The arrival of the Fujifilm X-H1 kicked up some dust in the Fuji community. While the reviews are generally very good, the apparent departure from the X-DNA isn't appreciated by everyone. I've been shooting with this camera for a month now and here is what I think about it. In case you're not into reading today, I can just tell you that I like the X-H1 a lot. If you want to know why, keep reading.
SIZE, WEIGHT & ERGONOMICS
The first thing everyone noticed is that the X-H1 is bigger and heavier than any X-camera before. For some the added bulk removes the biggest advantage of mirrorless cameras. And while I've been a big advocate for small, unobtrusive cameras, I believe smaller is not ALWAYS better. The main reason for the extra bulk is that the IBIS system had to be build in (I come back to that later). Fuji also raised the bar when it comes to a sturdy construction and that added some millimeters and grams too. I never had any complaints about the build quality of the previous X-series cameras but I'm sure for some photographers a more robust body is a plus.
For some of the work that I do, I value stealth over the extra features of the X-H1 but for other purposes the extra bulk can be an advantage. To me the X-H1 is the most ergonomic camera that Fuji has produced when you work with bigger, heavier lenses. The bigger, deeper grip definitely adds stability and reduces stress in my hand muscles. And to be fair, the camera is still not massive and obtrusive when paired with a small prime.
Replacing the exposure compensation dial on top of the camera with a secondary display doesn't sit well with everyone. Personally I would have preferred the dial instead of the screen but it's no big deal to me. I'm already used to this setup with my GFX50S and I've adapted pretty quickly. While shooting, the top screen doesn't offer me much advantage but since it uses e-ink, it's quite handy to see how many shots and how much battery life you have left when the camera is off.
I've never been a big fan of add-on battery grips as they make the camera too bulky for my liking. That goes for the optional grip of the X-H1 in particular. The grip sits well in the hand but it's huge. Still, I bought the kit with the camera and the grip, mainly to have more battery life and audio monitoring for video. Even if you would only use the grip occasionally like me, buying the camera/grip combo makes a lot of sense. In many countries the kit comes with two extra batteries included. And with the supplied charger, you can charge two batteries in the grip.
The X-T2 was the first Fujifilm camera that clearly took video seriously and the X-H1 takes it a big step further. There's a bigger variety of resolutions and frame rates to choose from now and you also have the choice between different bitrates. The X-H1 can record f-log video directly to the SD card which is an important feature for those who want to color grade their footage. There is also a new film simulation, Eterna, that is particularly good for video. It's a rather flat film simulation that allows for quite some flexibility in editing. For the video work that I do, I will probably use Eterna most of the time. It looks nice and cinematic straight out of camera and can still be tweaked when necessary.
The X-H1 has a pretty extensive video menu to control much more parameters than before. You also have way more audio settings, time code options and a tally light. Another seemingly small feature that makes a massive difference to me is that the camera remembers you settings in video and stills separately.
The other standout feature is in body image stabilization, or IBIS. This means that the sensor moves in 5 axis to counter camera shake. This makes handheld video a lot easier to do and many see it like a top video feature. But don't forget, it can be a great feature in photography too. I've shot portraits at ridiculously slow shutterspeeds with the X-H1. As long as the subject stays relatively still, IBIS definitely expands your options in low light.
STUFF THAT CAN BE IMPROVED
All the image stabilization requires extra power, so it's no surprise that the battery life is down compared to the X-T2 and X-Pro2. I've been using mirrorless cameras exclusively for years now so I got used to carrying a spare (or a couple of spares) pretty much every time I go out with a camera. I applaud Fuji for sticking with the same battery for pretty much the whole range of X-cameras but maybe it's time to come up with a higher capacity battery. With the advances in battery technology it is probably possible to get some more juice in the existing form factor.
In the menu you can set the IBIS to always on, off and only when shooting. The last option is the one I use most of the time to preserve battery while still have IBIS when it counts.
While the built-in microphones are surprisingly good (for built-in mics) I'm not too crazy about their placement. They are very close to the ISO and shutterspeed dial. If they were more on top, to the front of the viewfinder housing, you could put some fluffy dead cat material over them to reduce wind noise. Now it's impossible because the dials are too close.
Also in the audio department, if you want to monitor audio when shooting video, you need the optional battery grip because the mini jack is only available in the grip. I've said it since the X-T2: it should be in the main body, period.
I also believe a camera with good specs for vlogging, should have a screen that can be flipped towards the front for shooting yourself.
Like I already wrote, the camera now remembers separate settings for video and stills. So you can easily go from shooting stills to video with a flick of a dial ... a long flick that is. The drive dial is hard to change, which is good in general. But it takes 5 steps to go from single shot stills (which I usually use) to video. That is just unnecessary long.
None of these things are deal breakers to me but I will forward them to the Fuji engineers anyway.
SMALL BUT USEFUL IMPROVEMENTS
The new shutter button is extremely sensitive compared to the ones on the other X-cameras. It does take a couple of hundred shots to get used to but to me it feels like I have better control over the decisive moment. The whole shutter mechanism is redesigned by the way and it's incredibly quiet. Some of the other buttons are redesigned too and give a much better response than the tiny buttons on the X-T2.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) also got an update and although it's slightly smaller than the EVF in the X-T2 the upgraded resolution makes for a more natural view. The back LCD screen is now a touch screen. I have switched it off for shooting, I only use touch focus sometimes in video. But for playback it's nice to swipe and pinch to zoom in to pictures. Anyway, it's always good to have the option.
A feature that I hadn't seen before on any camera I've used is "anti flicker". This setting basically chooses the right timing to get the most out of flickering lights, like fluorescent lights. Without this feature you sometimes get inconsistent exposures under these circumstances. I've tried it and it really works. In the images below you can see how much different the exposure can be WITHOUT the anti flicker.
Last but not least, the auto focus algorithm got an update too. The camera acquires focus considerably faster. In fact it gave my favorite lens, the XF35mm 1.4, a serious speed boost. I basically got the newer F2 version for when speed is needed but I always liked the look of the images out of the 1.4 better. Now, I don't have to worry about focus speed on the 1.4 anymore, although it's still not a speed demon.
The continuous focus in video has also improved and generally it tracks the subject well. Every now and then there is some inconsistency and the face/eye focus could also be a bit more reliable. Knowing the Fuji engineers, I'm sure that we'll see this addressed in future firmware updates.
I tried the AF in some challenging situations, shooting basketball in relatively low and uneven light:
I almost forget to say something about the image quality. I've become so used to Fuji's excellent rendering of the image in pretty much any light. The sensor in the X-H1 is the same as in other cameras that I've used extensively like the X100F, X-Pro2 and X-T2 so there are no surprises here. Although I have the unscientific impression that the low light performance of the X-H1 is a touch better than other cameras with the same sensor. For the past 6 years I've shot with the different generations of the X-trans sensor and I've never had a single complaint about the image quality.
Several of my friends are not convinced about the X-H1, others like me think it's great. And that's fine, with the X-H1, Fuji has broadened the range even more so pretty much every photographer can find the camera he or she likes best.
To me the X-H1 is a work tool. I may have more "love" for the X-Pro2 but from an objective point of view, the X-H1 is the best camera of the X-series. The X-H1 is sturdy, flexible and all-round, which makes it for me the ideal choice for those social media jobs where I have to switch between stills and video, for action photography and of course video.
So while the X-H1 doesn't have the sex appeal of an X100F or an X-Pro2, I think it's a great move by Fuji to offer a great camera to an audience that maybe couldn't be reached previously. And at the same time it's a great professional tool for people who are already in the Fujifilm ecosystem.
Should you upgrade from your X-whatever to the X-H1? Only you can tell. My usual advice is not to upgrade just because a new camera came out. Your old camera doesn't suddenly get worse when a new one is released. Upgrade when it makes financial sense and when the new camera gives you options that can expand and improve your work.
Wow, that was a long review. Congratulations if you made it this far. If you still want to read more:
Some additional images: