Fstoppers Reviews the Fujifilm X-H1 High-End Mirrorless Camera

Fstoppers Reviews the Fujifilm X-H1 High-End Mirrorless Camera

Fujifilm has once again revolutionized the X-series with its latest release, the Fujifilm X-H1. Since its humble beginnings with the  original X100 and X-Pro1, Fuji has taken aim at the professional content creators market. The quality of still images coming from Fujifilm X cameras has always been spectacular, but their video capabilities have always lagged behind offerings from other manufacturers. This is where the Fujifilm X-H1 comes in, but it’s not only video that sets it apart.

The X-H1 brings about so many small changes along with the addition of some huge enhancements like In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS). In a single review, it is impossible to detail all the small features and what they'll mean for users. So, I will take this review from the personal perspective of someone who primarily shoots stills, occasionally shoots some video, and shoots exclusively with Fujifilm equipment. What is the X-H1? Is it a worthwhile upgrade from the X-T2? Should I wait for the next generation of cameras? 

Size and Weight

When I picked up the X-H1 for the first time, I was struck by how large and heavy it was compared to the Fujifilm X-T2 I was holding moments earlier. While 166 grams may not seem like much, that’s a full 32-percent heavier than Fujifilm’s previous flagship. The weight is instantly noticeable, as is the extra size. I felt like I had just picked up my old Nikon D750 again. In fact, the X-H1 falls almost exactly between the X-T2 and the D750 in terms of weight and size.

The X-H1 has an approximately 25-percent thicker magnesium alloy frame and a hardened coating over the whole body to reduce its susceptibility to scratches. This, coupled with the physically larger grip makes it feel a lot more like the GFX than the X-T2. I was ready to dismiss it as being too big and heavy for the Fujfilm X system, but then I turned the camera on and spent a few moments exploring the autofocus improvements and IBIS.

The viewfinder of the X-H1 protrudes significantly more than any other X camera. This is also quite reminiscent of the GFX. Presumably, this is to prevent noses and cheeks from activating the added touchscreen functionality, but for me, it just makes it difficult to put the camera into a couple of the bags I have. The eyecup also dislodges quite often, which activates the eye-sensor, stopping the rear screen from showing up. This needs a stronger clip to hold it in place.

Overall the buttons and dials on the X-H1 feel of a higher quality than those on the X-T2. There is a definite tactile response for each of the buttons that many will appreciate. The doors that cover the ports are also of a much higher quality again. This is reassuring, as I was always worried about water getting inside those during rain. 

Handling

Some major improvements in the handling department include the feather-touch shutter and the eye sensor’s responsiveness. The shutter took me a few days to get used to, and even now I find myself accidentally releasing the shutter from time to time because the difference between focus and shooting is so minimal. No doubt back-button-focus users will absolutely love this, but for those of us who still use the shutter button to focus, it has a significant learning curve. As for the eye sensor, Fuji quotes its responsiveness at 0.15 s as opposed to the 0.4 s quoted for the X-T2. I didn’t realize just how much of an improvement this would actually be until I used the two together. The X-H1 is so much quicker when you raise it to your eye. I hope that part of this is firmware so the X-T2 can also be improved.

The new grip is certainly larger. For people who don't appreciate the diminutive size of the X-T2 grip, this is likely to be a welcome change. However, I feel that it could have more of an indent like some of Nikon's grips (think D750/D850). These bodies have enough of a recess for your fingers that you can dangle them off a couple of sweaty digits and have no fear of dropping the camera. Despite the increase in physical size, I still find myself gripping the X-H1 with white knuckles.

The sub-monitor is a bewildering addition for me. It doesn't give me anything that the LCD can't and takes away one of my favorite features of the Fujifilm cameras. I'm likely to be  in the minority in saying this, but I'd like the exposure compensation dial back, just as I wanted for the GFX 50s. The push-button exposure compensation inherited from the GFX and most DSLR designs doesn’t fit in with the rest of the X system cameras and makes using other bodies together with the X-H1 cumbersome. Shooting a fast-paced event with my X-T2 and X-H1 side by side really exposed this for me. I felt very conscious of which camera was which and where the controls were. 

Another issue that was exposed for me was the placement of the Q button. I use the Q button frequently with the camera to my eye, and the placement of it on the X-T2 is perfect: right next to the focus lever. However, the X-H1 moves it onto the thumb grip, as with the GFX, which makes it difficult to press without losing your grip on the camera.

IBIS

It is what it is and does what it says. Well done, Fujifilm. That’s the simple take on it. 

When you pick up the camera the first time, you’ll notice right away that it has an IBIS system inside. The clunking noises before the camera is turned on sound like a muffled version of the floating elements in lenses like the XF 50-140mm f/2.8. Once the camera is switched on, if you have the IBIS in continuous mode, you’ll hear a constant hiss that sounds like a low-volume computer cooling fan. This constant reminder at least reassures you that the camera is doing something about your caffeine hands.

In still photography, the IBIS is really quite special. I’ve been using it mostly at corporate events in dimly lit rooms for the past week, and it has performed extremely well. In order to really test the capabilities of it in normal shooting, I went two stops lower in ISO than I did with my X-T2 for these sessions to see how the system would perform. For example, this meant shooting my X-T2 at 1/250 and ISO 3200, while the X-H1 was at 1/60 and ISO 800. The resulting files were much cleaner, and I really only noticed a difference in sharpness when subjects were moving quickly, which of course is due to subject movement and not camera movement. 

In a few tests I have done in the street here in Seoul, I’ve been using the XF 35mm f/1.4 at shutter speeds as low as 1/8 s and have been able to get tack-sharp results if my technique is good. Even when I’m being a little sloppy, 1/15 s delivers perfectly sharp results. Portraits with the XF 56mm f/1.2 are sharp down to 1/25 s for me as well. This is a huge difference, as I usually don’t shoot that lens below 1/250 s.

Video with the IBIS is also extremely useful. In run-and-gun situations, stable footage is extremely easy to achieve when hand-holding. Slow pans and short tracking movements are smooth and look fantastic. Movements that require you to walk or run are a little more difficult to achieve as footfall tends to jerk the camera too much unless you are extremely careful, resulting in the IBIS system losing its place. A gimbal or Steadicam would still be a more effective solution if you have movement like this in your shots. 

One thing I feel is a glaring misstep on Fujifilm's part is allowing the IBIS settings to be assigned to a button. With all of the hype regarding the IBIS, which we have seen works very well, turning it on or off requires digging into a menu. So far, it cannot be assigned to a button. This seems like a strange oversight for an X-series camera.

Another feature I believe could potentially be implemented in firmware that would improve the usability of the IBIS would be automatic on/off switching. If the camera could detect itself being placed on a solid surface like a table or a tripod, perhaps by detecting a few seconds of being perfectly still, and switching the IBIS off automatically, that would mean no forgetting to switch it off and getting blurry images.

Autofocus

Autofocus has seen some major improvements as well. In AF-C tracking and low-light shooting, you will see quite a big difference between the X-H1 and previous X-series cameras.

The AF-C tracking system now works effectively while zooming and shooting. Being able to continue making images while you zoom will be a boon for sports and wildlife shooters. Coupled with the Electronic Front Curtain Shutter, you get zero blackout while shooting. Not to mention that the phase-detect AF sensors now work down to f/11, so the long zooms will now focus quickly with the teleconverter in place. All of these together offer some great advantages over other X-Series cameras.

The PDAF system also now works down to -1 EV. This has been a extremely useful, as I often shoot at the end of the day for my couple and family sessions, and corporate events are always held in rooms that are lit like tombs. So far, the snappiness of the X-H1’s autofocus has been impressive, but I have noticed that it gives up looking for focus more quickly than the X-T2. Where the X-T2 would hunt several times in poor light until it found something to lock in on, the X-H1 tends to look once very quickly and then give up with either a red square saying it couldn’t acquire focus or a green square with a false acquisition. I hope this can be improved in firmware.

Video

Video is the second area where the X-H1 is a complete departure from other X-series bodies. The addition to dedicated image quality settings for video mode, internal F-Log recording, 120 FPS shooting in FHD, Eterna film simulation (and Eterna LUT which can be found here for grading F-Log footage), relay recording, selectable bit rates, and improved face detection (that works in AF-C!) are just some of the features that stand out. 

In terms of video quality, there are quite a few changes. F-Log can be recorded internally now, and the new Eterna profile produces beautiful footage straight out of the camera (examples of both can be found my video review below). Although the output is still only 8-bit, internal recording is done at 4:2:0, and 4:2:2 can be output over the HDMI port. Full HD footage can now be recorded at either 50 or 100 Mbps, and 4K can be recorded at up to 200 Mbps. 

One thing that is conspicuously missing for me, despite the increase in body size, is a headphone jack. If you wish to check audio levels using the camera, you will still need to purchase the VPB-XH1 battery grip from Fujifilm in order to get this functionality. Of course, this gives you more battery life and longer record times as well. So if these are a concern, the grip should be on your list.

Battery Life

Despite the reduction in expected battery life, I haven’t noticed a huge drop in the number of frames I have been able to shoot on the newer NP-W126S batteries. When not using the IBIS, I have been able to get approximately 800 frames off each battery. This reduces to around 650 when IBIS is turned on in continuous mode. Non-S batteries seem to run out quite a bit quicker, and the accuracy of the battery meter is reduced. The camera drops from 30 percent to nothing over just a couple of additional photos when using the older or third-party batteries. As someone who has been invested in the Fujifilm system for several years now, I have more of the older batteries, so this is quite annoying.


What I Liked

  • IBIS
  • Battery life almost as good as X-T2
  • Improved autofocus
  • Overall improved performance
  • Internal F-Log
  • Slow-motion video

What I Didn’t Like

  • Included eye cup dislodges often
  • Too large and heavy to fit in with X-series
  • Sub-monitor (and lack of exposure compensation dial)
  • Lack of indent in grip
  • Still need the battery grip for a headphone jack
  • Camera complaining every time you turn it on with a “non-S” battery inside
  • No ability to assign the IBIS on/off to a button or quick menu
  • Occasionally misses focus (more frequently than other Fuji bodies)

In Conclusion

It may seem like my list of dislikes is rather long, but don't let that deter you from this camera. Those are small nitpicks with regards to an otherwise spectacular camera. If, like I was, you aren't sure about the size and weight, I recommend testing out the camera first. For me, the IBIS and added video features were what convinced me. The IBIS is worth it alone for the type of work that I do, so if this would be a benefit to you, I can't recommend the X-H1 highly enough. The increases in overall performance also take this camera a step above the X-T2 and make it a great upgrade. When you do decide to get one, pick it up here!

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22 Comments

“Fujifilm has once again revolutionized the X-series with its latest release” - not the most unbiased start for a review :)

"I will take this review from the personal perspective of someone who primarily shoots stills, occasionally shoots some video, and shoots exclusively with Fujifilm equipment. "

It was never intended to be unbiased. :)

Can't argue with that. Looks like a great addition to the Fujifilm lineup for those who want IBIS and the bigger body. The IBIS unit is huge, hopefully they can shrink it in the future.

Pedro Pulido's picture

honestly as a previous Xt1 and a now Xt2 owner, i feel this camera is a disapointment. It's an attempt at an all-around model that is not that much better than a t2. as a different line from the XT, it should have been aimed fully at video. There are a lot of complaints from current users of the X-H1 for video... shutter change during video is not smooth and it shows, using the touchscreen is a slow process with slow response time, battery life for video is low.

And if this is for pictures, where's the exposure compensation dial ?

All i see as an improvement is IBIS. That is obviously very welcome!

This feels more like a test product than anything else. "let's see how the market reacts to this hybrid solution".

Yes it is a better camera than the Xt2, but it is neither fully proficient for stills nor video.

I'll stick to the Xt-2 and hope the T line will have IBIS in the future. That's all i'd welcome for now.

I felt exactly the same way until I put it in my hands. It's not for everyone. That's for sure. But, no camera is.

I don't think at this point in time Fuji has the experience to create a dedicated video camera. This is certainly a step in that direction and, for many, it will have the features they need to create video. More demanding users will need to search for something else. That's not what this camera is.

The compensation dial is something I sorely miss as well, as I mentioned in the review. Not everyone will. Even my buddy Roy in the video above got used to it pretty quickly.

I think you have some valid points here, but just like me, you're only one user. Fujifilm is aiming at a lot of different users. If the X-H1 succeeds, you may see future cameras with a more refined hybrid nature, or you might see a video dedicated Fuji. We'll have to wait and see.

For now, get this camera in your hands. See if you like it. I certainly didn't until I picked it up and started using it.

340 shots battery and a small sensor for $2000? I'll pass.

CIPA ratings are next to meaningless. I've been getting between 650 and 800 shots per battery depending on settings. The X-T2 was the same way. I was able to get well over 1,000 images per battery.

My experiences with the X-H1 are similar. By being aggressive in turning off the camera when not in use, I usually get over 600 shots per Fujifilm OEM battery. I would guess things would be very different if I shot continuous video or in colder conditions.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

I thought this was a brilliant camera until the a7mk3 was introduced.That made it a bit hard to justify this camera. Too bad for Fuji since I like what they do.

The joy in Fuji for me is the way the cameras work. Any camera will do a great job of making images if you take the time to learn it. Sony have out-specced Fujifilm since the beginning, and will most likely continue to do so. Personally, I simply can't stand to use their cameras. But, then again, maybe if I took the time to learn them?

Anonymous's picture

Fuji has strong belief in his fanboys choirs and momentarily in cloud #7 forgetting the competitors.
As the profit is done with Instax cameras and paper such status cannot be maintained on long run.

Absolutely. Every company does. That's called marketing. Very few companies can survive solely on the quality of their product in a market where they produce non-essential goods. There would be no need for ads if a tech sheet were enough.

As with most big companies, Canon-copiers, Olympus and Nikon - Medical, Sony - televisions, Panasonic - microwaves

How invested are you in Sony glass vs. Fujifilm glass and much do you enjoy carrying that glass around? That remains the most important. Fujifilm bodies can significantly improve over time. Full frame vs. APS-C is a harder choice.

Regarding size, weight & handling, I think that these points in this review are of personal preference. My thoughts are quite the opposite to those expressed in this review.
I don't have my own X-H1 yet (I have it on order), I've only had a fondle at my local camera store, but still my thoughts on it are ....

I don't use the dedicated exposure compensation dial on the X-T2. I think it's a complete waste of space.
After a couple of days using the X-T2 I found it better to have it set to "C" and use the front command wheel for exposure compensation. For me it works much better. And it also expands the exposure comp. from +/- 3 stops to +/- 5 stops.
I also find that the dedicated exposure compensation dial is too easily rotated. I said that I set it to C from early on, but very often I look down at my camera to find that the dial has moved from the C position. Or sometimes I've taken a photo only to find that the exposure isn't what I expected due the dial being rotated away from C.
To put it very mildly, the fact that the dedicated exposure compensation wheel is so easily and unwantedly rotated is really really really annoying. I'm happy to see it go. Good riddance!

I believe that with the X-H1 you can configure the camera so the either the front on back command wheels are used for exposure compensation without having to press "the button". Don't quote me on that. I haven't received my X-H1 yet, and didn't try it in the shop when I was there, and hence haven't tried it myself.
But even if this isn't possible I still prefer to have the button rather than the dedicated exposure comp. wheel of the X-T2.

I also like the sub monitor, being able to see all the settings that matter in one place at a glance is something I appreciate.

As for size, I think that the X-T2 is too small and this one of the reasons why I'm upgrading to the X-H1.
I moved from Canon to Fujifilm about 1 year ago and I still just can't get used to the X-T2. There's just not enough to hold on it, especially in the grip area. Even when using the optional hand grip I still find it to be too small.
I don't welcome the extra weight, but if I want a bigger camera with bigger grip, something that I can really get a grip on, then the extra weight is something I'm just going to have to accept and live with. You can't have one without the other.
But then again, if I'm using the optional grip on my X-T2 then the weight argument is moot.

As for the Q button, without properly having tried the camera, I think the new placement is an improvement.
On the X-T2 the Q button sits right above the focus joystick and I find it hard to locate it without having to locate the joystick first and then move my thumb upwards.
And now that the Q button has moved the joystick has also been moved slightly higher up, which suits my hands better.
I live in Norway and it's winter at the moment, so when I'm outside I usually have gloves on which makes it even harder to find that Q button. This new placements should make it a breeze to locate.

And while I'm talking about buttons, the function button on the top of the X-T2 that sits between the exposure comp. wheel and the shutter speed wheel - does anyone else find that difficult to access and use? Or is it just me?
I think that button has disappeared from the X-H1. Perhaps not a bug loss since it was next to useless on the X-T2 due to it's placement.

For me and my use, I find the X-T2 an ergonomic nightmare. I don't have huge hands, but perhaps slightly larger than average, and I find that when I'm using the X-T2 over longer periods that I'm twisting and curling fingers in ways that make holding the camera uncomfortable.
So for me the increase in size is a huge plus.

And funnily enough, in an interview with a Fujifilm manager not so long ago, it was said that a number of photographers were asking for a bigger and more solid camera and that Fujifilm used that feedback in the creation of the X-H1.

The points raised in the review are, of course, personal preference. The camera manual will give you all the necessary technical details. I'm here to give you my experience.

The size will appeal to a certain user, for sure. As will the sub-monitor. Just like IBIS will be useless to some and a necessity for others. I do hope you love your X-H1. It's a capable camera. That cannot be denied.

I look forward to hearing your own thoughts once you've used the camera for a while. Do stop by and let us know!

OK. I'll let you know.
I just checked the delivery date again - it's been pushed back a week. Now I have to wait until 2nd April before I get it. :-(

Also, I was just thinking that no one really talks much about the new (to Fujifiim) anti-flicker feature.
It was a talking point when Canon came out with it 3 or 4 years ago in the 7D mkII.
Is anti-flicker just a given feature these days or don't we care about it?
I think this a great new feature of the X-H1.
Of course, I haven't tried it on the X-H1, but I did use it on the Canon cameras I had to great success. Time will tell if Fujifilm's implementation is just as good as Canon's.

Mike Stern's picture

Man. I was so excited about this. But thank god I didn’t pull the trigger.
A7iii just made the xH1 useless almost in every way. And for a lower price.

Not for people that want to save on size & weight it doesn't.

Hrannar Hauksson's picture

Interesting opinion Mike. Useless for who?

Hi Dylan,

you hit the nail on it's head. I had the opportunity to test the X-H1 myself for wildlife photography. I ended up buying it for my wildlife and landscape photography. All you say in your post I can agree, just a few tiny things not, but this is just on every persons preferences, how they use a camera and for what kind of photography. I also very much dislike not to have an IBIS On/Off button handy. Missing focus I did not see yet, maybe on my next trip out in the bush. No idea what you have with your eye cap, mine sits solid. However, I liked the increase of size of the buttons on the body and very much dislike the NON increasing on the buttons at the battery grip. These are the same size like on the X-T2 battery grip. So why that? All got a tad larger why not these? Hmmmm
Also the exposure compensation button should have a little bubble on top, that we feel it better with our fingers. The EC-dial works for me actually great in the bush. When we look closer, as I did, wrote as well an article about it, then we see more. :D

The main thing what bugs me the most, is the IBIS missing On/Off button. This should be very clearly stated how it works, where to switch on/off, and mostly as you said, it would be great to find that in the Quick menu. Maybe next firmware update will bring this... hooooppppeeeeffffuuuulllyyyyy :D

Wish you a great weekend.

Great article

Ciao Anette

Sacha Martin's picture

This camera is outstanding in terms of overall handling and experience. It feels right in the hands, and you just want to shoot more.

Now - regarding the lack of EXP COMP dial complaints:
What? Simply use the camera's back function wheel .. I can adjust the EXP COMP on the fly with my right thumb while looking at my EVF. What more do you want? Quick tip, in the user settings, set the exp comp button to ON/OFF and not HOLD. This way you can use the wheel to adjust the EXP COMP, and not hold the EXP COMP at the same time.