In 2018 it's certainly the turn of mirrorless cameras to really up the pressure being put on DSLR cameras. We've already seen the excellent Panasonic Lumix G9 deliver strong in performance, stills and video. Now Fujifilm wants a piece of the pie, with its highest performance X-series camera to date, the X-H1.
Ahead of its official unveiling, we've spent a day shooting with the camera - the company's first to introduce in-body image stabilisation - both in the studio and out, to see whether it's the mirrorless camera to take the crown as the professionals' choice.
- Magnesium alloy body with (8H) scratch-resistance
- Splash, dust and freeze resistant build
- Top-line LCD status screen
- Dual UHS-II SD card slots
- 139.8 x 97.3 x 85.5mm, 673g
There's always something distinct about Fujifilm design: there's a certain retro chic to the X-H1, but in a somewhat understated, chunky design. With a scratch- and weather-resistant magnesium body - which is 25 per cent thicker than the X-T2's equivalent - this is one mirrorless camera with robustness at its core.
It looks like a bit of a beast - given it's not a million miles from a DSLR-like scale - which is purposeful, as the designers wanted to ensure even larger video-focused lenses would feel correctly weighted on a camera like this. Plus there's a 200mm f/2.0 lens to come in the near future, which ought to be a perfect match with a body such as this.
Asserting its premium status, the X-H1 draws from the upper echelon's of Fujifilm's range, utilising the same LCD top display screen as found in the GFX 50S medium format camera. It's a great-looking display that's easy to read in even dim light, plus there's a manual button to back illuminate the panel to easily see it in the dark. No more fumbling around, then, although the buttons don't adopt glow-in-the-dark finishes, which is a missed trick.
Just like its Panasonic Lumix G9 competitor, the X-H1 also brings dual SD card slots, both of which are UHS-II compatible to ensure the utmost speeds for burst shooting and video capture. Which is necessary given how capable such modes are.
At the controls the camera feels well weighted, its lockable ISO and shutter speed dials are great to use, while a dedicated Quick Menu (Q) and adjustment joystick control ensure ease in operation.
Screen and finder
- 0.5-inch (3,680k-dot) 100fps OLED EVF (0.75x mag)
- 3-inch, 1,040k-dot tri-variable LCD touchscreen
Around the back the X-H1 has a lot of similarities with the step-down X-T2. The 3-inch LCD screen, for example, can be tilted for waist-level or overhead work in either portrait or landscape mode - which is something no other camera brands offer. However, and just as we said of the X-T2's implementation, it's really fussy to flip between portrait and landscape operation in our view - we actually prefer the fully adjustable out-to-the-side-screen of the Panasonic Lumix G9.
On the viewfinder front, the X-H1 has an impressive viewfinder. Its magnification ensure it's huge to the eye, which is great for composition, while a 3.68m-dot resolution and 100fps refresh rate ensure detail and smoothness in operation. The eye-level sensor is quick to activate its use, and we found it our go-to option when shooting the majority of the time.
The finder's only "problem", as such, is that the Panasonic G9's is larger still and has a faster refresh rate (120fps), too, which sees it a step ahead in this regard.
Autofocus and speed
- In-body image stabilisation (IBIS), claims to 5.5-stops max
- To 8fps continuous burst / 11fps/14fps with battery grip (mechanical/electronic)
- Intelligent Hybrid AF autofocus, up to 325 areas
As we mentioned up top, the X-H1 introduces Fujifilm's first in-body stabilisation system for the company's mirrorless range. Not only that, its 5-axis system is said to be good for up to 5.5-stops, making it one of the best in the business.
Is it really that good, though? We've found it to be highly effective when shooting hand-held video, while even 1/8th second shots have been just sharp enough - well, so long as the subject didn't move - but it's not always capable to the full 5.5-stops. Most lenses will adopt 5-stops, while longer focal lengths will typically be less - just to ensure your expectations are in check in that regard.
In terms of autofocus performance, the X-H1 largely mirrors the X-T2 in terms of autofocus abilities. That means a combination of on-sensor phase-detection and contrast-detection to grab those subjects in double-quick time, over a range of up to 325 autofocus areas. It's marginally improved in terms of software compared to the X-T2, but the difference felt slight to us. Still, seeing as that's one of the most (if not the most) capable continuous autofocus system mirrorless cameras on the market, that's no bad thing.
A lot of factors play into the autofocus ability, of course, such as lens choice and lighting conditions. We've been shooting models and a harpist in the studio using continuous autofocus, which has done a good job of locking on to subjects. When backlighting has come into play, however, things have taken a little longer and, when the focus point is set to its smallest possible, autofocus has sometimes failed.
With moving subjects the ability to whirr off a series of shots is often handy to get the best composed and sharpest results - it can help rule out mix-focused shots, of nuances of movement from one frame to the next. And as the X-H1 can blatt out 8fps with continuous autofocus, which has helped to grab bags of great shots.
Here's where things get interesting though: add the optional battery grip (VPB-XH1) and that rate can be up to 14fps (with electronic shutter), which is up there with the fastest on the market. It's not the fastest, though, as the Panasonic G9 can strike a massive 20fps - and that doesn't even need the optional battery grip to do so.
What we particularly like about Fujifilm's battery grip is that it takes two additional batteries, taking the count from one to three. That can make a massive difference in terms of longevity, with between 900-1,000 shots per charge quoted. We got through all those batteries' juice over the course of a day, shooting around 500 shots and a few minutes of video, seeing the camera come up short of its quota - we also noticed the body getting rather hot, which might have been part of the issue here.
Image quality and video
- 24.3MP APS-C size X-Trans CMOS III sensor
Rather than introducing a new sensor for the X-H1 flagship, Fujifilm has opted to use the same 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor as found in the X-T2. There have been some processing tweaks, but image quality between the two cameras is otherwise one and the same. That means good quality, but we feel that the X-H1 ought to have been a platform to push things yet further.
That's not to say the results aren't pretty mind-blowing at times. Fujifilm's handling of dark shadow areas in lower ISO settings keeps colour noise at bay, maintaining richness and contrast that some competitors lack.
It's the lowest ISO sensitivities certainly hold the most detail, although it's a shame ISO 200 is the base level sensitivity for this camera. There is a low "L" setting on the ISO dial, but you won't get the same dynamic range from such shots, which could be a problem when shooting raw and hoping to make adjustments.
Crank the ISO sensitivity up and you'll see some luminance noise - but it presents as a kind of grain-like texture throughout, which has a filmic quality to it. Only when zooming in to inspect detail closer will you spot any degradation in quality, but it's only really by the four-figure ISO sensitivities that you'll start to see mottled textures or processing artefacts.
As we said of the X-T2: there is some dependency on lens choice. The XF lenses in the Fujifilm stable are, by and large, aimed at the higher-end market, and we got to use a variety in this test: the 16-55mm f/2.8, the 80mm f/2.8 macro, the 56mm f/1.2 prime, and the 10-24mm f/4 ultra-wide zoom. The 80mm is slow for portraits, but sharp when it's on point. Even the "kit" lens 16-55mm has been fantastic throughout.
Combine the sharpness of top optics with great image stabilisation and we've been getting some great shots. Experimenting with the Film Simulation modes has been fun too: from the B&W shots of dancers, to the Eterna shots of a flash-lit model, to the vividness of Velvia when shooting a bride-to-be model in a chapel (at just 1/8th second, impressive, isn't it?).
- 4K at 30/25/24fps, 1080p at 120fps
- DCI 4K (4096×2160) Cine 4K available
- All modes available at 200Mbps
- 3.5mm mic in, 24-bit/48kHz
- Headphone 3.5mm on optional battery grip
The X-H1 is also the first Fujifilm X-series camera to really give video capture some serious thought. With 4K capture up to 30fps (or 25/24p), it's got the goods to deliver decent quality, with up to 200Mbps output quality.
However, as the X-H1 is built around the sensor and processor of the X-T2 it doesn't have dual processing power, so can't push itself to greater heights. There's no 4K60p, as per the Panasonic G9, to be found in Fuji's stable - which feels like a bit of a missed trick, really.
That said, the use of image stabilisation, presence of F-Log for proper workflow capture, flicker reduction, ability to use Film Simulation modes live, and a true 4K Cinema resolution are all bonuses. And if 1080p is more your thing then 120fps slow-mo capture is also possible.
There is an oddity when it comes to ports, though: the X-H1 features a 3.5mm microphone jack (and high-res recording to 24-bit/48kHz) but there's no 3.5mm headphones jack unless you buy and attach the optional grip. We're sure there's room on the main body for that second 3.5mm.
£1699 (body only)
In the X-H1, Fujifilm has created a worthy top-tier entry to its mirrorless X-series line-up. It's got the build quality, the style, the stabilisation and the speed to outshine many of its rivals. Finally 4K video gets an overhaul, too, to lure in a whole other audience.
That said, the X-H1's main rival, the Panasonic Lumix G9, sets out a strong stall, advancing its Fuji competitor in terms of burst speed and video ability, thanks to a more advanced processor operating as its backbone.
Where the X-H1 will appeal, of course, is with its larger sensor size, higher resolution and tri-adjustable LCD screen. Add the optional battery grip and it's transformed into even more of a beast, too, elevating it to truly lofty heights that will lure in enthusiasts and pros alike.
The Fujiiflm X-H1 will go on sale this March, priced £1699 body-only and £1949 with the VPB-XH1 vertical grip.