Photographer Jack Graham’s First Impressions of the FUJIFILM X-H1

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PHOTOGRAPHER: Jack Graham
BASED IN: Washington, USA
KNOWN FOR: Wildlife, landscape and nature photography, as well as photographic education
SHOOTS WITH: FUJIFILM X-H1 Camera, X-T2 Camera, FUJINON XF14mmF2.8 R Lens, XF35mmF2 R WR Lens, XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens

Introduction

Jack Graham is a professional photographer based near Seattle, Washington, in the heart of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Jack’s images have been published in a range of places and he leads photo workshops both domestically and overseas. As a FUJIFILM X-Photographer, Jack was lucky enough to be one of the first photographers in the States to have the opportunity to try out the powerful FUJIFILM X-H1. In this article, Jack shares his thoughts on the latest X Series camera and lets us know whether it has earned a place in his camera bag.

Jack Graham

I own practically every FUJIFILM camera released over the last few years, so I’m familiar with the strengths of each. Before I got my hands on it, I wasn’t sure that the FUJIFILM X-H1 was really for me. This is largely because I am perfectly happy with the FUJIFILM X-T2. I’m basically a landscape and travel photographer, so the AF tracking systems are important, but not as important as they would be to a photojournalist, sports photographer or bird photographer. In short, the autofocus system in the X-T2 was already good enough for me.

Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.
Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.
Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.

Strengths

The FUJIFILM X-H1 is also widely considered to have several features that are ideal for video shooters, and I am not a videographer – although I do shoot some video occasionally. Once I got my hands on the X-H1, however, I discovered that the FUJIFILM X Series has come a very long way with this camera.

I now believe that FUJIFILM cameras combined with FUJINON lenses (with more coming later this year) can photograph birds and wildlife as well as, or better than, any other system on the market.

Build quality

When I removed the camera from the box and held it I immediately felt that this camera was a quality piece of equipment. To me, it even felt better than the X-T2, and that’s saying a lot. How much better? Enough for me to tell the difference.

It turns out that the X-H1 uses a thicker magnesium alloy and is more scratch-resistant than the X-T2. Like the X-T2, the X-H1 is weather-resistant, but it is a bit bigger than the X-T2 and weighs just under 166g more (the X-H1 weighs 623g and the X-T2 weighs 457g). Accounting for the slight weight difference, the X-H1 has extra features like an LCD on the top plate, much like the FUJIFILM GFX 50S medium format camera.

On the top of the camera you’ll find ISO and shutter speed dials. While the X-T2 had a dedicated exposure compensation dial, the X-H1 assigns this to a command dial, in combination with the Fn1 button. You can also assign it to one of the other function buttons if you prefer. Personally, I like the dial on the X-T2, but the X-H1 layout is ideally suited to shooting in manual mode, when the compensation dial isn’t necessary – another touch that is bound to please video shooters.

Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.
Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.

Usability

I love the little joystick on the X-T2, technically named a “Focus Lever,” but on the X-H1 it is even better positioned! It is a little closer to the top of the camera, which makes it really comfortable to use with the thumb. I know this is a minor thing, but it’s a nice improvement over the X-T2. I also feel the knobs are just a tad bigger and easier to use.

The viewfinder is brighter than I’m used to. This is even more noticeable and useful in bright light and I like it a lot. It also has 3.69 million dots, which produces a crisper image than the 2.36 million in the X-T2. The main improvement, however, was the reaction time and eye-detection time, which felt much quicker. The EVF also extends a little beyond the body of the camera, which makes it easier to create a seal with your eye.

Features

The biggest thing I immediately noticed was how quiet the shutter button was compared to other FUJIFILM X Series cameras, which are already very quiet. The X-H1 has the quietest shutter sound in the X Series range, which would be useful for photographers who shoot wedding, sports and wildlife images. The shutter button is a lot more sensitive than that of the X-T series, and it will take some getting used to.

The X-H1 has a similar touchscreen to the X-E3, which is another camera I love. I personally don’t use the touchscreen, so I turned it off. But for those who need to focus on a particular area while holding their camera at arm’s length, this could be a useful feature. Speaking of the X-E3, the X-H1 has the Bluetooth capabilities of the X-E3 as well. I really like these features and think they are definitely worth a try.

Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.
Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.

Stabilization

One of the main features of this camera is the five-axis stabilization. Fujifilm took a long time ensuring that this in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system would function well with its 24.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor. The system is especially useful for me when I’m shooting handheld. I don’t do it often, but I would feel better about it when using the X-H1. It’s also good to have when using non-IS lenses handheld in low-light conditions, which I did very successfully in Japan.

While I was there I shot with the FUJINON XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens. I thought this combination felt more stable and balanced in my hand than the X-T2 with this lens. This would make sense, as the X-H1 is designed for use with the forthcoming range of MKX cinema lenses. Of course, if you’re shooting with a tripod, this difference won’t be apparent, but when shooting handheld, I did notice it.

Performance

I shot with the FUJINON XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens while I was in Japan. I thought this combination felt more stable and balanced in my hand than the X-T2 with this lens. This would make sense, as the X-H1 is designed for use with the forthcoming range of MKX cinema lenses. Of course, if you’re shooting with a tripod, this difference won’t be apparent, but when shooting handheld, I did notice it.

While there, I was out on a boat photographing Steller’s sea eagles, the heaviest eagles in the world. The stabilization in conjunction with the tracking system made it possible to capture some cool shots handheld with the XF100-400mm lens. In that situation, I’m confident that the X-H1 allowed me to get sharper images than I would have with the X-T2. Even images shot between 1/10 sec and 1/30 sec were consistently sharp in low light.

The IBIS system can provide up to 5.5 stops of image stabilization. Importantly, a five-axis stabilization system corrects pitch, yaw, roll, x-shift and y-shift. Lenses with stabilization usually only have two axes: pitch and yaw. That’s one of the reasons that an in-camera system like this is great for stabilizing video, as well as still images.

Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.
Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.

Autofocus

Even though the X-T2 and X-H1 both use the same autofocus system, the X-H1 features an updated AF algorithm that improves the accuracy and speed of focusing in low-light conditions. I noticed this immediately when shooting these eagles.

FUJIFILM claims that the phase detection AF range has been expanded by 1.5 stops from 0.5EV on the X-T2 to -1EV. Even better, the minimum aperture requirement has also improved from F8 to F11. This means that when using the XF100-400mm lens with the XF2X TC WR, the camera can now use phase detection for better results.

Enhanced continuous autofocus performance while zooming also means the camera can handle high-speed action and subjects that move erratically. In practice, this upgrade really was apparent to me and made it possible to make these images. Remember, I do not consider myself a true bird-only photographer!

Electronic First Curtain Shutter

Another important feature is EFCS, which can eliminate camera shake originating from the mechanical shutter – sometimes known as “shutter shock.” Shutter shock is an issue with many modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras, which can show up when using longer focal lengths at certain shutter speeds. The X-H1 has become the first X Series camera to feature an EFCS, previously only found in Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format camera.

One last little feature I enjoyed is an update to the “peak” focusing system. Previously, photographers were given the choice of blue, red or white peak indicators. The X-H1, however, now has yellow, which makes it easier to see in certain situations.

Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.
Jack Graham reviews the new FUJIFILM X-H1 camera.

Conclusion

A lot of people have asked me for my thoughts on this camera and asked me whether or not I’ll be buying one. The short answer is: yes, I’ll be adding this to my arsenal of FUJIFILM cameras.

I don’t shoot handheld a lot but when using non-IS lenses, and especially in low light, the stabilization does make a definite difference. The improved continuous autofocus was noticeable when I got to photograph those eagles in Japan. I like the overall build quality and feel of the camera. The EVF and joystick feature smart design improvements, and I like the yellow focus peak highlight update.

I was already looking for a good backup camera. Somewhat to my surprise, I’m now considering making the X-T2 my backup camera to open up the top spot for the X-H1.

Jack Graham is a compensated FUJIFILM X-Photographer.

To see more of Jack’s work, visit his website.

To explore the full X Series lineup visit X Gear Chooser.

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