Get Hands On with Fujifilm's X-H1
Fujifilm comes out with its "video-centric" mirrorless camera, the X-H1, and we use it with still and cine glass.
Mirrorless camera manufacturers know that filmmakers love shooting with mirrorless cameras and therefore cameras are made that cater to those needs. Pansonic has the GH5/S and Sony has the A7S2.
Fujifilm, a company that makes the popular and just refreshed XT line of mirrorless cameras targetted at stills, has now come out with its video-centric model, the X-H1, and we wanted to put it through its paces.
Before we get to the features that make XH1 appropriate for filmmakers (features which are now matched, and slightly passed, by the XT3, hinting that we might see a refresh to the XH1 soon), there are a few differences that will benefit any stills or video shooter.
First and most prominent is in-camera image stabilization. It works in collaboration with in-camera stabilization built into the lenses. For stills, this allows hand held use of the camera at longer shutter speeds, which is tremendously beneficial in low light situations. In video, this obviously allows for hand held use with longer lenses, and that is one arena where the camera absolutely shines.
While the body of the XH1 is bigger than the XT series, it isn't dramatically so, and a lot of the bulk is added in a hand grip that actually tends not to matter once you put a lens on the camera. Even with the 27mm pancake (the "flattest" lens we regularly use), the hand grip is roughly the same size and the camera will slide into most of the same pockets.
That hand grip comes with not only more camera power, but also a wonderful e-ink top screen that displays vital camera information whether the camera is on or off. Through the beauty of e-ink, even though it constantly shows you battery power, it doesn't continually drain your battery to do so. Every camera should have this and it's honestly worthy of upgrading to the XH-1 for this feature alone.
Fujfilm never had a huge presence in DSLR (Nikon and Canon were the major players there), and by focusing exclusively on the mirrorless market, which has a shorter flange focal distance, Fuji is at the vanguard of the next wave of cinema applications. Like the Sony E-mount and the Pansonic MFT mount, these cameras are easy to adapt to EF or PL when needed.
Its native Fujifilm glass makes the platform really stand out, along with the fantastic color reproduction these camears are well known for. Fujifilm has a great selection of X-mount still photo lenses that, paired with the face detect auto focus, worked well.
On top of those lenses, Fujifilm also makes affordable cinema zooms that are truly parfocal, the MK zooms, and it's that combination that makes this platform fascinating. For most of your use, you are going to most likely want to use still lenses that take advantage of the lightweight and the auto-focus abilities. In fact, we used still lenses on the b-camera for our tests, since it allowed for easier face detect auto-focus.
But for A-camera, we wanted a traditional cinema feeling with a controllable, repeatable, focus-unit workable setup, and for that, the MK zooms in X mount were perfect. Beautiful, sharp smooth glass, but lighter than comparable lenses due to being designed from scratch for mirrorless settings.
In addition, we picked up a battery grip, making the camera truly functional on a film set. Instead of having to unmount the camera to swap batteries (a frustration of all "still" cameras when rigged up with tripod, lenses, etc.) with the battery grip you just slide a tray in and out. Aside from on set functionality, we also found it very useful for extra long timelapses, giving us the ability to keep two batteries on the charge and continually swap them out for days.
Our one frustration was that the lens mount for th eMK zooms didn't reach the same level as either the camera body nor the camera with the battery attached: that combination would have been dynamite.
In addition to working on a small fashion shoot, below, shooting both the X-H1 and the X-T2, with the X-H1 going to an Atomos and the X-T2 on a Ronin-S shooting internally to cards, we also ran around with the X-H1 through the streets of New York (and a flash storm) to get a sense of the cameras as a "run and gun" shooter and its image stabilization on long lenses hand held.
Using internal F-log, along with the official Fuji F-log to Eterna BT.709 LUT and slight contrast tweaking in post, we were exceptionally happy with the results we were able to get.
Will we upgrade our trusty X-T2? Almost definitely. While initially, we weren't that interested in internal F-log (we have an Atomos Shogun Inferno for that), honestly having the ability to strip off the inferno for a run and gun shot and keep F-log is a bonus. External recorders are great for interviews or tripod and dolly shots, but sometimes you just want to run free, and the X-H1 let's you do that and keep your latitude. Of course, the X-T3 will let you do that as well, but without the internal image stabilization that made "being free" that much better.
That image staiblization is the feature we kept going back to. Both as a stills camera and especially as a motion camera, in-camera stabilization just can't be beat. Yes, there are stellar post stabilization tools, but if you can get it right in camera and not lose time or resolution in post, why not?
The in camera stabilization is just tops. The auto-focus isn't going to beat the A9, but that camera costs twice as much and auto-focus is its marquee feature. For the type of work we do (or strapped to the back of the MK zooms), this is going to make a dynamic camera. In the end, the choice between the MKs and the still glass is really what makes this a more compelling option for filmmakers considering what mirrorless platform to pick.
Here's our small fashion shoot, for Ilana Kohn, with dancer Lauren Switzer done with a mix of MK and still lenses, and working with DP Sarah Cawley and operator Krittin Patkuldilok. The beauty of having fully "cinema" zooms as an option, but then to stick still lenses on the body and get very useable auto-focus on a stabilizer, was a great combination.
We'll hopefully see continued updates via firmware to the internal recording, but already set to 4:2:2 via the HDMI out, it's a stellar combination. Available with a battery grip.
- 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Sensor
- X-Processor Pro Engine
- 5-Axis In-Body Image Stabilization
- Internal DCI 4K Video and F-Log Gamma
- 0.75x 3.69m-Dot Electronic Viewfinder
- 3" 1.04m-Dot 3-Way Tilt LCD Touchscreen
- 325-Point Intelligent Hybrid AF System
- 1080p at 120 fps; Flicker Reduction Mode
- 1.28" Sub-LCD Top Screen
- Weather-Sealed Body; 2 UHS-II SD Slots