david gaberle

x-h1 experience

X-H1 Experience

I got my hands on the X-H1 at the beginning of December. I didn’t have any information about it except that the sensor is stabilised and that it has improved video capabilities. I have to say, I was really excited to hear about the image stabilisation - undoubtedly my most desired upgrade over the years I’ve been shooting with Fujifilm cameras.

I received the camera when I was finalising the images for my first large solo exhibition and hoped to capture some more shots before the opening. When I first held the camera in my hand, I immediately noticed the slightly increased size. It was not something that particularly bothered me because it’s mostly due to the larger grip that I found to comfortably fit into my hands. There was also the top display similar to the one on the GFX, which isn’t something I particularly need but consider a nice refinement. 

As a street photographer, I try to work as quickly and smoothly as possible. For this reason, I often shoot with automatic settings ranging from 200 to 6400 ISO and the minimum shutter speed set to a 1/120th of a second to make sure my shaky hands don’t get in the way of getting a sharp shot. Knowing the sensor is stabilised, I changed the minimum shutter speed to a 1/60th of a second. I noticed I can get perfectly sharp shots with shorter focal lengths even at much slower speeds, but I decided to not set it any slower in case the subjects in my photos move as well. I now know it’s a 5-axis in-body stabilisation of 5.5 stops and noticed that even when I’m shooting with the XF 90mm, I don’t need to be changing my minimum shutter speed to get a completely sharp image. 

My thing about Fujifilm cameras has always been the colour rendition and the pleasant-looking monochromatic noise at higher ISOs. I like shooting at night, so I was really excited to have the ability to let in twice as much light than before. Compared to my X-T2, I basically never get a blurry image due to camera shake. I also started shooting a lot more in the dark as the stabilisation unlocks a whole new way of working in low light. With lower ISO settings, the colours are rendered with a lot more accuracy and I have a lot more data to work with in the shadows.

With the release of the f/2 lenses over the last couple of years, I decided to sacrifice the  the lower apertures and shallow depth of field because of their weather-sealing, compactness and faster focusing. The biggest regret was obviously not getting more light into the camera. Coupled with the X-H1, they now make up for a great combo to use for street photography in any weather and in low light too. I also used to miss the possibility to have a good zoom lens that would shoot in low light because of the lack of stabilization of the XF 16-55/2.8 that I now have my eyes on. I am actually really excited at the prospect of trying it together with the X-H1 and finally have a setup where I won’t have to cary three or four other lenses on me all the time.

I loved how compact my X-T2 was, but every time I now take it in my hands, it almost feels like it shouldn’t be put together with some of the larger XF lenses, like the XF 90mm or the XF 50-140mm. I occasionally felt those lenses strain my wrist - something I never experience with the X-H1 as the grip is big enough for me to use the strength of my fingers to get the camera in position rather than use my wrist to keep the camera stable. It’s a welcome addition that I got quickly used to and  will probably struggle to let go off if I ever have to.

Apart from those easily noticeable improvements, I also noticed the viewfinder at the resolution of 3.69M to be incredibly sharp and didn’t see any lag in response in my regular use. I also think the viewfinder now renders the images a little more reliably than it did in my X-T2. Another change is the nature of the shutter button, and even if it took me a little bit of time to get used its different feel, I don’t find it to be getting in the way of my shooting. It feels a little softer, and nicely corresponds with the gentler and quieter sound of the mechanical shutter. 

Much has been written about the Fujifilm image quality and as far I can tell, the 24 megapixel sensor still delivers the quality I need. However, when we were shooting the teaser for my exhibition in Prague, I noticed huge differences in the video quality. Not only are there substantially more options, such as shooting video in the f-log format internally or having a much better control over the data flow (bit-rate of up to 200Mbps), but the addition of the Eterna cinematic profile is also a huge asset. We used it while shooting the teaser in order to save space and maintain a quick workflow. I am not a particularly skilled video editor, but noticed the files to be pleasantly flexible when post-processing. 

The biggest difference from the video capabilities of the X-T2, however, must be the radically improved sharpness and rendering of the video. It all feels more cinematic and a lot less digital, especially in the way movement is rendered. Unlike the previous X-Series models, the X-H1 for the first time feels like a really professional tool for videographers. When shooting the teaser, we had it mounted on a DJI Ronin and it worked like a charm. Thanks to the image stabilisation, I am excited to finally have a camera I can use to document my shooting process in order to promote my photography work in the future without having to carry around a tripod to get smooth footage.

Overall, the X-H1 one feels like a radical step forward and I am happy Fujifilm has decided to go in this direction. It also feels really sturdy in my hands and is one hell of a sexy camera without attracting too much unnecessary attention. I am currently in Kazakhstan where the average winter temperatures drop below -20° Celcius during the day and I haven’t had a single issue with the camera. I’m sure it will stay with me at least until Fujifilm releases another model in the future. Gear acquisition syndrome kicking in, I’m already excited!

Click on the image below to watch the teaser shot on X-H1!

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