Camera Review: Fujifilm’s New Flagship Mirrorless, the X-H1
June 5, 2018
Following in the footsteps of Fujifilm’s popular X-T2, the new X-H1 easily slides into the flagship position of the company’s X-series mirrorless models. Although built around the same 24-megapixel, APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor as the X-T2, the X-H1’s updates—including in-body image stabilization and enhanced video options—give the new model an edge over its sibling.
The X-H1 offers a long list of useful features and functions including the addition of 5-axis, in-body image stabilization (IBIS), a first for X-series cameras. In combination with non-stabilized Fujinon lenses, the X-H1 offers up to 5.5 stops of stabilization (depending on the lens). Image-stabilized lenses also work in conjunction with the IBIS to deliver 5-axis correction.
Like other X-series mirrorless models, the X-H1 features Fujifilm’s film simulation modes including the new Eterna, for a softer, more cinematic look, which can be used for both video and stills. Want a little extra grain? Each film simulation mode can be tweaked to add grain, if you’d like. And there’s a new flicker-reduction mode, a helpful addition for continuous shooting, especially under fluorescent lights.
Continuous shooting speeds match those of the X-T2 with up to 14 fps (electronic shutter), 8 fps (mechanical shutter) and 11 fps (mechanical shutter using the optional vertical grip booster).
Dual SD card slots both support the UHS-II specification. The X-H1 also has also a deeper grip, a more sensitive (and quieter) shutter button and a 3-inch touchscreen LCD that can be tilted in three directions.
You’ll also find enhanced video features and, as expected, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The latter allows for image transfer as well as remote shooting from an iOS or Android device.
The X-H1 is available as body only or in a kit with a vertical power booster grip. We tested the camera with the Fujinon XF50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR and the XF80mm R LM OIS WR Macro lenses both with and without the Vertical Power Booster Grip (VPB-XH1).
Well-built and weather resistant, the X-H1 measures 5.5 x 3.8 x 3.3 inches and weighs 1.48 pounds (with battery and memory card installed). Some of the X-series’ main attractions—at least for many people—are the “retro” style dials atop the body to set shooting mode/shutter speed and ISO, with sub dials for choosing video/burst mode, etc., as well as metering modes.
A deeper grip than the X-T2 provides plenty of real estate, especially for those with larger hands, although we found it a little too large for our smaller hands. In place of the exposure compensation dial, Fuji added a useful top LCD panel and placed an EV button, which works in tandem with the rear command dial, to the right of the shutter release. Some people may mourn the loss of the X-T2’s individual EV dial but having a separate button/dial combo helps avert any accidental changes to exposure compensation.
A few other changes added to the convenient layout are an AF ON button and larger buttons. The tilting LCD screen is touch sensitive (great for choosing an AF point) and now opens to the side for shooting in portrait mode. The EVF has been improved, providing a large, bright and clear view.
In addition to HDMI output and USB 3.0, the X-H1 offers a stereo mini-connector for a microphone, a remote release connector and a sync terminal. If you want a headphone jack, though, you’ll need the VPB-XH1 Vertical Power Grip.
Given that the X-H1 uses the same X-Trans CMOS III sensor as the XT-2, we weren’t surprised at the new camera’s high-quality output. Even straight out of the camera, JPEGs look great.
We shot mostly in the Provia/Standard film simulation mode and were very happy with the natural-looking results when photographing under different lighting conditions—with the appropriate white balance. Auto white balance was fairly accurate under daylight conditions but under artificial lighting it missed the mark.
Colors were also accurate, with smooth transitions between highlights and shadows, even on delicately patterned flowers. Skin tones were natural and evenly rendered. Metering performed well for almost-always spot-on exposures. Dynamic range was quite good as well. The X-H1 offers so many tweaking options—including dynamic range options, the aforementioned film simulation modes, as well as other fine-tuning features—that if you’re not satisfied with your images, there are more than enough ways to nudge the color, dynamic range or other parameters to your liking.
ISO ranges from an expanded Low setting of 100 to an expanded High setting of 25,600. We felt most comfortable keeping the ISO between 3200 and 6400. Noise levels are kept well under control and details well maintained in that range.
Video quality—especially in 4K—is equally as impressive. Advanced users will appreciate the X-H1’s F-log and the new Externa film simulation mode, which delivers more subtle colors while maintaining rich shadow detail. In addition to 4K UHD, the X-H1 offers DCI 4K. The latter, with its 4098 x 2160 resolution and 19:10 aspect ratio is better suited for viewing on wider screens while UHD’s 16:9 aspect ratio works best for YouTube and TV. The X-H1 offers a couple of slow motion options as well as interval shooting.
Overall performance is quite good, with fast and accurate autofocus, even in low light. Face detection wasn’t always accurate, and tracking, while generally capable, was a little more challenging to use than on, say, a DSLR and lagged a bit in comparison to the camera’s overall responsiveness. It’s not a deal breaker, but it may not be the ideal camera for tracking fast moving subjects such as race cars or athletes at sporting events.
Using the electronic shutter, the X-H1 can capture up to 40 lossless JPEGs or 27 frames of uncompressed RAW shots as fast as 14 fps. The mechanical shutter slows things down to 8 fps (or 11 fps with the optional Vertical Power Booster).
The new, more sensitive, shutter button is quiet but we found it was a little too sensitive and had a slightly mushy feel, particularly vis-à-vis DSLRs.
The biggest downside for the X-H1’s performance is battery life. Rated at 310 shots-per-charge, the battery is woefully inadequate. You’ll have to shell out another $330 for the Vertical Power Booster Grip to reach 900 shots (using the camera’s battery and two batteries in the grip). Although you’ll get triple the battery life, an additional 3 fps (from 8 fps to 11 fps) with the mechanical shutter, the vertical grip not only adds bulk and weight to the camera but also adds to the camera’s price tag. But it may well be worth the extra dollars, especially for videographers since the power grip extends video recording from about 10 minutes (4K) or 15 minutes (full HD) to 30 minutes.
Notes from the TIPA Test Bench
PDN is a member of the Technical Image Press Association which has contracted with Image Engineering to perform detailed lab tests of digital cameras. See here for a full methodological rundown of how Image Engineering puts cameras through their paces. Full res files of every visual in this review are available to download for your pixel-peeping pleasure here.
- At ISO200 and ISO400, the Fujifilm X-H1 uses 105% of the theoretical maximum of its 24-megapixel sensor (2100 and 2096 line pairs/picture height (LP/PH), respectively).
- Resolution measurements show almost all of the theoretical maximum of the sensor is used at the ISOs measured: 1965 LP/PH (98%) at ISO1600 and 97% (1933 LP/PH) at ISO6400.
- Resolution remains good throughout the native ISO range, up to 96% of the theoretical maximum (1919 LP/PH) at ISO12800.
- The extended ISOs show poorer resolution: 1685 and 1589 LP/PH respectively for the two high settings (84% and 79% of the theoretical maximum).
- At ISO400 in a high-contrast scene, the Fujifilm X-H1 produced an artifact score of 28.5%; in the low-contrast scene, the score is similar at 29.2%. The scores at ISO200 are 25.6% (high contrast; MTF50 is 1218 LP/PH) and 27.6% (low contrast; MTF50 1079 LP/PH).
- Few artifacts are present in images of high-contrast scenes at speeds ranging from ISO200 to ISO1600 (30.8%).
- At ISO6400, the artifact score is 41.8% in high-contrast parts of the scene, and 58.0% in low-contrast parts of the scene.
- Low contrast scenes shot at ISO12800 show rather a lot of artifacts (73.4%; MTF50 is 467 LP/PH), which high-contrast scenes also show a high proportion of artifacts (54.3%, with an MTF50 of 619 LP/PH).
Edge contrast / sharpening
- At ISO200, overshoot along high-contrast edges is 11.1%, with an undershoot of 9.7%.
- At ISO800 along high-contrast edges: 11.4% overshoot and 9.7% undershoot.
- At higher ISOs, the degree of sharpening along high-contrast edges declines; at ISO6400, the overshoot is 2.4% and undershoot 1.6%.
- Sharpening along low-contrast edges is also strongest at the lower ISOs: at ISO200, 12.3% overshoot and 15.3% undershoot.
- Along low-contrast edges, sharpening is much less at higher ISOs: for example, 2.1% overshoot at ISO6400 paired with 1.8% undershoot.
OECF VN / visual noise
- Visual noise noticeable in Viewing Condition 1 at all ISOs tested, although not disturbing at lowest ISOs (score 1.0 at ISO200, and 1.6 at ISO1600). At ISO6400, score of 2.2 indicates disturbing amounts of noise; at ISO2800, the score is higher at 3.0.
- In Viewing Condition 2, visual noise would not be noticeable except at the higher extended ISOs (score at ISO12800 0.9; score at ISO200 is 0.4).
- In Viewing Condition 3, visual noise would not be noticeable in images shot at most parts of the ISO range, with the exception of one shot at ISO12800 (score 1.1). At ISO200, the visual noise score is 0.5 for VN3.
- Dynamic range is good at all ISOs in the lower part of the range of sensitivity possible (9.4 at ISO200, rising to a peak of 10.9 at ISO3200).
- Dynamic range is still good at the higher ISOs (8.8 at ISO6400, for example).
- Color reproduction is very good, with only four colors reproducing with a strong deviation from the original color; all are bright reds.
- ∆E is very consistent and measured at 9.8 for all ISOs barring the higher of the two extended ISO options.
Automatic white balance
- Automatic white balance functions well: 1.9 at ISO200, 1.1 at ISO400; 0.7 at ISO800, and 0.5 at ISO3200.
- Good automatic white balance even at first extended HI ISO (0.4).
- Resolution in frames grabbed from videos shot at low ISO (ISO200) was 1296 LP/PH, 120% of the theoretical maximum of the portion of the sensor used for video.
- Resolution is nearly equal to at high ISO (ISO1600) and low ISO (119%, 1284 LP/PH).
- Sharpening not strong: 9.3% overshoot and 4.6% undershoot on high-contrast edges at ISO200. At high ISO, sharpening was less along high-contrast edges: 6.9% overshoot and 3.4% undershoot.
- Along low-contrast edges, a similar amount of sharpening was applied at low ISO: 8.7% overshoot and 4.5% undershoot.
- Less sharpening applied along low-contrast edges at high ISO than at low ISO: 5.5% overshoot and 1.9% undershoot.
- Visual noise noticeable at 100% (Viewing Condition 1) in frames shot at both low ISO (1.0) and high ISO (1.6). Noise not or barely noticeable in other viewing conditions (scores range from 0.6 to 1.0).
- Dynamic range is good at the low ISO (8.7 f-stops) and very good at high ISO (9.7).
Speed – Bullet points
- Starts up in 0.9 seconds.
- The X-H1 shoots 13.7 frames per second in JPEG format, up to 41 images in a row before the camera slows down.
- Burst shooting in RAW format is almost as fast: 13.6 frames per second up to a total of 23.
Autofocus (300lx) and Autofocus (30lx)
- Only measured in live view.
Autofocus (300lx) Live View
- Autofocus time in bright light took 0.27 seconds, for a total shooting time of 0.36 seconds.
Autofocus (30lx) Live View
- Autofocus in low light a little slower at 0.31 seconds for a total shooting time of 0.40 seconds.
Image quality is perhaps one of the X-H1’s strongest attributes—straight out of the camera JPEGs are impressive in both rendering and detail capture. We’re also huge fans of Fujifilm’s film simulation modes and the new Eterna cinema film simulation is quite lovely. Plus, the camera offers a long list of advanced features for crafting images to whatever look and feel you want. Image stabilization is effective and works in tandem with lens OIS, bringing Fujifilm in line with competitors like Olympus and Panasonic. Having dual SD card slots is, in our mind, a necessity for an advanced camera. Autofocus is generally fast and accurate and the camera’s continuous shooting is speedy, too. Videographers will find a lot to like about this camera as well.
But it may all come down to whether or not you want a cropped sensor camera or a full-frame model. With the exception of battery life and the need for the Vertical Power Booster for optimum performance, the Fujifilm X-H1 certain holds its own in the APS-C mirrorless category. You can pick up the X-T2 for $1,600, but the updates that make the X-H1 shine are worth the extra money.
For about the same price ($2,000) the Panasonic GH5 is also a good bet for videographers with its 4K video and dual image stabilization and smaller body. Also the Sony a6500 is a small, speedy shooter for only around $1,400. And the Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark II, at $1700, is also a strong contender for still images.
While there’s plenty of competition in the mirrorless market, Fuji has come a long way in this arena. If you’re in the market for a mirrorless camera with an excellent APS-C size sensor, the Fujifilm X-H1 merits serious consideration.
PROS: Top notch still and video quality; Responsive performance, including low light autofocus and high speed capture; Effective in-body image stabilization; Dual UHS-II SD card slots; Extensive feature set.
CONS: Poor battery life; Best performance requires $300 VPB-XH1 Vertical Power Booster Grip; Headphone jack only available on VPB-XH1; Short video record time (without VPB-XH1); Retro/large dial design may not appeal to everyone.
PRICE: $1,900 (body); $2,200 (with battery grip)