Photography News Issue 53

Photography News | Issue 53 |


First tests

Second opinion

Will Cheung, PN editor

I’ll come clean straight away and say I’m a committed Fujifilm X Series owner with an X-T2, X-E3 and a bunch of lenses. So every time Fujifilm launches a new camera I feel an extra tinge of anticipation wondering what exciting innovations await. It was no different with the X-H1. Better still, I was going to get to try one in Lisbon, the day before the official worldwide launch. I even got the press info before flying out so I could mug up on the camera. The specifications looked impressive, especially the in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) system, the improved autofocus and the enhanced video shooting options. I took my X-T2 with me so I could compare the two cameras. That the X-H1 is bigger is immediately obvious and the grip is solid and has a substantial feel. Control layout was different. Where there is an exposure compensation dial on the X-T2, there is a large top-plate sub menu panel on the X-H1 – which gives the right end of the camera a very GFX look. I really enjoyed using the LCD panel and I could check key settings with a downward glance. And I was happy to lose the compensation dial because I do find that it can be adjusted unintentionally even when on the C setting – most often as the camera is taken from the bag. In its place, compensation can be set by pushing the button next to the shutter release and using an input dial. This is a system favoured by Nikon and very familiar to me so this was a positive change. Press the shutter release and three things are immediately apparent. The release is very smooth, with a very subtle release point, quite different from the X-T2 where the biting point was quite obvious.

The smoothness of the shutter release’s travel helps with sharp shooting at slow shutter speeds but it can also mean premature shutter release until you get used to it. Then there’s the shutter noise itself. The X-H1 is so, so quiet – and this is with the mechanical shutter in its normal mode. There is an electronic front shutter and that minimizes sound levels further. The third thing is the X-H1’s AF. Boy, it seems so much quicker and responsive than the X-T2 – and that is no slouch itself – nor is it hit and miss. I hope the X-H1’s AF finds its way onto the X-T2 via a firmware update sometime soon. The provision of a dedicated and decent-sized AF-ON button for thumb AF was most welcome . IBIS seemed very effective too and I was shooting handheld down to 0.5sec to check out its effectiveness, mostly with the 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom. First impressions here too were positive. Finally, in this brief preview, on to image quality. With the same sensor and processor, image quality from the X-T2 and X-H1 should be on a par. Sure enough, and with Raw processing possible via Adobe software immediately, that indeed did seem to be the case, but we’ll dig into this more when we review the camera.

ABOVEANDLEFT Fujifilm is making a big thing of its in-body five axis IBIS system to cut down camera shake. The shot above was taken at 1/5sec at f/5 and ISO 400 on a 16mm f/1.4 lens, a lens that does not have IS, and you can see from the enlarged section (left) that it is pinsharp. BOTTOM Shooting at ISO 1600 gives fine quality shots with low noise levels considering the high speed.

of menu options that you can dive into to unlock the camera’s far broader video functionality. In the interests of brevity, 4K is available in two guises: DCI 4K and 4K. The former offers 4096x2160 pixels, the latter 3840x2160 pixels, or 17:9 as opposed to 16:9. Full HD is also available up to 120p, with two further slow-motion video speeds on offer, plus there’s a 400% dynamic range setting offering approximately 12 stops of latitude. F-Log is now recorded straight to SD card, so there’s no need for an external recording device and the bit rate goes up to 200Mbps when you want the ultimate quality. There is more, much more, including a high-quality internal microphone and time coding, so it’s safe to say that the X-H1 does feel like a serious camera for moviemakers. Stills photographers haven’t been forgotten about, but again there are simply too many tweaks and changes to go into fully here. Notable additions include a flicker reduction mode that

helps to deliver consistent exposures when shooting indoors and an improved AF algorithm which drops low-light AF sensitivity down to -1EV (0.5EV on the X-T2), offers phase- detection at f/11 – handy if you’re using the XF100-400mm with a 2x teleconverter – and focuses more readily on awkward subjects, low contrast subjects like animal fur. Naturally, I’d need a little longer than a few hours with a new camera to really decide how I feel about it, but the X-H1 certainly ticks the boxes, both for stills and video use. For me, the X Series has little to prove when it comes to stills shooting – straight out of the camera JPEGs are as good as they’ve always been from other XSeriesmodels and you can rest assured that the camera is backed up by some very fine, high spec optics, with more to come. The newly designed shutter release is too sensitive for my personal preference, but this is likely to be a matter of getting used to it. For video use, the X-H1 has a little more to prove, particularly to those who may have previously discounted the Fujifilm brand due to the time it’s taken for a model like this to appear. Having used an X-T2 for video myself, I see the improvements in the X-H1 as a positive step forward, although it undeniably remains up against some very tough mirrorless competition. We’ll have a full test of the X-H1 in the next issue of PN . RP

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