Fujifilm X-H1 Field Test Part I

Is the X-H1 the best-designed X Series camera yet?

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 04/04/2018

Introduction

The Fujifilm X-H1 is the company's newest flagship X Series camera. The "H" stands for "high performance," per Fujifilm, and the specifications and overall design of the camera backs up their claim. With a revised design, improved video specs and bumps to performance in numerous areas, the X-H1 certainly looks to be the most capable and versatile X Series camera to date.

XF 10-24mm f/4:10mm (15mm eq.), f/8.0, 1/75s, ISO 200, ACROS Film Simulation
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

However, beneath the surface, how many changes are there? Let's take a look at the Fujifilm X-H1 and how it performs in the real world across three Field Tests. This first Field Test will look at the design of the camera, the new optional battery grip, the image sensor as well as image quality and the flexibility of the RAW files. The second Field Test will explore shooting modes, metering, wireless connectivity, film simulations, autofocus and performance. The third Field Test will be all about video, including the enhanced 4K video functionality of the X-H1.

Key Features and Specs

  • Fujifilm's new flagship X Series camera
  • Revised camera design
  • Improved ruggedness and durability
  • New electronic viewfinder
  • Tilting touchscreen display
  • 24.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS III image sensor
  • X-Processor Pro image processing engine
  • Up to 14 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 325-point autofocus
  • New "Eterna" Film Simulation
  • DCI 4K recording at 24 fps
  • 4K UHD video at 30 fps
  • Internal F-log recording
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Camera Body and Handling

In the case of the X-H1, a brand-new Fujifilm X Series camera line means an all-new design as well. While many features and internals are similar to other high-end X Series cameras, such as the image sensor and image processor, the design of the X-H1 is very different. There are of course some similarities, such as physical ISO and shutter speed dials on the top deck of the camera, but much has been redesigned and revised.

The differences between the X-H1 and a camera like the X-T2 are apparent as soon as you pick up the camera. The X-H1 has a much deeper and larger front grip, which feels very good in the hands. It feels more robust and substantial than other X Series cameras I've used. I'm a big fan of this change, but others who value compact cameras may not be as enamored by the larger camera body.

The X-H1 feels like a professional camera with its large grip and ample physical controls, however, some aspects of the camera don't feel as refined and high-end in real-world use. For example, the shutter release button, which sports a brand-new mechanism and feel, is very sensitive. Almost too sensitive. The travel distance between focusing and capturing an image is so short as to be somewhat distracting as you're getting used to it. It's frustrating to accidentally trigger the shutter. As a side note, the X-H1 can be set to back-button autofocus via its dedicated rear AF-ON button, which is a very nice option. Another issue is that unless you lock the ISO dial, the drive mode dial beneath it is tricky to rotate without accidentally changing the ISO setting. Sure, the solution is right there, you can lock the ISO dial, but I was surprised how easily the ISO dial moved when not locked.

A big change for the X-H1 is one which will be familiar to GFX owners: the new sub-display on the top of the camera. The display shows user-selected shooting information specific to photo and video recording. When shooting stills, the default arrangement displays shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO, shooting mode, image size, white balance, and film simulation. I like this arrangement, but additional options include: movie mode, frames remaining, recording time, none, photometry, drive mode, focus mode, image quality, battery level, card slot options, shutter type and dynamic range. The screen has an illumination button and you can set the background color to black or white. It's an excellent addition to the camera, in my opinion, as I regularly utilize the top displays on cameras in the field.

New electronic viewfinder

The OLED electronic viewfinder is also new in the X-H1, now including 3.69 million dots of resolution. That's a lot of dots! However, the X-H1's higher-resolution EVF has a bit less magnification than the lower-resolution EVF in the X-T2 -- 0.75x versus 0.77x. The magnification is ample, nonetheless, and the resolution is impressive, but I noticed a bit of keystone distortion in the EVF that can be distracting at times. The refresh rate of the EVF is 100 frames per second, which is perfectly fine in my opinion, and the EVF offers a 100% field of view. Fujifilm claims that the display lag is just 0.005s, which I certainly can't verify, but I will say that the EVF feels very good in real-world use. It's so good that I often forget it's an EVF. With that said, you obviously get the nice bonuses of an EVF, such as a customizable display, the ability to zoom in, view playback through the EVF and can also preview exposure and color. Additionally, the camera's eye sensor is snappier than the one on the X-T2, and the EVF is 300 cd/m brighter too, which makes it more enjoyable to use.

Tilting display

The X-H1 has a tilting, 3-inch rear display sporting 1,040,000 dots of resolution and is the same display as found on the X-T2. The touchscreen display looks quite nice, and the articulation mechanism feels pretty solid although the tilting range is somewhat limited. You can tilt it up and down fine -- although not 180 degrees upward -- but the side to side tilt is only 45 degrees. On the plus side, the display looks great and works quite well in bright light.

Optional vertical grip

Available by itself for $1,899, the X-H1 is also being sold in a kit with a vertical power grip and extra batteries for $2,199. I was able to test the gripped version, and it's excellent. The grip allows for easy portrait-orientation shooting and includes many buttons and controls, including a "Boost" mode switch (more on that in a subsequent Field Test). The grip has its own autofocus point joystick, AF-ON and AE-L buttons, dual command dials, Q button and exposure compensation button in addition to the shutter release. The grip also has a headphone port -- which the camera itself doesn't have -- and an AC power input for easy charging/power, even while shooting.

The grip is very comfortable, and the extra battery life is welcome. The only issue I have with the grip is that it makes it difficult to tilt the display upward. You can still get it to tilt by going for the lower left corner of the display, but it feels better to tilt it via the bottom edge of the display, where there's a little cutout in the camera body. I don't know why the grip doesn't have a cutout like the camera body itself, it seems like an oversight. Other than that, the grip is great, and I highly recommend purchasing the X-H1 kit with the grip. It's worth it if you do vertical shooting or need long battery life.

Ruggedness

The X-H1 not only looks and feels better, but it's built better too. According to Fuji, the handmade-in-Japan camera has a 25 percent thicker magnesium alloy chassis than the X-T2 and also includes 68 points of weather sealing. As a note, the new optional grip has an additional 26 points of weather sealing. Further, the X-H1 is more scratch resistant overall as the camera has a new coating, which has an 8H hardness rating, up from 5H on the X-T2. In my time with the camera, it worked very well in freezing and snowy conditions, and I would trust the weather sealing on it, based on my experience.

Overall

Overall, the X-H1 has a very good design. There are a few aspects that I feel can be improved, including the drive mode dial and the shutter release, but Fuji has done a very good job designing and beefing up the X-H1. The highlights are the revised grip design and the very good electronic viewfinder. Further, the new top display is useful, and its customization features are top-notch. Ergonomically, the X-H1 is my favorite X Series camera I've used, although I have not used every model in the lineup.

In-body image stabilization

In a first for an X Series camera, the new Fujifilm X-H1 has in-body image stabilization. The 5-axis IBIS system works with all Fujinon lens, but it doesn't work the same way with every lens nor provide the same amount of compensation. Depending on the lens attached and whether the lens itself has optical image stabilization, the camera disables some of the axes of in-camera stabilization. The camera offers a maximum of 5.5 stops of correction but not every lens is rated for the same amount of compensation.

XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD (84mm eq.), f/16, 1/15s, ISO 1600
100% crop. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
The in-body image stabilization works well on the X-H1.

Overall though, the image stabilization works well, as I expected. This is unsurprising given that the camera's IBIS system performs 10,000 calculations per second on a dedicated processing system.

Image Sensor and Image Quality

The X-H1 uses the same 24.3-megapixel X-Trans CMOS III sensor as other flagship Fujifilm products, such as the X-T2 and X-Pro2. In fact, it also uses the same X-Processor Pro image processor, so the entire imaging pipeline is unchanged. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, as the other cameras certainly deliver good images. However, it's somewhat surprising that a new flagship camera comes with an imaging pipeline that's a couple years old.

XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6: 100mm (150mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/60s, ISO 200
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

With that said, the X-H1 certainly delivers the goods when it comes to image quality. Photos are sharp, detailed and deliver good color, which is further customizable through the easy to use Film Simulations.

Looking closer at sharpness, the camera's X-Trans sensor does a nice job of capturing fine detail as well as balancing sharpness with good edges when looking at untouched JPEG files. You will almost always get better detail with less artifacts if you carefully process RAW files, but it's important that a camera produces nice JPEG files straight from the camera. As you can see in the image with the accompanying 100 percent crop below, the X-H1 does a great job at resolving fine details. However, I do think that the in-camera sharpening is a tad heavy-handed. In the second 100 percent crop, you can see some odd-looking edges in the reflection on the water, which has a rather "digital" appearance.

XF 10-24mm f/4: 21mm (31mm eq.), f/10, 1/250s, ISO 200
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
XF 10-24mm f/4: 21mm (31mm eq.), f/10, 1/250s, ISO 200
100% crop from a straight-from-the-camera JPEG file. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
The X-H1 does a good job of resolving very fine details and the in-camera processing brings out a lot of sharpness.
XF 10-24mm f/4: 21mm (31mm eq.), f/10, 1/250s, ISO 200
100% crop from a straight-from-the-camera JPEG file. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
However, the in-camera processing can also be a bit aggressive, as you can see some rough edges and artifacts in the reflections on the water.

The X-H1 delivers good high ISO images, too. In the night image below, which was captured at ISO 3200, we can see that the straight-from-the-camera JPEG file doesn't have much visible noise, even when viewed at 100 percent. While there is some fine detail loss due to the somewhat aggressive in-camera noise reduction, the image file still looks quite good and would easily make a nice print without any processing.

XF 10-24mm f/4: 24mm (36mm eq.), f/4, 13s, ISO 3200
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
XF 10-24mm f/4: 24mm (36mm eq.), f/4, 13s, ISO 3200
100% crop from the above JPEG image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

When working with the X-H1 RAW files, there is quite a bit of flexibility. Highlight recovery is generally quite good, even above base ISO, and the X-H1 offers good shadow recovery performance. Further, the camera is ISO invariant, as we will discuss further in Field Test Part II, where I'll look at the camera's built-in dynamic range settings.

Speaking of dynamic range, the X-H1 performs well here too. The camera offers a wide tonal range and when combined with the good RAW file flexibility, the X-H1 proves to be very versatile.

XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6: 400mm (600mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 800
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
RAW file processed in Adobe Camera Raw. I reduced the highlights and you can see that the X-H1 does a good job of retaining highlight details.
XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6: 400mm (600mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 800
Cropped JPEG file without any exposure adjustments. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Overall, the Fujifilm X-H1 produces nice images with good detail across a wide range of ISO settings and delivers the necessary file flexibility and editing latitude which enthusiasts and professionals demand. The X-H1 isn't breaking new ground in the image quality department, but the 24-megapixel sensor that performed well for the X-T2 and X-Pro2 continues to perform well with the X-H1.

Field Test Part I Summary

The Fujifilm X-H1 makes a strong first impression

What I like so far:

  • Revised camera design
  • Excellent electronic viewfinder
  • Great top display
  • Good image quality

What I don't like so far:

  • Stacked ISO and drive mode dials are tedious
  • The tilting display is difficult to use when the vertical grip is attached
  • In-camera sharpening is a bit aggressive

So far, the Fujifilm X-H1 has impressed me in numerous ways. Starting with the camera body design, the X-H1 has certainly received an ergonomic upgrade, including a large front grip. The new electronic viewfinder is also excellent, as is the new "sub display" on the top of the camera. I am not as big a fan of the new shutter release button, however, as I consider its travel distance to be too short and the button itself a bit too sensitive. This is something that takes a little getting used to.

XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6: 400mm (600mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 1250
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Inside the camera, there is not a whole lot that's new. The camera is still using a 24-megapixel X-Trans CMOS III image sensor and X-Processor Pro image processor. While it would have been nice if the imaging pipeline had been updated, the camera is not in dire need of improvement with respect to image quality, and it shows a good amount of resolving power and high ISO prowess. Overall, the X-H1 is impressive when it comes to design and image quality.

In the next Field Test, I will be exploring the shooting experience in greater depth, including a look at the revised autofocus performance and how the X-H1 handles faster-paced shooting situations. Stay tuned to Imaging Resource for more on the Fujifilm X-H1.



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