Fujifilm X-H1 review

Does Fujifilm's newest X-series deserves its flagship status?

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Fujifilm X-H1: Build and handling

The body is crafted from a magnesium alloy that's said to be 25% thicker than the X-T2's, and has been weather-sealed for protection against the elements. While it more closely resembles the GFX 50S than it does the X-T2, those used to 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 control layout change for those users is a more defined grip and the 1.28in LCD screen on the top-plate panel.

The grip and the LCD are similar to those crafted into the medium format GFX 50S

The grip and the LCD are similar to those crafted into the medium format GFX 50S

This LCD panel 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 changing to 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.

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 very welcome.

You can decide what information appears on the top-plate LCD screen as standard

You can decide what information appears on the top-plate LCD screen as standard

A glance around the rest of the top plate reveals the X-H1 is quite unlike regular DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Like other higher-end, X-mount Fujifilm cameras, it returns to a traditional control layout with a shutter speed dial on the top plate and a lens aperture ring on the lens itself (though not on all lenses). There's no need for a mode dial, since the regular PASM exposure mode options can be achieved by setting either the lens aperture ring or the shutter speed dial to the 'A' position and adjusting the other manually. Alternatively, you can set both to 'A' for a program AE mode.

No PASM modes here; the X-H1 follows the exposure setup of previous X-series cameras

No PASM modes here; the X-H1 follows the exposure setup of previous X-series cameras

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, although it's not always easy to see clearly outdoors in bright light, a criticism that, admittedly, can be levelled at most other cameras. It responds to touch too, perhaps not quite as sensitively as other models straight out of the box, but this is not necessarily a bad thing; the high sensitivity of other cameras' screens can make inadvertently pressing this with a stray finger or your nose easier and thus more annoying.

The LCD only extends so far away from the camera's body, which means the eyecup can be in the way when viewing the screen from above

The LCD only extends so far away from the camera's body, which means the eyecup can be in the way when viewing the screen from above

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 move easily and click into the body to perform certain useful functions (such as instantly zooming into the image upon playback). As usual with dual-action dials like these, it's possible to click these accidentally when you're simply trying to turn them, but the X-H1's dials have a pretty firm action, so this doesn't end up happening too often in practice.

The biggest surprise comes with the shutter release. For a start, it is extremely light – much lighter than any other camera we can remember testing – and it could be some time before your trigger finger adapts to the very light touch needed to half-press the button for focusing, as well as to the very slight extra pressure needed to fire the shutter. Until then, you're likely to fire off quite a few shots by accident.

X-series users will have to adjust to the shutter release control

X-series users will have to adjust to the shutter release control

The second surprise is the uncanny quietness of the shutter. Fujifilm says it has incorporated a new shock-absorption system for "almost silent" operation. We've heard this kind of claim from camera makers many times before, but this time it's true: the X-H1's shutter action is not truly silent, but it's way softer and quieter than any mechanical focal plane shutter should be!

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.

The camera's top plate follows a similar layout to the X-T2's

The camera's top plate follows a similar layout to the X-T2's

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). If you're coming from a DSLR, you should find the transition relatively painless.