Image via Fujifilm.com
A few weeks ago, I went to my local camera store to check out the X-H1 when it was released. Based on my 20-25 minutes with it, here’s what I found:
Yes, it’s bigger than the X-T2 but it’s not exactly “huge.” I’d say it compares favorably with Canon and Nikon’s mid-range, consumer level, APS-C dSLR’s and less with their pro and prosumer level bodies, especially in weight. Fujifilm has given a laundry list of reasons why they did this, and everyone else with a blog has parroted it, so I won’t bother here.
Bottom line, it’s bigger than I really need, or want it to be, for an APS-C sensor and sporting the same, NP-W126S battery.
The shutter button is very, very sensitive. While the X-T2 has a very pronounced detent between the first and second stage of the shutter release (that many have complained causes shake during release), Fujifilm have seemingly over-corrected, leaving the X-H1 with a shutter release with a second stage that has no discernible feel. A non-issue for back button focusers, but the traditional AF-using crowd will mostly complain… again. Personally, I like it, as I know I’d get used to it after a day or two, but it’s feature is less important due to the In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) ability to cancel any shutter shake out no matter what lens you’re using.
Think of the new shutter release as a pre-orgasm, hyper-stimulated clitoris… it will go off at the lightest touch, or breath. Ironically, the normal pressure you’ve been accustomed to applying to the shutter release will be enough to jar the camera, giving the IBIS something to correct.
Working in concert with the improved shutter button is the optional electronic first curtain shutter (EFC Shutter) and improved spring buffer system. The result is less “shutter shake,” that can be detrimental to sharpness at slower shutter speeds, especially combined with a hard shutter release button. A side effect is a much quieter shutter, though I’ve never had a complaint about the shutter noise to begin with, nor have others complained to me. The X-T2’s mirrorless shutter is in no way near as loud or impactful as the mirror slap from a dSLR.
For those who refuse to train themselves in proper shutter technique, the X-H1 can be a revelation though, yet I’m sure those very same people will be the loudest to complain of the new, softer shutter release being “too soft.”
I, for one, am hoping the EFC shutter option can be enabled via firmware and eventually comes to the X-T2. A reduction in vibration and sound would be a welcome option. Mind you, the majority of vibration reduction in the X-H1 is due to a redesigned shutter mechanism, and thus beyond what the EFC shutter provides. Hoping for that coming retroactively to your X-T2 would be plain stupid.
In-Body Image Stabilization, or IBIS. The X-H1’s primary raison d’être. I tried it out with the 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 lens, one of Fujifilm’s heavier lenses that desperately needs OIS. The performance was everything I hoped it could be and considering this is the lens that spends the most time on my X-T2, IBIS almost makes it worth upgrading to the X-H1. Almost. The fact also remains that IBIS varies in its effectiveness depending on the paired lens. For example, the 10-24mm ƒ/4 is better off using its in-built OIS, rated at 5+ stops, than using IBIS, rated at 3 stops. Fujifilm claims their system is “stronger” compared to Sony, Olympus and Panasonic, necessitating the growth in body dimensions, but how exactly, and why? They’ve tried to explain it but maybe something is getting lost in translation. I would gladly take a “less strong” version of IBIS in a future “X-T3” though.
I don’t know if I completely buy Fujifilm’s excuse that IBIS required such a significant increase in body size; mind you, Sony’s α7 has IBIS in a smaller body with a full frame sensor.
The battery. Let me be frank: the W126S battery sucks. It’s expensive and has an obnoxiously short run time. Fujifilm explained that it would allow X-T2 users who’ve made a significant investment in batteries to continue using them. Great excuse but it fails the smell test as a larger battery with longer life would reduce the number of batteries one must buy to support the new camera. I’d much rather buy, and use, 2 new batteries than continue the “4 battery mambo” we deal with now. Simply, the current battery is untenable if power demands continue to increase; the next X-T camera needs 500+ shots of CIPA rated battery life, no exceptions, to stay competitive. This also wouldn’t be such an issue if Fujifilm charged a reasonable price for replacement batteries or “blessed” third parties to make alternatives. Again, Sony managed to stuff a larger battery into their whole α7 lineup this year.
They could have made the power grip use dual W126S as it does while putting a bigger cell in the body, giving us the best of both worlds. Or even dual battery slots in the body would’ve been a great compromise.
I didn’t bother to test video since I’m not a video shooter. I did read over, and discuss, the specs and I’m sorta impressed, yet sorta deflated. Granted, Fujifilm has come a long way with their video capability yet they didn’t even manage to reach the bar set by their competitors. They managed to include most of what the market has decided is necessary but left a few very important things out, like 10-bit 4:2:2 color and zebra warnings. What we got in the X-H1 is a weird contradiction: 200Mbit but 8-bit 4:2:0 color and highlight blinkies. If I were a videographer that’s invested in Fujifilm X-Mount glass, I’d be pissed and slightly insulted, especially once their video oriented, Fujinon zooms for X-Mount start shipping… the possibilities those lenses bring, limited by non-HDR color recording would irk the shit out of me. It may not be fully relevant now, but I’d like my camera to maintain relevance for a few years, not months. They did however score a win with their silent shooting mode with dual settings, allowing videographers to switch between stills and video without having to reset either.
So, will this replace my X-T2? Nope. And that’s a hard “nope.” IBIS is the only feature that’s truly meaningful for me as a stills shooter, and even then, much of what I shoot is from a tripod or other stabilized platform. While many have rushed out to dump their X-T2 on eBay, Facebook and Craigslist, I will not be one of them. There’s no discernible improvement in image quality and the addition of IBIS plus improvements to AF only affect the extremes of photos being taken while the vast majority will be taken at settings where an X-T2 would perform equally.
In time, due to their internal similarities and Fujifilm’s dedication to Kaizen principles, the X-T2 will most likely see these non-hardware based features included in a firmware update, likely very soon. Why? Because the X-H1 isn’t replacing the X-T2, it’s complementing it, and Fujifilm would like to increase, if not maintain, sales of both. Bottom line, the size penalty for IBIS isn’t worth it to me. If I were a videographer, it’d probably be a different story.
Honestly, if you’re primarily or exclusively a stills photographer who upgraded to an X-H1 from an X-T2, and are lauding the output, you’re a moron. Unless you have Parkinson’s, there’s no difference. The low light, slow(er) shutter speed photos you use as an example of the camera’s prowess can be done on an X-T2 with proper technique or atop a tripod. This is especially true for photos limited to web quality output. The opportunities you imagine, like a subject in the dark and without a tripod, will be few and far between once the newness wears off and you no longer chasing those scenes purely to show off or rationalize your purchase. Besides, any sharpness gains are lost when your only medium for sharing is via Facebook or Instagram.
As an example of the ridiculousness, far too many are sharing photos they claim are taken on an X-H1 with the 10-24mm using IBIS. As explained before, this is moronic due to the lens’ OIS outperforming the X-H1’s IBIS.
If you fall outside this category of X-H1 owner, for example, newly arrived to Fujifilm and the X-H1 is your first Fujifilm body or you’re upgrading from any other camera besides the X-T2, I’m sure you’ll misread what I typed and are already firing up your keyboard in the comments section and yelling at your mother for more Mountain Dew. Either way, congrats on your purchase. I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to seeing your photos.
However, I am willing to carry a larger camera but there would have to be tangible benefits to doing so. Previewing the X-H1 made me consider the GFX-50S, oddly enough. Considering it’s just turned a year old and sales have exceeded expectations, I would assume Fujifilm is probably fast tracking complementary models to extend the range and appeal to more customers. There are rumors of a rangefinder format body and a 100mp version in the works; once these are released, more GFX-50S’s will show up on the used market as current owners transition, and it is then I will probably take the leap.
As most of my shooting is done from a stable platform aimed at landscapes, the “medium format” sensor of the GFX, and not the X-H1, is actually right up my alley.
Unlike the X-H1 though, a GFX purchase would be in addition to my X-T2 (or whatever main camera body I may have at that time) and not a replacement. Honestly, landscape photography is one area where medium format sensors with their higher dynamic range, resolution and low noise are truly beneficial. These are the sorts of tangible benefits that would trigger my desire to move away from the X-T2, if only partially. To me, the X-T2 represents an excellent compromise between image quality, size and capability, all wrapped in a handsome design that beckons to be used. It takes the photos the GFX isn’t necessarily suited for, and vice versa.
If you’re just considering the transition to Fujifilm or are coming from an older X-Series camera, the X-H1 is an excellent option, especially if you’re into videography. If you’re the proud owner of an X-T2, this camera in no way minimizes, or otherwise supersedes, the capabilities of your current rig unless you’re a hardcore videographer. Even then, the advantages and output of the X-H1 is hardly “world changing” in comparison to the X-T2. Besides, if you’re somewhat serious about video, you’re either considering or already own a proper gimbal, making IBIS mostly useless anyway. I can imagine an X-T2 owner who loves their collection of vintage, unstabilized telephoto lenses or even the sort who just loves having the latest and greatest, both rationalizing an X-H1 purchase; hey, whatever floats your boat. However, the point is that no X-T2 owner should feel their camera has suddenly become “obsolete” upon the arrival of the X-H1, because it certainly has not. The Fujifilm X-H1 is a completely different camera for a completely different market whose stills output is identical in image quality to the X-T2.
And it’s definitely not for me.