X-H1

X-H1

Fujifilm X-H1 Full Review

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NOTE: This page was originally published as a PREVIEW on February 2018. In May 2018 we updated it with this full review.

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The Good. Intended and designed for videographers and filmmakers, the X-H1 can shoot 4K video and offers a number of shooting modes, aspect ratios, and slow motion options. It also has the 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS), the cinematic Eterna film simulation, and an F-Log Gamma option for wider dynamic range. Beyond its movie-making features, there is the X-Processor Pro for speed and high performance, face detection, a handy touchscreen LCD, an electronic viewfinder with a 100fps refresh rate, and flicker reduction, all encased in a durable body with a grip that fits well in most users' hands, making it easy to handle. A couple of its features that have gotten mixed reviews but we actually like are its dials, which make settings like shutter speed and ISO all the more accessible, and the beautifully quiet shutter mechanism.

The Bad. One of the biggest letdowns we found in the X-H1 is its autofocus. It's not that it's bad, but for the price, we expected more. In fact, shooting a moving subject at AF-C almost always yields more than a couple of unfocused shots. Another point of contention is its dials, which turn too easily and don't have a more discernible tactile feedback. That means that if you just happened to accidentally turn one of the dials, and you most likely will, you're less likely to notice. It's the same kind of issue with the Q button, whose oh so strategic placement is right on the hump of the thumb rest. And this being a camera designed for video shooting, the battery should be much better.

The Bottom Line. Packed with features, especially for shooting videos, there's no doubt that X-H1 has the potential for greatness. And it's almost there, if you can overlook its flaws that can affect what should otherwise be an excellent performance. Case in point: it's got high-speed video recording and shoots stills at 11fps, but it only has 91 phase-detection AF points on continuous. Also, it's made for videos, but its battery life, fully charged, is only 310 shots, so you'll need to buy extra batteries and/or get the grip (pictured above). No camera is perfect, but are the X-H1's imperfections just too glaring to look past? We'll let you be the judge.

Pick This Up If... you're a video shooter who needs a variety of shooting options, you're more of a still image shooter who likes shooting steadier, non- or slow-moving subjects, or you have lenses with faster AF to pair it with.

INTRO

As Fujifilm's flagship X series camera, we expected great things from the Fujifilm X-H1, an APS-C X-Trans CMOS III camera with a hefty yet easy-to-handle design and features geared towards video shooters. After all, it created a huge buzz before its release, and as soon as we got our hands on a loaner, we certainly felt that tinge of excitement. 

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In so many ways, the X-H1 is an amazing mirrorless camera. It's surprisingly light, even with the battery grip. Plus, it feels great in your hands and that quiet shutter sound is music to our hearts. It's also got an excellent selection of video modes, all the external dials handy for film and manual shooters, and its weather sealing enhancements that is a godsend for outdoor and landscape photographers. Additionally, the image quality is certainly up to par and the addition of an IBIS... all we can say is, it's about darn time!

Yet it's also got some pretty obvious inadequacies that are hard to overlook especially for a flagship. And many of its enhancements in design have been a subject of debate in the community--either people loved them or just couldn't get used to them.

Don't get us wrong: we appreciate the X-H1's strengths. As far as APS-C cameras, it's certainly giving a few of the great ones a good run for their money. At the same time, it's probably not the most versatile camera out there, which means it's best utilized for certain things as opposed to many things.

To really understand the X-H1's idiosyncrasies and why it's gotten so many mixed reviews, let's delve into the details.

GEAR USED

For the X-H1 review, Fuji was kind enough to loan us three lenses: the superb XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR, image-stabilized XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR, and XF35mm F1.4 prime. We will be reviewing each lens individually in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for those.

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KEY FEATURES
  • 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III image sensor with primary color filter 
  • X-Processor Pro Processor
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilization
  • 5.5 stop of exposure compensation
  • 3.69M dot OLED Viewfinder
  • 3.0" 1.04M dot Tilting Touchscreen
  • Native ISO: 200-12800
  • Extended ISO: 100-51200
  • Continuous Shooting
  • 14fps e-shutter
  • 8fps mechanical shutter
  • 11fps mechanical shutter (with the optional VPB-XH1 vertical grip)
  • Video Recording
  • DCI 4K (4096x2160) @ 24p for up to 15mins
  • 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160) @ 30p, 25p, and 24p for up to 15mins
  • Full HD (1920x1080) @ 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p for up to 20mins
  • HD (1280x720) @ 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p for up to 30mins
  • 1080/120P High-Speed Mode (1/2, 1/4 and 1/5 speed slow motion)
  • Advanced Filters & Film Simulations, including ACROS & ETERNA 
  • Weather Resistant
  • Flicker Reduction Mode
  • Bluetooth 4.0
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
  • Fujifilm X-H1 Body
  • Li-ion battery NP-W126S
  • Battery charger BC-W126
  • Shoe-mount flash unit EF-X8
  • Shoulder strap
  • Body cap
  • Strap clip
  • Protective cover
  • Clip attaching tool
  • Hot shoe cover
  • Vertical Power Booster Grip connector cover
  • Sync terminal cover
  • Cable protector
  • Owner's manual
BUILD QUALITY & DESIGN

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We actually really love the Fuji X-H1's overall design. It boasts hints of DSLR, with its top LCD, a larger body -- at least, larger than what you would expect from a mirrorless, and a more pronounced grip, making it easier to lug around and hold even with the battery grip weighing it down. 

It's inherited some of X-T2's designs like the touchscreen LCD--not to mention features, which we will get to later on--but its overall look seems to serve DSLR supporters that might be tempted to jump on the mirrorless bandwagon, though not too much to completely put off mirrorless fans. Some really hardcore mirrorless users might have an issue with it, but we honestly didn't find this hybrid-type design to majorly affect its ease of use.

There are a few of the things we really appreciate about the design. First is its all-black, magnesium alloy body -- apparently 25% thicker than the X-T2 -- that boasts a scratch-free finish. We haven't tested just how durable this camera is, but it does feel hefty and built to last while also managing to keep its weight down, which is very important for handheld shoots as well as outdoor photographers who need to hike to places while carrying all that gear.

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In addition, there's its feather-touch shutter button, blissfully quiet shutter, and weather sealing feature that makes it dust, water, moisture and cold temperature (down to 14°F) resistant. You can take this baby up on the sand dunes or in the mountains in the snow without worrying much. As long as you're not dealing extreme weather, the X-H1 should work perfectly, again making it a great choice for outdoor/landscape photographers.

ERGONOMICS

Besides its more pronounced grip at the front, which gives users a noticeably better hold and leverage, there are many things to love about the X-H1's user-friendliness and ease of handling. 

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To start, the two pairs of stacked dials on top--one on the left of the viewfinder and the other on its right--make the ISO, shutter speed, shooting modes and metering modes easily accessible. Users need not go through the Quick Menu to adjust these settings; they only need to turn their dedicated dials, which means less set-up time.

The only issue we have with these dials is that the top ones don't have a lot of tactile response and they're so easily turned by accident. Yes, they do have lock buttons to prevent accidental turning. But honestly, why give users another thing to remember to do when they could have just easily adjusted the tightness and given them more tactile feedback?

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Moving the "Q" button for the Quick Menu from next to the LCD to the hump of the thumb grip is a bizarre move. On one hand, it's a closer to your thumb by more or less an inch (which is really not that big of a difference). On the other hand, it's too easy to accidentally press when setting up shots or lugging the camera around.

But more on the good bits: other mention-worthy features are the bright viewfinder that offers great color rendition, more details at 3.69 million dots and 1280 x 960 pixel resolution; and that touchscreen, which allows not just AF adjustments, but also some control of the Quick Menu, the Movie Silent feature and the playback mode. Because why slap on a touchscreen if you're not going to maximize its use?

Last but not the least is the Focus Mode Selector dial in the front on the bottom right, which lets users quickly switch from Single Focus to Continuous to Manual. It's something Fuji's always done with its mirrorless cameras and it's probably a mundane thing to Fuji shooters by now. But we thought to give it a nice quick mention since it's such a nifty little thing, and we love using it.

MENUS & DISPLAYS

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The X-H1 has two menus: the Main Menu, accessible via the Menu button in the middle of the selector buttons, and the Quick Menu, accessible via the Q button located on the hump of the thumb grip. It also has two displays, the main LCD monitor that has touchscreen capabilities and the secondary LCD monitor at the top right of the camera.

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Fujifilm has always had a knack for designing straightforward, user-friendly, easy-to-navigate menus, and that hasn't changed with this model. The Main Menu has six tabs with large icons plus a customizable MY MENU tab. The Quick Menu, on the other hand, has 16 shortcut spots users can assign to settings they need quick or constant access to. 

While not entirely necessary, we do appreciate the secondary LCD. Not only is it customizable so that it displays whatever information users need, but it keeps the display on even when the body is turned off so users can quickly check settings (the battery life, for example) without turning the camera on.

SPEED & AF PERFORMANCE

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First, the good stuff: the X-Processor Pro boosts its processing speed to help a great deal with interval and continuous shooting, and help support Boost Mode with the battery grip. Paired with the dual SD card slots, one of which has UHS-II support, the X-H1 has a fast writing speed rate and is capable of capturing 23 uncompressed RAW frames and 27 RAW files at 14fps when using its electronic shutter. Granted, that's nothing compared to say, Sony A7 III's 40 uncompressed RAW at 10 fps with its electronic shutter. But that's still pretty good.

While card writing does have a bit of a lag when shooting long exposures and sometimes on continuous, most of the time, there's barely any delay. Compared to the A7R III's inexplicable writing lags, which happened all too often for a $3,200 camera, that's saying a lot.

Now, the bad: there's definitely much room for improvement as far as its AF performance and subject tracking ability. When shooting a slow-moving subject--a person walking at normal speed, for example--on continuous, the AF-C and face detection are not always on point. 

You can adjust tracking sensitivity and tracking speed, but we've tested it several times and there are still a few unfocused shots in every batch. It's the same case when we shot high-speed subjects in Full HD slow motion.

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With only 91 phase-detection AF points when shooting continuous (compared to the similarly priced Sony A7 III's 693 phase detection autofocus points, or Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF), it's not a surprise. But it's still a disappointment, especially for a camera that's designed for videos. Of course, the autofocus might improve with fast focusing lenses and after some proper fine tuning, but the camera's AF should hold its own.

One other issue we found with X-H1's autofocus is its erratic focus transitions. Instead of making more natural-looking shifts, it seems to jump its focus from one subject to another, which is really only good when that's the creative style you're going for. 

METERING 

Keeping Fuji's TTL 256-zone metering system, the X-H1 does pretty well in some, mostly even lighting conditions. Use this camera in low contrast situations, and it captures scenes beautifully. In high contrast conditions, however, if falls short, underexposing shadows in order to compensate and preserve the highlights. The good news is, it does this every time, so it's an easy fix for users thanks to its +5/-5 stop exposure compensation range and up to 400% dynamic range options. And there's always post to fall back on.

STILL IMAGE QUALITY

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With its 24.3MP APS-C sensor "X-Trans CMOS III" to deliver accurate colors, minimize moire and improve image depth, the X-H1 creates great still images with good detail and nice color rendering. 

It does a fantastic job delivering sharp images, especially when coupled with the new 5-axis in-body image stabilization for slower shutter speeds. Even at 1/20 at 1/30, we found it to render crisp images taken without a tripod. In fact, some of our favorite test shots were taken with this camera at under 1/50 shutter speed, and we didn't even realize the slow shutter speed until later. 

Of course, it doesn't hold up to its full-frame counterparts and the loss of finer details are more noticeable when you zoom in. So if you're switching from say, a Sony or a Nikon full-frame, you might find the detail in its photos a bit lacking. But again, as far as APS-C cameras go, users will definitely get great images with it.

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Dynamic range is good, but not excellent, so this camera isn't as forgiving--shooting portraits with it, for example, is better in more even, less harsh lighting conditions even after adjusting the dynamic range setting. If you're shooting a portrait on a clear, sunny day, be prepared to make exposure compensation adjustments or doing a bit of work on post.

However, it does do well with landscapes in different lighting conditions, producing even more compelling shots with great depth, nice textures and rich colors in high contrast situations.

The Eterna simulation, a new addition to Fuji's film simulation collection, is more forgiving and allows for nice skin tones with its low contrast, but it renders flatter, less vibrant images in bright lighting. Though users who prefer to shoot in JPEG should take advantage of these film simulations, as they're one of the many things Fuji does best.

ISO PERFORMANCE 

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The X-H1 has a more conventional sensitivity range of 200-12800 that's expandable to 100-51200. Its top competitors may have a wider range, but honestly, we do feel that what the X-H1 has is more than enough because there's not really a big need for 51200, let alone 102400.

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As far as it's noise handling, it produces beautiful nighttime images at up to 3200 ISO. However, you'll notice some luminance noise or grain, even at 1600, but that's only if you really zoom in. Color noise starts getting noticeable at 3200, but chroma--alongside grain--isn't as obnoxious until 6400. You're lucky to get an acceptable image at 12800. The good news is, it controls over-smoothing well, rendering natural-looking images even at the highest sensitivity.

VIDEO QUALITY

As expected, the X-H1 gives an amazing performance when it comes to shooting videos especially for an APS-C image sensor, thanks to its great handling and its stockpile of video recording features. 

Let's start with its motion picture film simulation, Eterna. It's not the most exciting of Fuji's film simulations, and we don't really like how it looks when shooting scenes in bright, midday light. However, its low contrast, subdued color representation and compatibility with this model's 400% Dynamic Range is perfect for producing beautiful skin tones.


There's also Fuji's new IBIS, which we're sure many Fuji diehards have long been waiting for. We've tested it on videos and the difference it makes is huge. When it comes to getting rid of massive amounts of camera shake, which we seem to be really good at making, it does a mighty fine job.

The X-H1 also supports a number of options for shooting modes including 4K and Full HD at multiple bitrates, aspect ratios including 17:9, slow-motion recording and variable frame rates, making it an incredibly versatile camera for recording videos and even making movies.

Couple those with the F-Log Gamma feature to record videos with a soft gamma curve and minimize work in post--and possibly Fuji's Cine lenses, if you're really serious--and you've got yourself a mirrorless camera that delivers cinematic performance even though it's limited to 8-bit recording

For an added feature, it also offers the Movie Silent Control feature, which basically allows users to adjust settings like Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, Wind Filter and more using the touchscreen LCD. This nice little extra allows users to make setting adjustments while preventing making button pushing and dial turning sounds.

The only issue is its AF is not up to par (see above), so don't expect perfectly focused shots, especially with moving subjects.

WIRELESS PERFORMANCE

To allow users the flexibility of editing images and videos on the go, Fuji has given the X-H1 a fantastic wireless performance. Once you've established that initial pairing registration, it's a breeze reestablishing that connection every time you need to send JPEGs over to your phone or access your camera remotely. It's not as fast as we hoped it would when sending images, but it works pretty well.

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With the Cam Remote app, users are able to manipulate the camera remotely. There's some lag, which is kinda frustrating, and the number of settings you can control is limited, but it's definitely great in certain situations. It's useful when doing things like long exposures (of up to 15 minutes) when you need to avoid camera shake or make sure you don't accidentally change your set-up. 

Other connections available are Bluetooth, wireless network access, and wireless LAN. 

PROS & CONS 

Pros
  • 4K and 17:9 aspect ratio options available
  • F-Log Gamma feature
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilization
  • Electronic viewfinder with a 100fps refresh rate
  • Excellent grip
  • Several slow motion options
  • Decent continuous shooting speed
  • Good image depth is great for landscapes
  • Dual card slots with one UHS-II support
  • Vertical Power Booster Grip is incredibly useful when shooting movies and time-lapses
  • More touchscreen use of LCD including Movie Silent Control
  • Top LCD
  • Weather sealing
  • Easy to navigate menu
Cons
  • Battery life is just ok
  • AF needs improvement
  • Face and Eye Detection also needs improvement
  • Dials are easily turned accidentally
  • Q button is right on the thump grip hump
BOTTOM LINE

The Fujifilm X-H1 is a great camera for shooting videos thanks to its variety of resolutions, frame rates, bit rates, film simulations, and aspect ratios, not to mention 5-axis IBIS and features like F-Log. It's also good for landscapes/outdoor shots (and even for events), better for low contrast situations, and great for SLR shooters looking to switch to a mirrorless thanks to its SLR-esque features. 

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However, the X-H1 is not for every photographer. First, if you don't need all the new video capabilities or IBIS, stick with the X-T2 and save about $300. More importantly, though, we found several important features lacking, including autofocus, subject tracking, and dynamic range. Couple these drawbacks with a LOT of competition at the $1,900 price point, and it's hard to recommend the X-H1 over the Sony A7 III, which offers more dynamic range, better battery life, and a more accurate AF system for the same price. (Although Sony lenses are, at this time, bigger, heavier, and pricier than Fujifilm's excellent glass offerings).

If you're already invested in the Fujifilm ecosystem and you're looking for the best X-Series camera yet, definitely check out the X-H1. If not, or if you're going to shoot mostly still photos it's a little hard to justify the added expense over the X-T2 and or give this one the thumbs up over the Sony A7 III or Panasonic GH-5.

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