Fujifilm X-H1 Video Features, Specs & Analysis

by
Posted: 07/25/2018

The Fuji X-H1 is like a complicated relationship. There is so much to love about it. The form factor, the quality of the footage, the lens options... but then there is also a lot that just really frustrates the heck out of you. OK, maybe it was just my complicated relationships. Anyway, when it comes to video, there is a heck of a lot that the X-H1 does right, and considering this is the first Fuji camera that is actually touted as a serious video-making device, that's actually quite laudable. For the first shot off the bow, it's does quite a bit that impresses even the most stubborn of video camera reviewers. But it's a mixed bag, for as mentioned, despite getting a lot right, goodness is this camera frustrating to operate!

As a note, this is my first time ever shooting with a Fuji camera, so go easy on me Fuji fans (I know there are many of you out there).

Body Design

As far as handling and build quality are concerned, I have no complaints with the X-H1. It is relatively light weight, it feels good in hand, and buttons are easy to find and operate. From what I have heard from my colleagues, one of the features found on Fuji cameras that they like is the dual command dial design, where one dial controls the ISO and the other is the shutter speed. I think for stills photography this is kind of nice, and there are advantages to it for video as well. For example, the shutter speed must be dialed into a range of options on the command dial, and then it can be fine tuned inside that range from the dial behind the top-facing LCD.

For example, if you want to be at 1/400 second shutter speed, you have to be set to either the 250x or 500 on the command dial, and then toggle up or down to get to 400 from there. But in the case of being set to 250x, the camera will not let you drop below 1/160 second or go above 1/400 second. You're tied to stay between the two shutter speed options that surround 250x on the dial (in this case, 125 below and 500 above).

At first this felt like an unnecessary step that would slow me down, but the more I thought about it, the more I considered the benefits of this layout. Shooting at high shutter speeds at regular frame rates (from 24 to 60 frames per second) can look really bad. Ideally, you want your shutter speed to be double your frame rate, but in a pinch you can dip as low as the frame rate (so if you're at 24p, you can dip all the way down to 1/30s). You can also slightly go above double the frame rate as well, but if you go too fast you end up with very jittery, choppy-looking footage. With this setup, the camera will help you stay within a very specific zone, so you don't accidentally exceed or go under the shutter speeds you should be for ideal footage.

So while at first I found the need of looking up and turning a dial and then fine tuning within a range to be annoying, I actually learned to appreciate it after extended use.

Moving on, other design choices I liked on the X-H1 include a rear joystick and an easy-to-find quick menu button. Compared to other cameras on the market, there is a distinct lack of buttons on the X-H1. There is no Fn button, no additional custom function buttons, and aside from that aforementioned Quick Menu button, nothing to launch you into a specific camera feature other than the Play button. I like how clean this makes the camera, but I couldn’t help but think this would limit the usability of the camera for quickly adjusting modes or creating custom functions for specific tasks. You can remap nearly all the buttons on the camera to whatever you like, but there aren’t many to use overall.

Battery Grip

For serious video shooters, this camera is probably useless to you without the battery grip. Unlike with most battery grips for just about every other camera, the X-H1 battery grip is not just for a few extra hours of shooting thanks to two more batteries. No, this grip actually makes the camera function better. Without the grip, 4K recording is limited to just 15 minutes per clip, and there is no headphone jack on the camera itself, instead being relegated to the grip base.

If you can get over the frustrating fact that Fuji is basically forcing you to buy this thing if you want to take video shooting seriously with this camera, the battery grip is pretty well designed. Most battery grips require a battery-shaped piece to go up into the camera's original battery housing in order to operate, and leaves you with a total of two batteries powering the camera. The Fuji is different, letting you keep the original battery inside the camera and just screwing into the base of the X-H1. When you have the battery grip in place, you're working with a total of 3 possible batteries instead of 2. That's smart design. I was originally worried about battery life, but with the battery grip you can expect several hours of shooting without too much concern. And if you're shooting video, you're going to be using the battery grip because you basically have to. So if you have all the right hardware, you're in good shape.

Capture Settings

Fuji did not take the easy route when deciding what capture settings to include in the X-H1: there are a ton. Not only are there multiple aspect ratios on top of multiple frame rate options with this camera, but nearly every one of those options has an additional bitrate option associated with it. For example, shooting in regular 4Kp24 offers 200 Mb/sec, 100 Mb/sec or 50 Mb/sec options.

That kind of freedom of choice is great, but unfortunately the Fuji can only capture internally at 4:2:0 8-bit, and 4:2:2 8-bit with an external recorder. No 10-bit in either case, which makes the inclusion of F-Log less powerful than it could have been.

  • 4096 x 2160p (Cinema 4K): 23.98/24 fps (50, 100, 200 Mb/s MOV via MPEG-4)
  • 3840 x 2160p (4K UHD): 23.98/24/25/29.97 fps (50, 100, 200 Mb/s MOV via MPEG-4)
  • 2048 x 1080p (DCI 2K): 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps (50, 100 Mb/s MOV via MPEG-4)
  • 1920 x 1080p: 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/100/120 fps (200 Mb/s MOV via MPEG-4)
  • 1280 x 720p: 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps (50 Mb/s MOV via MPEG-4)

When shooting in the high frame rate modes like 120 fps, sound is not recorded and the resulting video(s) will be in slow motion automatically without you having to slow it down in post.

You may notice that there is no 60p available in either 4K UHD or Cinema 4K, and that's disappointing. You can capture up to 60p in 2048 x 1080p and up to 120p in standard 1080p, but it's 2018 and I expect my video cameras to capture some form of slow motion in 4K now. To not have it puts this camera in a considerable disadvantage when compared to products from, for example, Panasonic.

Another tidbit of note is that to my naked eye, the quality difference between 4K shot at 50 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s is negligible, if there is any at all. I've pixel peeped, squinted, and stared at three clips taken with identical settings except for the megabit rate, and I cannot for the life of me see a difference. Not in sharpness, not in gradation of color or shadows, nothing. This is highly peculiar since the file size difference is less than half when you compare 200 Mb/s to 50 Mb/s. What additional data is it capturing to balloon the file size? I am not sure. I'm personally still hesitant to shoot less than the absolute maximum a camera offers, but in this case you would likely be safe to shoot at 50 Mb/s if you are trying to save space on a card. Footage, honestly, looks the same either way.

Video Quality and Camera Usability

So to this point, I've pretty much had nothing but good things to say about the X-H1, and that even surprised me honestly. For what is Fuji's first real attempt at a serious X Series video camera, thus far there are very few things to complain about.

As far as video quality goes, the 4K and high frame rate 1080p footage look outstanding. Looking at video captured on the X-H1 makes me smile, it's that good. Sharp, crisp, with great color rendition (with any of the film simulations) and just a pleasing overall visual experience made me feel like Fuji really knocked it out of the park.

As far as ISO performance goes, I'd say this camera is best up to ISO 6400, after which things start to go downhill fast. The 12800 and High ISO options both look just terrible, so stay far away from those. In video mode, your minimum ISO is 200 in any of the film simulations, and when shooting in Log that goes up to 800. Pretty standard there, but I do wish the minimum ISO went lower when shooting outside of Log.

Fuji put in this Dynamic Range booster feature into the X-H1, which at first glance appears to boost the shadows when shooting in the black-crushing Standard profile (more on that in a bit). However, upon further inspection, all that did was increase the minimum ISO. So I tested it by just changing the ISO myself, and I cannot with any confidence state that it does anything different than just manually boosting the ISO. I took the same shot in Dynamic Range 'normal,' 200% and 400% and did the exact same thing by manually changing the ISOs to 200, 400 and 800, respectively. Side by side, they looked identical. Perhaps this mode does something for stills, but in video it can be wholly ignored.

I think it is worth talking a bit about the film simulations you can shoot with on the X-H1, since those simulations are one of the major talking points about why you would want to shoot with a Fuji to begin with. I will say that overall, they are better than the default "looks" you get on any other camera. The Standard/Provia profile can seriously crush blacks though, so be careful when shooting there as to not lose important shadow detail. You get 11 different looks, including F-Log, and each of them is relatively unique. What one will show as a purple flower, another will do a more nuanced lavender, and another blue.

For F-Log, it's nice that it was included, but I personally had a very hard time grading it. Even downloading the official Eterna Lut direct from Fujifilm resulted in footage I didn't find particularly pleasing. This is just a personal note though, and I think that the resulting footage is actually what a lot of people are going for. Just not me.

So all this is, for the most part, great right? It would be, except a good body design and excellent video footage honestly aren't the most important parts of what makes a video camera good. If a body design is bad, you can build a cage around it. If the video footage isn't top quality, you can still make up for that with a great story and excellent acting. Are they important? Absolutely, but to me camera usability is just as, if not more, important.

What you cannot fix about a camera are niggling annoyances, firmware glitches and strange, nay, actually bizarre, software design choices.

Here are my biggest gripes with the X-H1 in no particular order:

Shutter release/record button is super sensitive. The record button goes on and off and doesn't have any kind of auditory warning option. On other cameras, I typically turn this on because I want to have a confirmation that the camera has started or stopped recording, limiting the number of accidental captures I may get and eventually have to delete. It should be on by default, but in the case of the X-H1 a sound does not exist at all. Though there is one for stills, there is no option to turn one on for video. Light taps on the shutter button, which is also the video record button since this camera does not feature a dedicated video record button, feels almost the same as full press. In that same grain, you may want to turn off the "tap-to-record" function (controlling video recording via the touchscreen), too as well since that is easy to trip accidentally. I have quite a few clips where it's just 2 or 3 minutes of accidental footage because of all this.

The manual focus assist implementation isn't the best. For those uninitiated, Manual Focus Assist is a feature that will zoom you in to 200% or so when you use the manual focus ring on a lens with Autofocus turned off. It is designed for you to be able to dial-in focus on a subject without necessarily relying on focus peaking (or in the case of Canon cameras that don't have focus peaking, it's the only way to actually assure a subject is in focus). For every other camera on the market, a half press of the shutter button knocks you out of the magnified view (unless it's a manually activated Assist like on Canon DSLRs, but for every automatic MF Assist this holds true). Not here. You have to hit the display button specifically or it never takes you out of the MF assist, even when recording. At least with Canon DSLRs, you can't start recording unless you back out of the MF Assist mode.

The EVF isn't great. The quality of the EVF is way... more pixelated? Blocky? It's less clean than the rear LCD. It's hard to explain, but I found myself squinting into the EVF, which is never a good thing.

Focus peaking can be spotty. It's awesome that this is an included feature with the X-H1, but unfortunately it is not super reliable, especially at wide angles. In some scenes, no focus peaking assist of any kind appeared on the screen, despite it being set to "RED" and "HIGH." I was shooting a white scene (my hallway) and couldn't see anything being shown as "in focus" no matter how much I racked focus. It was not only bizarre, but totally unhelpful. Additionally, focus peaking must be individually set from the video mode to the photo mode, for some reason. Kind of an annoying additional step.

There is no zebra feature. Zebra is a camera feature that shows you what is potentially blown out/overexposed. It's a feature lot of videographers rely on, so it's a shame it's not an option on the X-H1.

Several key buttons are unlabeled, and there is a lack of custom function buttons. You can pretty much remap every button on this camera to whatever you like, but since most of them are doing tasks you already need, it's not like you really can do much with this feature. Because there are no additional custom function buttons, you're pretty limited on what you can tell the X-H1 you want quick access to without sacrificing something else you probably need. I also found it very annoying that the camera doesn't label the buttons around the menu button out of the box. One of those buttons activates white balance, and it took me forever to figure this out (we had to read the manual; something I rarely do for anything). So in short, the camera seems intuitive at first, but then once you try and go beyond the surface level usage, it starts to frustrate with its limitations and design choices.

There is rolling shutter. I'm not normally one to care much about rolling shutter, but I did think it was worth mentioning that I noticed it here on the X-H1.

Recording timer counts down, not up. I don't know about other shooters, but I personally prefer to know how long a clip is versus how much I have left to shoot on a card. Preferably, I want both somewhere on the camera. With the X-H1, you only get a countdown indicator (like 29m 32sec remaining) as you record. It's challenging to keep track of how long a specific clip is, and because this method is less precise, the amount of time recording remaining fluctuates by a second or two every time you finish a clip.

I had some weird SD card issues. I have a ton of SD cards, and I have a ton of really fast SD cards. No matter what card I used, if I turned the camera off and left it and then turned it back on later, about 50% of the time the camera would have a write error on that card and be unable to shoot more video. The fix? Simply removing the card and putting in a new one, or even just removing and replacing the same card once more. I can't explain it, and I won't attempt to.

Summary

Pros:

  • Video captured on the X-H1 looks crisp, clean and beautiful. Greens look especially vibrant.
  • Nice form factor
  • Great battery life (when using three batteries with the grip)
  • Tons of capture options
  • Includes F-Log
  • Includes focus peaking
  • Rear LCD is crisp and clear
  • The dual command dial layout of Fujifilm cameras works well in video, keeping you within acceptable shutter speeds

Cons:

  • If you're shooting video, you have to buy the grip. Without it, the camera is severely gimped and has no headphone jack
  • There is no dedicated video record button
  • The shutter button is too sensitive, which means frequent accidental clip capture. Also, there is no audio notification that you have started or stopped recording
  • Focus peaking can be spotty and less accurate at wider angles
  • No zebras
  • EVF seems low quality and slightly delayed
  • Many design decisions seem to have been made without knowledge of what video shooters need, such as a lack of zebra, no headphone jack on the main body, and a poor implementation of manual focus assist
  • Lacks 10-bit capture: Only records internally at 4:2:0 8-bit, and external recorder only increases it to 4:2:2 8-bit
  • Overall finicky firmware (SD card writing issues)

I'm kind of at an impasse with the X-H1. On one hand, looking at footage captured on the camera is bliss. Clips are beautiful. The camera itself, as far as handling and build quality are concerned, is great. The camera, in general, is not hard to operate and it offers little things that make shooting video better (though it's hard to say if these were done on purpose). The huge number of aspect ratios, frame rates and bitrates is great, and the film simulations and inclusion of F-Log deserves applause.

On the other hand, the camera can be very frustrating when it come to using it in a professional video workflow. If there was ever a camera that felt like video was added on as an afterthought, it's the X-H1. Most of the features that more serious video shooters demand (zebras, dedicated capture buttons, additional custom function buttons, accurate focus peaking, a headphone jack, etc.) were either not included or hastily added on via the battery grip. Actually shooting with the X-H1 is a practice in patience and "serenity now."

But if you really like the Fujifilm interface and that's all you've known, you probably won't care about any of this. The fact that a great stills camera like the X-H1 is also a very good video camera will be enough for you. But, it's probably not going to convert anyone who currently loves Panasonic, Sony or Canon cameras for video work.

 



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