Fujiflim is upping the game with its APS-C mirrorless camera line. Its new top-end shooter, the X-H1 ($ 1,899, body only) delivers performance beyond what its previous flagship model, the X-T2, can manage. It adds in-body stabilization and sports a body with a deeper handgrip that pairs better with bigger telephoto lenses. There are also a number of upgrades to its video capabilities, and new cinema lenses to take advantage of them. The camera was just announced, so we don’t know if it will earn the same Editors’ Choice marks as the X-T2, but it certainly looks good on paper.
The X-H1 doesn’t look much different from the X-T2 at first glance. It’s finished in black (we’ll have to wait and see if it receives the Graphite Silver special edition treatment that Fujifilm has given to other marquee models), and is just slightly bigger all around. The camera measures 3.8 by 5.5 by 3.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.5 pounds. Compare that with the X-T2, which is 3.6 by 5.2 by 1.9 inches and weighs 1.1 pounds.
The extra weight is due to the camera’s internal construction. Its magnesium alloy chassis is 25 percent thicker than the X-T2’s, and there’s extensive sealing to protect its internals from dust and moisture. It’s rated to operate in extreme temperatures as well—as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
The larger size allows for a deeper handgrip, a big plus if you’re pairing the camera with a long lens like the XF 100-400mm. The shutter release is angled atop the grip, another improvement in ergonomics. The X-T2’s shutter is flat atop its top plate, which is fine for its more modest frame, but for shooting with a big lens I tend to prefer a deeper handgrip with an angled shutter release.
There are a number of on-body controls, as you’d expect from a pro-grade camera. On the top plate, to the left of the hot shoe, is a dedicated control dial. It’s a nested design, with ISO on top and drive control at the base. Drive modes include single, three speeds of continuous shooting, automated bracketing, a panorama setting, and a video mode.
Just next to the dial, at an angle on the EVF hump, is a diopter control for the viewfinder. The hot shoe is centered at the top behind the lens, and supports external flashes and accessories. The shutter speed dial is just to the right of the EVF and is also dual-level; the base adjusts the metering pattern.
The monochrome information LCD takes up the rest of the space on top. It is backlit, with a button right next to it to activate the light, and shows exposure settings and other information. The aforementioned shutter release sits ahead of it, along with a button for EV compensation control. This is a departure from most other Fujifilm bodies, which feature dedicated dials to adjust EV. I’m a fan of the dial approach, but not everyone is. I like seeing where EV is set, but the flip side is that dials sometimes adjust inadvertently; there’s less of a chance of an accidental setting change with the button and rear dial approach.
The Delete and Play buttons are on the rear, near the top, to the left of the eyecup. To their right are AE-L and AF ON buttons, along with the rear control dial. There’s a small focus joystick—for quick changes of the active focus point or points—just to the right of the rear LCD, accessible using your right thumb. Below it is a four-way control pad, with the Menu/OK button at its center, and the Display/Back button.
Rounding out the physical controls is the Q button. It’s located on the rear panel, on a bump on the far right side that doubles as a thumb rest. It launches an on-screen control menu for direct adjustment of a number of other settings. It can be navigated using rear controls or via the touch LCD.
The 3-inch rear display is mounted on the same type of hinge as the X-T2 and has a 1,040k-dot resolution. It can tilt up and down as normal, and has an additional hinge to face toward the right. It’s good to have this amount of adjustment, but I would have liked to have seen Fuji use a true vari-angle display, one that can swing out to the side and face all the way forward, for a camera with as robust video options as the X-H1.
There’s also an EVF, a given on a pro mirrorless body. It’s a 0.5-inch OLED design with a very crisp 3.69-million dot resolution (an upgrade from the 2.63-million dot finder used by the X-T2). The magnification is 0.75x, a little less than the 0.77x X-T2 finder, but the difference is negligible. It refreshes quickly, 100 times per second, so you can effectively track fast-moving action.
The X-H1 has the normal array of wireless communication tech, both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. They work with the Fuji Camera Remote app, for Android and iOS, so you can transfer photos to your smartphone for social sharing.
Physical connections include micro HDMI, micro USB 3.0, a 3.5mm microphone jack, a 2.5mm remote control connection, and a PC sync flash terminal. There are dual SD card slots, both supporting the latest formats and UHS-II speeds.
The battery charges outside the camera. It’s rated for 310 shots per charge. You can add the optional Vertical Power Booster Grip, which holds two more batteries, to triple the life. The Booster, which can be bought along with the camera in a bundle priced at $ 2,199.95, also ups the maximum burst rate and video recording length.
Performance and Imaging
The X-H1 is built for speed. On its own it can shoot at 14fps with its electronic shutter or 8fps with the mechanical focal plane shutter. Adding the Booster Grip ups the mechanical shutter capture rate to 11fps. The shooting rate varies a bit; the X-H1 incorporates flicker reduction for burst shooting. If you’re working under fluorescent or mercury lights the camera will adjust its firing rate in order to keep brightness consistent from shot to shot.
The autofocus system is similar to the excellent one from the X-T2, but tweaks have improved its performance. It works better in very dim light, now effective to -1EV, a 1.5-stop improvement. Fujifilm promises that this will allow the camera to focus more quickly and accurately in dim conditions.
It can also work with lenses with smaller maximum apertures. The X-T2’s focus system is effective to f/8, but the X-H1 works at f/11. This means you can pair the 100-400mm zoom with a 2x teleconverter and enjoy quick, accurate autofocus.
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The image sensor is a 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III design in the same APS-C size that Fujifilm uses for the X mirrorless system. It should deliver the same image quality as the X-T2, but it has one trick up its sleeve that you don’t get with other Fujifilm cameras—in-body stabilization. The sensor is stabilized along five axes and provides 5.5 stops of compensation. It’s a boon for the Fujifilm system, as not all of its lenses feature optical stabilization.
Fujifilm’s cameras have not been a top choice for video production in the past. A lack of in-body stabilization and a stills-first attitude, coupled with slow adoption of 4K, have pushed videographers to mirrorless models from Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony. The company hopes to change that with the X-H1. Not only is it the first body we’ve seen from Fuji with in-body stabilization, the company is also announcing two cinema zoom lenses, the MKX 18-55mm T2.9 and 50-135mm T2.9, both with geared focus, zoom, and aperture rings, suppressed focus breathing, and support for Hollywood-level accessories, including matte boxes.
The camera itself can shoot at 4K quality, both DCI and UHD formats. It supports 23.98 and 24fps at DCI (4,096 by 2,160) and your choice of 23.98, 24, 25, and 29.97fps when working in UHD (3,840 by 2,160). You can also shoot at 1080p or 720p at all of those frame rates, plus 50 and 59.94fps. There’s also in-camera slow-motion at 1080p 120fps.
Video recording is limited to 15 minutes per clip, but adding the Booster Grip extends the clip length to 30 minutes. The grip also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is missing from the body and a must-have for monitoring audio on set or in the field.
There are a number of color profiles available—Fuji calls some of them Film Simulation modes, so you can record footage with the same Classic Chrome, Acros, Provia, or Velvia looks you can use for JPG images. The X-H1 has a new film mode, Eterna, which mimics the look of cinema film. You also shoot with a flat profile, F-log, which lowers contrast to deliver 12 stops of dynamic range, giving you freedom to grade footage to your liking.
I haven’t seen the X-H1 in person yet, but on paper it looks like a solid production tool, both for stills and video. In-body stabilization is a big upgrade for handheld video, but photographers will also appreciate its benefits—especially when covering events and working in dim conditions. The company’s pro standard zoom, the XF 16-55mm F2.8, which omits optical stabilization, and its compact line of F2 primes, are examples of excellent lenses for the system that aren’t stabilized on their own.
I’m getting a chance to shoot with the X-H1 later today, and will come back with some more informed thoughts after getting to use the camera. Fujifilm is making quality gear with its X system, and the X-T2 impressed me enough to be named Editor’s Choice. It isn’t going anywhere—this is the X-H1, not the X-T3 after all. It may be a tough sell as an upgrade for X-T2 owners, although the in-body stabilization and improved low-light autofocus is a big plus if you use your camera to pay the bills by covering events. If you’re buying into the system, or upgrading from an older 16MP model, the extra cost is likely money well spent, assuming the camera works as well in the real world as it promises to.
The X-H1 will be available for purchase on March 1st.
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