The new Fujifilm X-H1 and why it’s important

Fujifilm X-H1

Fujifilm’s X-mount mirrorless cameras have proved extremely popular with enthusiasts, and its flagship X-T2 model has caught the eye of professional photographers too. The only thing stopping more pros swapping to the Fujifilm system is that the X-T2 isn’t really built as a pro camera – so that’s where the X-H1 comes in.

At first glance, it might just look like a beefier, pricier X-T2, but there are three important things which set it apart. First, it’s built to take professional use and handles better with Fujifilm’s pro ‘red badge’ lenses. Second, it has in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) for the first time in a Fujifilm X-mount camera. Third, the maximum continuous shooting speed (with mechanical shutter) goes up to 11fps when you add the optional battery grip, and this pitches it into serious sports camera territory.

The X-H1 launches Fujifilm straight into the professional photography market with a solid, powerful camera backed up by a great – and growing – lens range.

Fujifilm is very clear that the X-H1 does not actually replace the Fujifilm’s previous top X-mount camera, the X-T2. It’s also very clear that the X-H1 is not a video-centric camera, despite all the predictions that it would be.

Fujifilm believes the acceptance of mirrorless cameras by pros is what has led to this type of camera’s increasing success in the market. It’s difficult to compete with low-cost DSLRs at the bottom end of the market so the mid-top end is where they’re achieving success.

The X-H1 is not just bigger and tougher than the X-T2. It also has an LCD status panel on the top plate, not unlike the one fitted to the medium format GFX, and improved electronic viewfinder with 3.69 million dot resolution and. The in-body stabilisation is a pretty late addition when rival mirrorless makers have this technology already, but Fujifilm explains the delay by saying it wanted to wait until the technology was in place to produce the quality of results it wanted. The new system works in parallel with Fujifilm’s stabilised X-mount lenses to produce a total stabilisation effect of up to 5.5 stops – though this does vary according to the lens.

Inside, the X-H1 has the same 24-megapixel APS-C X-Trans sensor and processor as the X-T2 but new firmware with improved autofocus features including more data points per autofocus point (each AF point is broken down into segments) and ‘parallel’ rather than ‘serial’ AF data processing. It’s also another 0.5EV more sensitive.

Fujifilm says the X-H1 is essentially a stills camera that can also shoot great video, rather than a video specialist. It can capture 4K video with a sensor crop factor of 1.17 and with optional F-Log modes for increased dynamic range (200% or 400%). It also offers silent operation during filming, with touchscreen control. There’s a new ‘Eterna’ film simulation mode for movies, too.

The X-H1 is not quite an action specialist straight out of the box, with a maximum continuous shooting speed of 8fps, but this rises to 11fps with an optional grip and boost mode, which does put the X-H1 in the same league as cameras like the Nikon D500 and Canon EOS 7D II. It can hit 14fps using its electronic shutter mode.

I’ve now had time to try out this camera properly and I like it a lot. You can read my full Fujifilm X-H1 review on Digital Camera World. The extra size makes the X-H1 handle much better with bigger lenses, just as Fujifilm intended, and I found the LCD panel on the the plate a lot more useful than I expected it to be – it does mean, though, that there’s no longer an external EV compensation dial, which is a shame.

The big surprise is just how quiet the mechanical shutter is. Fujifilm explained that it incorporates a new shock absorber system, but I’ve heard claims like this before and I wasn’t expecting much difference. I was wrong! For a focal plane shutter, the action is uncannily quiet and soft, so even though it’s not completely silent (you’d need the electronic shutter for that), it’s way quieter than any other interchangeable lens camera I can remember trying. The shutter release is a bit light for my liking, but in continuous shooting mode this camera is extremely unobtrusive.

I also happen to love the Fujifilm X-Trans sensor colour rendition, and the extra dynamic range the camera can capture in RAW files with its expanded dynamic range options, and the optical quality of all the X-mount lenses I’ve tried so far. In my book, this is an instant five-star camera.

The Fujifilm X-H1 will be available from March 2018, priced at £1699 body only and £1949 for the body and vertical grip, which seems pretty reasonable given the specs and features, and isn’t a massive step up price-wise from the X-T2.

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