. If I want to go up to f8, the ISO rises. Does IBIS improve this? Definitely.

20180415-DSCF3399-Edit

Fuji X-H1 with XF90mmF2 R LM WR, ISO 800, Focal length 90mm, Aperture f/2, Shutter 1/30 – This is one of the locations where IBIS makes a huge difference on the X-H1.

The EVF

The EVF size is similar to the X-T2. That in itself would be barely noticeable if it wasn’t for the resolution of the EVF, and therein lies the bad news for X-T2 users…the higher resolution is noticeable and it is beautiful. Faster, better quality, not quite like going from an old iPhone to a new retina screen but pretty damn impressive.

The mirror blackout time has been reduced but 8fps still results in the slideshow effect which is disappointing. It means you often lag behind the action so it is difficult to keep up with action at more then 5fps if you fill the frame. Child jumps in a pool at 8fps and you’d be follow them for the first 3 frames before they would disappear off frame because you were a split second behind the action. This makes the higher frames rates largely unsuitable for action where the subject fills the frame. I don’t do much at more than 5fps so it’s not a problem for me personally.  I accidentally bumped the frame rate to high while I was shooting an f8 and it will impossible to track the object while shooting.

The ISO issue with only showing max ISO is still there. Not sure when Fujifilm will get around to changing this, but it’s a mystery to me that the issue hasn’t been resolved yet. The issue for those that aren’t familiar with it, is that only max ISO is shown if you disconnected exposure lock from shutter.

20180309-AJH20896

Fuji X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, ISO 800, Focal length 60mm, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter 1/125

Battery and Battery life

Fujifilm opted to stay with the W126S battery which is the same battery found in the majority of Fujifilm’s new cameras like the X-T2 and X-Pro2. As a result, the X-H1 offers a 320 shot battery life based on the CIPA standards. This is nearly 40 shots lower than the X-T2. In reality, this is approximately 400-500 photos off a single battery, depending on the conditions. The CIPA tests are fairly brutal and unrealistic. I think potential buyers will be split into two camps: there will be there those who will remain happy about the ability to interchange batteries between the X-T2 (or other bodies) and the X-H1 and those who will be frustrated that Fujifilm didn’t sacrifice size for a larger battery, if they even had to with the larger size. I personally fall into the latter camp, the “give me more battery life. I don’t mind a slightly larger body” group but I think this is a classic case that you can’t please everyone.

I understand that they are trying to keep some consistency in their cameras, and having this ability to swap batteries between the X-H1 and other bodies is an advantage, but it comes at a big price. I think this may put off some prospective buyers they are trying to attract because for a pro body I would have expected to see double the battery life, a minimum of 600-800 (CIPA) shots off a single battery. I think it’s a lost opportunity, but as I said, you can’t please everyone.

On the positive, whilst the battery life is poor, Fujifilm has done a great job of addressing this with the camera/grip combo package by including two free batteries, but only if you buy the camera and grip as a combo. What it means from a consumer perspective is that you should get a minimum of 900 shots, with potentially upwards of 1200 depending on how you use camera.

Unfortunately not all countries (Australia as an example) will benefit from this arrangement so you can expect to see some aggrieved users in these countries. As mentioned under pricing, if you life in Australia, it is critical to negotiate battery pricing at the time of purchase as you have more bargaining power with an expensive body at stake.

20180325-DSCF1376-Edit-3

Fuji X-H1 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, ISO 200, Focal length 55mm, Aperture f/8, Shutter 1/250

AF Performance

The AF performance on the X-H1 (like the X-T2) is very good. I’ve used the X-T2 for sports and it’s proved to more than adequate to the task. There is this perception that the Fujifilm AF system isn’t up to sports but that isn’t the case. It does require a little bit of work to get the best out of it as I highlighted in my article on the Fujifilm AF. The AF Performance on the X-H1 is supposed to be an improvement on the X-T2. So what does this mean in real life usage? Not a lot, to be honest.

I’ve been told there are some improvements when using wide, but it’s not something I use at all. Low light has supposedly also been improved but I haven’t noticed a huge difference butI haven’t tested it extensively in low light so it could well be that the AF is an improvement without me noticing.

There are limited improvements in facial recognition, and in some case, the performance is worse, but I suspect this is more to do with firmware teething problems. People forget about some of the initial issues when the X-T2 was released.

How does it compare to the competition? It seems that Sony is the one to beat and from the looks of the AF videos, it still holds onto first place. There is no eye tracking in AF-C with the Fujifilm, and the facial recognition isn’t up to the level of the A7 iii so Fujifilm has it’s work cut out. I think competition is good so hopefully this will see Fujifilm pushing hard in the AF department.

F18 at the Melbourne Grand Prix. Couldn't get close enough to get really decent photos so the 100-400 didn't help too much.

Fuji X-H1 with XF100-400mm, ISO 200, Focal length 400mm (cropped), Aperture f/5.6, Shutter 1/2000 – This is a photo of an F18 that I caught flying in the area we live which is close to the Melbourne Grand Prix. Unfortunately I had to crop quite a bit due to the distance from the event. I have to say the AF was doing the job but it was hard work trying to keep the plane in frame due to the speed they move at and the amount of trees in the area I was shooting that obscured them from view.

Image Quality

You would assume image quality coming from the same sensor is the same, there has been some reviews showing better quality at higher ISO’s. Personally, I can’t see a difference other than some of the slower shutter stuff being sharper due to ISO.

20180309-AJH20864

Fuji X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, ISO 400, Focal length 60mm, Aperture f/8, Shutter 1/60

Bluetooth

The app has been a little hit and miss for me. For some obscure reason, it seems to work better on my iPad than my phone and I have no idea why. I can get the initial connection setup and then it’s off to never never land, and refuses to work. It doesn’t seem to want to connect and I tried removing it, re-adding it etc.

On my iPad, it works flawlessly so this is a mystery to me.

I tested some self portraits and it seems to work fine (when it works) but I have yet to see any apps that work well with cameras. Maybe one of these days we’ll get lucky.

Something different for me, not my usual style. Bumped into a couple I know who were out taking photos as well (@guitarpug and @bear.n.tripod).

Fuji X-H1 with XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, ISO 400, Focal length 103.6mm, Aperture f/4.5, Shutter 1/250 – Seagulls on the beach

Conclusion

As the most expensive APS-C camera in Fujifilm’s range, is this the new benchmark? Should you buy one as an X-T2 owner? If you were an X-T1 owners this question would be easier, but for X-T2 owners it’s a much harder choice and I can only say “it depends”. If you were looking at a new camera right now, the X-H1 makes perfect sense, but then again so does the new A7iii. The X-H1 is the best APSC camera that Fujifilm has ever produced, the question is whether that’s enough. The problem for existing X-T2 owners is not with the X-H1, but that the X-T2 is also such a great camera. Whilst the X-H1 is takes it that one level higher, it is just an incremental upgrade that makes it a bigger X-T2 with IBIS.

If you are regularly shooting video, then the X-H1 will make sense because of the IBIS. If you have shaky hands and battle to handhold primes like the XF90 at 1/125, the X-H1 makes perfect sense, but it isn’t a miracle technology, it won’t stop subject movement so you need to manage your expectations. There also seem to be some AF teething issues in video they need to work on.

For sports shooters, the improved controls may be helpful and users with bigger hands will find this more comfortable, but as an upgrade to the X-T2, it is still quite hard to justify.

For me personally, there are 3 things that would have made this camera an instant winner:

• A bigger battery

• A bigger buffer

• Improved AF

20180401-DSCF2045
Went for a skateboard with my daughter on the beachfront and decided to stop for a couple of photos on the pier.

Fuji X-H1 with XF90mmF2 R LM WR, ISO 200, Focal length 90mm, Aperture f/2, Shutter 1/4000 – Both with the same settings on the day.

The first and second can’t be changed, the question is whether they can improve on number 3. The X-H1 carries two processors due to the IBIS and I’m hoping Fujifilm could potentially implement a firmware that can redirect the IBIS processor for better AF, because the times where AF is important are typically the times where IBIS isn’t required. I don’t know if it’s possible, but if Fujifilm could do that, it could offer a substantial improvement over the X-T2.

The problem Fujifilm have right now is the X-T3 is coming out, potentially with a new sensor and if the AF is improved, that could leave them with a flagship that isn’t as good as the X-T3, a concerning problem to have. Despite how good this camera is, I do think that Fujifilm will still have some seriously competition on their hands with the new A7iii having been released. It’s full frame, offers a 600-700 shot battery life, 10fps and superior AF with eye detect from the look of the launch videos. For most existing Fujifilm owners, this won’t be a temptation, but if I was a pro looking to switch from DSLR to mirrorless and I had no investment in Fujifilm glass, the A7iii would be very tempting. That said, competition is good. If Sony is producing good camera, Fujifilm will have to do the same and that benefits everyone.

Overall, it gets a 4/5 for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s