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Fujifilm X-H1 hands-on review

We get our hands on the latest X-series camera to find out whether it deserves its flagship status

Our Verdict

The X-H1 may not appear that different to the existing X-T2 on paper, but it does at least narrow the gap between that model and the medium format GFX 50S. Those keen on using longer lenses or working in poorer light should be encouraged by its arrival.

For

  • Tried-and-tested imaging pipeline
  • Body-based image stabilisation
  • Excellent video options

Against

  • Not a huge advance on the X-T2
  • Same price as some full-frame rivals
  • Some fiddly controls

Update: Check out our gallery of image samples and video footage from the new X-H1 here

It's been some time since we've had a fresh line of cameras from Fujifilm, whether it's a standalone range or a sub-series within an existing stable. The last one was 2016's medium-format G system, which still only contains one member, the GFX 50S. This makes the arrival of the X-H1, a camera that will sit above the current co-flagship X-T2 and X-Pro2 models in the X range, particularly noteworthy.

Read more: Fujifilm announces X-H1

The X-H1 more closely resembles the GFX 50S than it does the X-T2, but those familiar with the X-T2 will find the X-H1 very familiar. The menus are essentially the same and the way exposure parameters are adjusted is also very much like what we've seen before. The biggest change for those users is a more defined grip and the the 1.28in LCD screen on the top-plate, two things borrowed from the GFX 50S.

As the image above shows, this displays the information we would expect: aperture, shutter speed, white balance and so on. There's enough space here to show everything very clearly, and the way in which it can be illuminated is more refined than on many other models, with the black background and grey text show as black text on a grey background at the press of a button, for as long as you need it to; no tiny green or orange lights on the side that just spring to life for a few seconds here.

Read more: Fujifilm X-H1 full-resolution image samples and video footage

It's a great advantage to have this screen here, and the menu system even allows you to change what's shown if you want to filter out a few options. It's particularly welcome as many of Fujifilm's models have somewhat small text displayed in the viewfinder and around the LCD while you're shooting, although we also now have the option to increase the size of this text too, which is a welcome move.   

The main LCD maintains the X-T2's three-axis pivoting design, which is especially useful when shooting in a portrait orientation. Once you're used to its movements it's fairly easy to operate, although it can be somewhat fiddly when the camera has its optional Vertical Power Booster grip fitted to its base, as this prevents you from grabbing it from below as you naturally may do.

The screen works well, with just the usual issue of a slight drop in visibility outdoors making it a little less clear to view. It responds to touch too, though perhaps not quite as responsively as other models straight out of the box. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, as the high sensitivity of other cameras' screens can make inadvertently pressing this with a stray finger or your nose more common and annoying.

A more minor complaint is that the screen is attached to the camera through a relatively short arm, and so part of it can be obscured by the eyecup when viewed from above. Even so, the fact that it can be adjusted as freely as it can is a huge bonus for creative compositions.

Both front and rear command dials on the body move easily and click into the body to perform certain useful functions (such as instantly zooming into the image upon playback). The shutter-release button between them, however, doesn't quite have the same obvious halfway point at which focus is confirmed, so it will be interesting to see what those coming from the more defined, threaded types of X-series models make of this. 

With the exception of an exposure compensation control, which has been ousted by the top-plate LCD, the camera's top plate bears the same dial/collar arrangement as the X-T2. So, we get an ISO dial that has a drive mode collar at its base, together with a shutter speed dial with a metering collar underneath it on the other side of the viewfinder. The locking buttons in the centre of the two dials prevent any accidental movement, which is particularly useful as the collars follow those on the X-T2 in being a little fiddly, which makes it easier to knock any unlocked dials out of line as the collars are adjusted. If you're used to this setup from previous models, or you don't tend to adjust metering and drive modes too frequently, this shouldn't be an issue.

Otherwise, the X-H1 is a particularly comfortable camera to hold and operate, with the closest thing we've had to DSLR-like handling from the X-series yet. There's ample room on the back to comfortably rest your thumb and hand, and plenty of rubber used on the exterior panels, while the deep grip makes the camera a more fitting host body for larger and/or heavier lenses (such as the XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR shown in these images). If you're coming from a DSLR, you should find the transition relatively painless.

The camera's autofocus system is as comprehensive in its specs as we would expect, although Fujifilm claims to have made changes for accuracy and speed from before. 60 different data analysis points are now used to fine-tune accuracy and tracking performance, with the camera calculating three different types of phase detection in each area to work out the best focus point to use. According to Fujifilm, this has allowed low-light phase-detection to go from -0.5EV on the X-T2 to -1EV here, and for lower-contrast and/or higher-frequency subjects to be identified more easily than before.

We didn't find much to complain with the camera's AF system, particularly as there's so much that can now be adjusted, right down to the specific size of the focusing point. The lenses with larger and heavier elements, such as the aforementioned 16-55mm optic, will have the effect of bringing subjects to focus a little slower initially, but then this is true of many similar optics across other systems. The image stabilisation system also appears to be very effective, with  images captured at moderate focal lengths in single-figure shutter speeds still maintaining good sharpness. We look forward to testing this fully.

Early verdict

With a weather-sealed body that's larger and sturdier than the X-T2's; the advantage of in-body image stabilisation; and a healthy range of control over video recording, it's clear that Fujifilm is aiming the X-H1 towards a particularly diverse audience that may not feel entirely catered for by existing options. 

So, those using longer X-series lenses for wildlife, sports or nature who would find the X-T2's body lacking, for example, together with those needing image stabilisation at all times. No doubt part of the reason the camera is larger than previous X-series models is down to the body-based image stabilisation, which makes it seem less likely that it will be incorporated into future existing lines such as the X-Pro or X-E range (at least in its current form). This feature alone is highly useful to have for a range of applications, which does make the X-H1 stand out against other X-series models that require this through the mounted lens.

Of course, strong and keenly priced rival models that already offer this feature in-camera mean that, to some extent, Fujifilm is playing catch-up here. Each rival has attracted something of a niche audience with their own models, with Panasonic focusing more on video-recording capabilities and Sony's ace card being the draw of the full-frame sensor. 

So, the arrival of the X-H1 makes a lot of sense, and its RRP is not unreasonable when you consider what's being offered elsewhere. There may not be as much here to tempt X-T2 users to trade in their models, but it does at least build on a winning concept in a handful of genuinely useful ways.

Read more: 10 tips on getting the best out of your Fujifilm camera