Hands-on impressions of Fujifilm’s new 40.2-megapixel X-H2 camera

With yesterday’s announcement of the new X-H2 mirrorless camera, Fujifilm is trying to fill a hole in its lineup between its APS-C offerings and its medium format GFX line by putting a 40.2-megapixel sensor in its latest X-series body. This may seem like a bit of a compromise since Fujifilm doesn’t have a full-frame system, but one benefit of sticking with its smaller sensors and just adding resolution is having a camera that’s still fairly compact. I got to briefly try out a preproduction version of the new X-H2 and the recently released X-H2S at Fujifilm’s X-Summit NYC event, and there may be a lot to like here if you’re a loyal Fujifilm user. Here are some initial thoughts and finer details learned from the short time with these cameras.

good grips

For $1,999.95, the X-H2 seems like a fair value for a semi-pro camera with a high-resolution sensor. The all-metal build of the X-H2 and X-H2S is very rugged and feels well equipped for being thrust into a situation where your camera may take a small beating. The buttons and dials feel clicky and solid, almost leaning a tad on the stiff side. The tilting rear LCD is sturdy, with some nice weight and resistance as you turn it. It’s not the overengineered multitilt rear screen of the Nikon Z9, but it doesn’t feel like a glaring structural weak point.

The grips of the X-H2 and X-H2S are great, but be prepared for your pinky finger to be left hanging.

Thankfully, the well-pronounced thumb rest offers enough grip to compensate for your floating digit down below the camera.

While the rubberized grips on the X-H2 and X-H2S feel as rigid as small tanks, the height of the grips may leave the tip of your pinky finger hanging in the air. I’m used to this ergonomic flaw with my own full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras, and if it’s a deal-breaker for you on bodies like those, it may be a deal-breaker here. Yes, you can always attach a vertical grip, but those add-ons are cumbersome and make mirrorless cameras feel more like old DSLR clunkers.

A top LCD and EVF that are easy on the eyes

Above the grip is the top LCD, which is a large negative display that brightly illuminates (switching to a positive contrast display) with a press of the button on the side of the electronic viewfinder. It really pops in low light and remains visible even in bright light, though it drains the battery faster, so it automatically times out after 30 minutes or once the camera is turned off.

Note the shutter speed on the easy-to-read top display. That 1/180,000th of a second with the e-shutter is very, very fast.

Illuminating the top display is great for low-light readability, but it still looks crisp and great, even outside.

Speaking of the EVF, the 5.76 million-dot viewfinder is crisp and has a comfortable eye relief. When using the eye sensor auto-switching live view mode, you do see momentary blackness before the EVF turns on, though it’s in line with how other cameras in this price zone work. Just like the tilt screen, I’ve experienced other cameras that do it better (Sony A1, Nikon Z9, Canon R3), but they cost much more than the X-H2 and X-H2S.

Fujifilm also builds in myriad power optimization modes that change the behavior of the EVF. I counted six performance modes: normal; economy; low light priority; resolution priority; EVF frame rate priority (120p); and EVF frame rate priority (240p). You can pick according to your preference and shooting scenarios, and I did notice some changes in the EVF’s behavior when I swapped modes — like buttery smoothness for bright light situations or more jittery responsiveness with better visibility in the dark, all at the potential expense of battery life. Fujifilm loves giving users a borderline excessive amount of control with little things like these, and the truth may be that most people will leave it on normal, never change it, and be totally fine.

The need for speed (and slightly clunky AF controls)

While the X-H2S is the speed demon variant, the high-resolution X-H2 is no slouch. They both support the same eye, face, and object detection autofocus smarts. Both cameras easily grabbed focus on the eye of a static or moving subject when I briefly used them. You have all kinds of autofocus options to choose from — even telling the camera to prefer the right or left eye — but these settings may require a lot of familiarity before you’re just as fast as the camera.

They look nearly identical, but the X-H2 (left) brings the resolution while the X-H2S (right) sports the speedier chops.

For example, eye, face, and object tracking are isolated from each other in the settings. So while these focusing systems are advanced, if you’re switching among them, it requires more dialing in and futzing than I initially expected. I know most modern cameras are a small nightmare of menu systems to learn and adapt to, but I hope for the sake of you Fujifilm fans that you can adjust to this without auditing a class on camera menu logic.

Maybe just don’t use the electronic shutter on the X-H2?

One of the things I did my best to torture test in my short time with the new Fujifilm cameras was the electronic shutters of the X-H2 and X-H2S. As someone who uses a camera with a stacked sensor, I’m spoiled by the ability to shoot at high speeds without viewfinder blackout. Unsurprisingly, the X-H2S and its faster stacked sensor seemed to handle quick, jarring pans just fine with its e-shutter. The straight lines in the frame still looked straight and did not succumb to much rolling shutter jello effect.

The X-H2 demo was a preproduction model, so I couldn’t take pictures back for detailed comparisons. But this side by side of similar images shows a small glimpse of how the e-shutter on the X-H2’s BSI sensor can lead to bendy vertical lines when quickly panning.

It was a different story with the X-H2 and its more traditional BSI (non-stacked) sensor. I could easily take a picture with movement in it where vertical lines looked crooked and a little bendy. This is the downside of the higher resolution X-H2 sensor and its slower readout speeds. While on paper it sounds good that the X-H2 can shoot 20fps blackout-free with its electronic shutter, it will most likely be limited to situations with little to no subject or camera movement — a limitation you don’t have to worry about on the X-H2S.

It’s easy to think this dichotomy between the siblings could have been remedied if Fujifilm opted for one camera that had both a high megapixel count and a stacked sensor, but according to Yuji Igarashi of Fujifilm, that one-camera solution would have just cost too much . However, the good news is that these cameras have excellently dampened mechanical shutters that are quiet and don’t cause too much vibration (shutter shock) within the body.

New Fujinon lenses

As for the new XF 56mm f/1.2 lens and GF 20–35mm f/4 lenses announced alongside the X-H2, both felt nicely built with fast autofocusing. The new 56mm remains fairly small and compact like its predecessor, though Fujifilm is claiming it’s better than the old design it replaces in every way (more technical sharpness and quality bokeh, less “character” and flaws like chromatic aberrations and coma). The GF 20–35mm and its rubberized focus and zoom rings felt very robust when mounted to the GFX100S. Even though Fujifilm’s medium format offerings are on the budget end of the spectrum in that world, every time I pick one up, I get that “this thing means business” feeling.

One of the benefits of APS camera systems like the X-series is that a fast prime like the new 56mm f/1.2 is fairly small.

The new GF 20–35mm f/4 ultrawide-angle zoom mounted to the GFX100S. For a medium format zoom that reaches a 16mm full-frame equivalent wide angle, it’s not terribly large.

Last on the lens front, Fujifilm announced two tilt-shift lenses at the tail end of its X-Summit keynote — as a tongue-in-cheek “two more things” moment. They are a 30mm f/5.6 and a 110mm f/5.6. The presenters gave no further details about these lenses other than a very brief onstage tease to expect more at a later time.

Overall, I left the demo area of ​​the X-H2 and X-H2S feeling moderately impressed by what Fujifilm has put together. I think X-series holdouts who have long awaited a high-resolution camera will have a lot to like. Though if your heart is with bigger sensors, Fujifilm’s only answer remains the large jump up to medium format.

Photography by Antonio G. Di Benedetto / The Verge

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: