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Fujifilm X-H2S initial review

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Fujifilm X H2S lead image

The Fujifilm X-H2S is the company’s most capable video/stills hybrid yet: a 26MP X-mount mirrorless camera built around a Stacked CMOS sensor.

It can shoot stills at up to 40fps (15fps with mechanical shutter), and capture full-sensor 6.2K video or 4K at up to 120 frames per second. As you’d expect, its autofocus has received a major boost, with subject-recognition and improved tracking.

Key specifications

  • 26MP APS-C Stacked CMOS sensor with X-Trans color filter pattern
  • Continuous shooting at up to 40fps with no blackout (15 with mech shutter).
  • Improved AF tracking and subject recognition AF
  • 10-bit HEIF output (ideal for true HDR capture)
  • Image stabilization rated at up to 7EV
  • 6.2K ‘open-gate’ video from sensor’s full 3:2 region
  • DCI or UHD 4K video from full width, up to 60p
  • Slow-mo DCI or UHD 4K from up to 120fps capture (with crop)
  • Choice of codecs including ProRes HQ, Std and LT options
  • F-Log 2 from 14-bit readout gives additional dynamic range
  • 5.76M dot OLED viewfinder with 0.8x magnification and up to 120fps refresh
  • CFexpress Type B and UHS-II SD slots
  • Optional cooling fan for longer video capture times
  • Choice of two optional grips, the VG-XH battery grip and FT-XH file transmitter

The additional ‘S’ in the X-H2S’s name implies there’s to be a sister model but, as yet, it’s unclear how the emphasis between the two models will differ. The X-H2S has a more advanced video spec than any previous Fujifilm model and the company says the ‘S’ stands for speed.

The Fujifilm X-H2S will be available from July 7 for a recommended price of $2499. The VG-XH battery grip that takes two batteries will cost $399, while the screw-on fan will cost $199. The file transfer grip is scheduled to arrive in September at a cost of $999.



What’s new

Stacked CMOS sensor and X-Processor 5

Fujifilm X H2S sensor

As we’ve seen on other recent high-end cameras, the adoption of a Stacked CMOS sensor comes with a significant speed boost for the camera’s readout. In this instance it not only allows the camera to capture full-resolution images at up to 40 frames per second but also boosts how frequently the sensor can provide data for AF calculations.

Fujifilm says the stacked version of the 26MP X-Trans sensor is 3.6x faster than the single-layered BSI design in the X-T3 and 4, and that the new X-Processor 5 is 65% faster than the previous generation of processor. Together this pairing allows faster shooting, faster, more sophisticated AF, video at higher frame rates and with less rolling shutter (even when reading the sensor with greater bit-depth).

There’s also a new mechanical shutter. This still gives a maximum burst rate of 15fps and top speed of 1/8000th, but it’s now rated to last 500,000 shots. As with previous X cameras, you can set the camera to switch between fully mechanical, electronic first curtain and fully electronic at the appropriate points, or manually select your shutter type.

There’s a suitably large buffer to accommodate this speed, too: with the camera able to shoot for 184 JPEGs or 175 Raws at 40 fps and over 1000 JPEGs in 30fps or 15 fps modes, and 400 Raws at that lower speed.

HEIF

The X-H2S gains the ability to capture 10-bit HEIF files, rather than just 8-bit JPEGs. However, unusually, there’s no option to combine this mode with an HDR gamma mode, such as the HLG profile the X-H2S offers in video mode. This means you can only shoot standard DR images, not HDR images for playback on wider-DR 10-bit displays, that would make better use of the ability to capture 10-bit images.

The in-camera Raw reprocessing option lets you generate HEIF files from Raw, but again there’s no way to create a file that really exploits the additional bit-depth (or that of modern displays). There’s also HEIF-to-JPEG conversion option if you find yourself needing the additional compatibility JPEG brings.

Improved autofocus

The X-H2S makes further improvements to Fujifilm’s AF system and the way it operates is now much more similar to the latest cameras from Canon, Sony and Nikon. Subject tracking is much improved, sticking much more tenaciously to your subject but, just as importantly, the camera now uses your chosen AF point or the AF tracking box to select which faces to track, if you have face/eye detection turned on.

Eye Detection UI
Eye detection is now integrated with the main AF system. In this instance, the camera has found an eye near the grey tracking AF box, and has lit it up yellow to indicate that it’ll focus on it if you half press the shutter.

This is a very quick and simple way of working, and means you no longer have to consider whether to invoke face/eye detection: the camera will use it if your subject happens to be recognized as a face.

The camera will draw a grey box around faces it finds in the scene and light these boxes up in yellow if they’re close enough to your AF point that it’s going to focus on them if you initiate focusing. You can’t adjust how close a face needs to be to your chosen AF point for it to be prioritized by the camera but if you find it’s too prone to jumping to a nearby face, you can assign a button to toggle face/eye detection on and off.

With the current firmware we found the X-H2S to still be a little prone to false positives (pointing the camera at my feet, the camera was convinced my brogues had faces), but this is usually fleeting and shouldn’t get in the way of focusing on your chosen subject.

Subject recognition autofocus

In common with the majority of other brands, the latest generation of X-series cameras gains a series of subject recognition modes.

Subject detection
Face/Eye Animal Car Motorbike & bIke Airplane Birds Trains

(inc wearing glasses and mask)

  • Open-wheel
  • Rally cars
  • Passenger cars
  • Fighter jet
  • Passenger plane
  • Prop aircraft

As we’ve seen on several cameras recently, the face/eye recognition modes are kept separate from the other subject recognition modes. You can’t combine face/eye detection with any of the subject recognition modes, so they could have been combined as a single function. Because they’re separate, you’ll need to assign two buttons if you want to be able toggle face/eye detection and also have quick access to the subject recognition modes (if you have a subject detection mode selected, then toggle eye detection on, the camera will not re-engage subject detection when you turn eye detect off again).

Setting a button to access subject detection toggles it on and off: you’ll have to go to the menus to change which type of subject the camera is looking for.

Video

Fujifilm X H2S video
The X-H2S is the most capable video camera Fujifilm has yet made, and gains a full-sized HDMI port and headphone socket, as well as its mic input.

The original X-H1 represented a major step forward for video in the X-series, not least because of the inclusion of in-body image stabilization. This development continued, with the X-T4 offering stabilization and 10-bit 4K capture at up to 60p. The X-H2S moves things on from here considerably, adding internal ProRes capture options and letting you shoot 10-bit 4:2:2 or 4:2:0 in your choice of All-I or LongGOP, for all its resolutions and framerates.

The X-H2S also adds the ability to record 4-channel audio and adds full-sensor 3:2 ‘open gate’ shooting options. But, in perhaps the most telling indication that it’s designed to work for both photographers and videographers, there’s an optional cooling fan module that can be screwed onto the back of the camera, to extend recording times.

Video Settings
Hit the ‘DISP/BACK’ button when you’re in the ‘Q’ menu in video mode, and you’ll get an display showing the internal and external capture settings. You can navigate to the different settings then hit ‘OK’ to jump to the relevant menu page.

4K up to 60p is taken from the full width of the sensor (oversampled from 6.2K). The 4K/120p mode applies a 1.29x crop, but is still slightly oversampled, using a 4.8K pixel width. There’s a 1.38x crop for the camera’s 1080/240p and 200p modes.

Fujiiflm says that the camera can shoot 4K/60p for around four hours (assuming you have the card capacity) at 25°C (77°F), but this drops to 20 minutes if the mercury creeps up to 40°C (104°F). Adding the cooling fan extends the recording time back out to 50 minutes. The main benefit gain, then, is dependability while shooting: gaining the confidence that your camera isn’t going to overheat if you’re shooting in warm conditions.

The X-H2S gains the option to adjust the shutter speed in small increments to avoid clashing with the flicker of artificial lights.

Video Options
Want to change your codec or bitrate? Navigate the option that looks like it dictates which card you’re writing to (it does that too).
Resolution Codec
(Bit depth)
Frame Rates Chroma Comp type Filetype Bitrates
6.2K

ProRes (10-bit)
422 HQ
422
LT

4:2:2 All-I MOV Up to ~2900*
H.265
(10-bit)
4:2:2 or 4:2:0
LongGOP

DCI 4K
UHD 4K
Full HD (17:9)
Full HD
(16:9)

ProRes (10-bit)
422 HQ
422
LT
  • 59.94
  • 50
  • 29.97
  • 25
  • 24
  • 23.98
4:2:2 All-I MOV Up to ~2000*
H.265
(10-bit)
4:2:2 or 4:2:0 All-I
LongGOP
H.264
(8-bit)
  • 59.94
  • 50
  • 29.97
  • 25
  • 24
  • 23.98
4:2:0 All-I MOV
Long GOP MOV or MP4**

* Bitrate varies with ProRes compression level and framerate
**Audio is Linear PCM except in MP4 mode, where AAC compression is used.

Then there’s the addition of a new, F-Log 2 gamma curve. Fujifilm says the X-H2S produces its 6.2K and 4K up to 30p from 14-bit readout, rather than 12-bit mode on previous cameras, meaning the camera can detail up to an extra 2 stops of dynamic range in video mode. F-Log 2 is a designed to incorporate this additional DR, and uses one stop less exposure to capture an additional stop of highlights.

Standard color modes F-Log F-Log2
Base ISO rating 160 640 1250

Despite the higher bit-depth of the 30p (and slower) modes, Fujifilm says the X-H2S offers rolling shutter rates of around 10.6ms in F-Log 2 mode, quicker than the 16.6ms rate of the X-T4. The higher frame-rate modes or use of the original F-Log profile see the camera use a 12-bit readout mode, delivering rolling shutter of 5.6ms.

Fujifilm X H2S ports
The X-H2S has a full-sized HDMI port, mic and headphone sockets and can accept a Tascam XLR adapter to enable four-channel audio recording. Anything plugged into the headphone socket can interfere with the rear screen, though.

In addition to internal H.264, H.265 and ProRes (422 HQ, 422 or 422 LT) capture, the X-H2S can output a 6.2K or 4.8K Raw stream over the HDMI socket that can be encoded as ProRes RAW by the Atomos Ninja V+ recorder or BRaw using a Blackmagic Video Assist 12G HDR. The camera’s capture and output settings can be checked by hitting the DISP/BACK button while in the Q menu.

The camera’s full-sized HDMI port conforms to v2.1 of the standard, meaning it can also output 4K/120p video in up to 10-bit 4:2:2.

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How it compares

The X-H2S sits as the only real high-end APS-C camera on the market. It offers the sporting capability that the likes of the Canon EOS 7D II and Nikon D500 used to deliver, but with video capabilities way beyond anything any DSLR could ever match. That expensive Stacked CMOS sensor means it ends up costing as much as a mid-range full-framer.

So does its speed allow it to offer something to make up for the inevitable image quality difference (when shot at the same exposure settings)? We’ve also included the Panasonic GH6 in this comparison because it sets the benchmark for video capabilities, and the OM System OM-1, as it also offers a relatively low-cost way of getting a Stacked CMOS sensor

Fujifilm X-H2S Sony a7 IV Panasonic Lumix DC GH6 OM System OM-1
MSRP $2499 $2499 $2199 $2199
Sensor size APS-C
(367 sq mm)
Full-frame
(864 sq mm)
Four Thirds
(224 sq mm)
Four Thirds (224 sq mm)
Sensor type Stacked CMOS BSI CMOS BSI CMOS Stacked CMOS
Pixel count 26MP 33MP 25MP 20MP
Max burst rate 40fps (e-shutter)
15fps (mech)
10fps (mech)

8fps with AF-C (Mech)
75fps e-shutter (No AF)

50fps e-shutter (with AF)
Image stabilization Up to 7EV Up to 5.5EV Up to 7.5EV Up to 7EV (8 with some lenses)
Viewfinder 5.76M dots (up to 120fps)
0.8x mag
3.69M dots
0.78x mag
3.68M dots
0.76x mag
5.76M dots
(up to 120fps)
0.83x
4K modes DCI/UHD/60p
DCI/UHD/120p with 1.29x crop
UHD/30p
UHD/60p with 1.5x crop
DCI/UHD/120p DCI/UHD/60p
Rolling shutter (UHD/24p) 5.2ms
(9.7ms F-Log2)
26.0ms 13.3ms 6.9ms
(10-bit footage)
Headphone / Mic Yes / Yes
(Optional 4ch)
Yes / Yes
(Optional 4ch)
Yes / Yes
(Optional 4ch)
Yes / Yes
Open-gate shooting? 6.2K 3:2 No 5.8K 4:3
(with desqueezed preview)
No
Video options ProRes (HQ, Std, LT, Proxy)
H.265 (10-bit)
H.264
H.265 (10-bit)
H.264
ProRes (HQ, Std)
H.265 (10-bit)
H.264
H.265 (10-bit)
H.264
Cooling fan? Optional No Yes No
Battery life
LCD / EVF
580 / 550 580 / 520 360 / 520 /
Weight 660g 659g 823g 599g
Dimensions 136 x 93 x 85 mm 131 x 96 x 80 mm 138 x 100 x 100 mm 135 x 92 x 73 mm

The X-H2’s speed can be seen in its impressive maximum burst rate: a little behind the OM-1 but a long way ahead of the a7 IV. Likewise the Fujifilm’s video shows much less rolling shutter and can deliver 60p from its full sensor width (both are using APS-C sensor areas for 60p but the Fujifilm is sampling more pixels and isn’t cropping-in, compared with 24p mode or stills, so you don’t need a wider lens to shoot slow-mo).

The X-H2 also joins the GH6 in being able to shoot ProRes footage if you want to let your memory card take the strain, rather than your editing machine. It doesn’t offer waveforms or the same level of thermal stability as the GH6, nor does it have valuable (albeit niche) functions such as anamorphic desqueezed previews but, on paper, the X-H2S’s video specs are extremely competitive. Its F-Log2 mode, designed to exploit 14-bit readout, should give it the edge over the Panasonic in high-contrast conditions, leaving a lot hinging on how well its video AF can perform.

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Body & handling

Fujifilm X H2S front

The X-H2S sees the return of the square top-plate status panel from the original X-H1 along with its command-dial led control method. There’s no shutter speed or ISO dial, meaning most settings are changed using the front and rear command dials. Unlike models further down the range, these aren’t clickable dials, but this allows them to feel more substantial.

There’s a fairly substantial handgrip on the front of the camera and an array of customizable buttons, including two on the front panel (one of which replaces the AFS/AFC/MF control). There are also four buttons that run alongside the camera’s top-plate display: [REC], ISO, WB and an unmarked custom button. Each of these can be customized, as can the ‘View Mode’ button on the side of the viewfinder hump and the AF-On, AEL and Q buttons on the back of the camera.

That gives the X-H2S ten customizable buttons and, in addition, you have the option to assign functions to the four directions you can swipe your finger across the camera’s rear screen.

Fujifilm X H2S top panel OLED
There are four buttons to the right of the X-H2S’s top status panel (as you hold the camera). All four can be customized.

The camera has a well-placed AF joystick and you have the choice of whether it simply moves the AF area or lets you edit the size of the AF point at the same time. Pushing in on the joystick can either revert the AF point to a central position, zoom-in on the selected AF point or edit the size of the AF point.

The X-H2S becomes the first X-series camera to use a card format other than SD, with a CFexpress Type B slot being used for its highest quality video capture (the bitrates needed for ProRes capture are way beyond the limits of UHS-II SD cards).

On the other side of the camera there are similar improvements for video and speed. Most significant of these it the adoption of a full-sized HDMI port. The X-H2S’s USB port also gets an upgrade: it’s still a type-C socket but it’s now a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) port, rather than the Gen 1 (5Gbps) interface on the X-T3 and X-T4.

Fujifilm X H2S grip connector port
A rubber door on the base of the cameras conceals rather more extensive camera/grip communications contacts than we’re used to seeing, enabling fast file transfer using the optional FT-XH accessory.

On the base of the camera is a fairly substantial connector with 15 metal contacts and what appears to be a USB-C socket. This is used for connecting the VG-XH vertical grip or the FT-XH file transfer grip. We have to assume the USB-style socket is used to transfer data quickly enought to the FT-XH, to make the grip’s Ethernet and fast (2 x 2 MIMO) Wi-Fi connections worthwhile. Don’t make other plans for the connector though: it may look like a USB port but you can’t just plug in a cable for data or power connections.

Viewfinder and screens

Fujifilm X H2S rear 3qtr

It has the same fully-articulated 1.62M dot, 3:2″ rear touchscreen as the X-T4. This gives a 900 x 600 pixel resolution and can be run at up to 60Hz (in one of the camera’s ‘Boost’ modes).

The viewfinder receives both a size and resolution boost. Its optics deliver 0.8x magnification (in equivalent terms) and the OLED panel behind it has a resolution of 5.76M dots, to deliver up to 1600×1200 pixel resolution.

Our impression is that the live view appears to make full use of this resolution but drops a fraction during focusing. Boosting the refresh rate to 120fps in Boost mode lowers the resolution a little, with resolution during focusing dropping still further. There’s also a ‘240p equivalent’ mode which dims the viewfinder, suggesting the camera is inserting black frames between a 120fps feed to give more separation between frames, making it easier to interpret motion.

Auto ISO

The X-H2S uses the most recent version of Fujifilm’s Auto ISO system. It’s good in that the camera lets you set up three banks of Auto ISO settings, each with its own maximum ISO value and minimum shutter speed threshold. These thresholds can be set to a specific shutter speed or to ‘Auto’ which uses a shutter speed of 1/equivalent focal length (ie: 1/50 sec for a 33mm lens). However, there’s no way of biasing this Auto value to use a shutter speed that’s faster or slower but still related to focal length, as you can on the best implementations.

Auto ISO can be used in Manual exposure mode in both stills and movie modes, letting you choose your shutter speed and aperture, then using Auto ISO to maintain your chosen image lightness.

Battery

Fujifilm X H2S battery

The X-H2S uses the same NP-W235 as the X-T4 did. It’s a 16Wh unit, which helps the camera deliver a battery life rating of 580 per charge using the camera’s LCD and 550 using the viewfinder. As always, these standard battery ratings can rather under-represent the number of shots that you’ll get in a lot of shooting scenarios. It’s not untypical to get twice the rated number of shots, and we find a rating of over 500 will provide enough power for several days of frequent photography. You’re likely to only need to worry about it if you’re shooting video for long periods or are shooting a long, intensive event, such as a wedding.

Boost Modes
The X-H2S has a series of battery-chewing ‘Boost’ modes, depending on your priorities

The camera has a series of power modes, letting you boost battery life to 720 LCD / 610 EVF shot-per-charge ratings in Economy mode, or drop it to 530 / 390 if you want the LCD to run at 60fps and the EVF at 120fps in one of its ‘Boost’ modes.

You can power the camera directly from a suitably powerful USB PD source, which takes further pressure off the internal battery. The optional VG-XH vertical grip adds capacity for two extra batteries, in addition to the internal one, and increases the battery life 2.6x (we’re not sure why it’s not 3x, but there you go).

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Initial impressions

Fujifilm X H2S vs X T4

This is the seventh ILC we’ve encountered to move to using a Stacked CMOS sensor. This is a further advance over BSI technology and allows memory or processing capability to be placed behind the light-sensitive photodiode, rather than having to be squeezed-in around it. And, as before, the result is a big increase in speed.

And, just as with the other Stacked CMOS models, it risks being a little underwhelming at first glance. The are unlikely to be major differences in image quality, and the vast majority of the features appear essentially the same as the models that have gone before. It gains Nostalgic Neg from the recent GFX models, but this is the first Fujifilm to be launched for a while that doesn’t gain a new Film Simulation (though this could be because they’re running out of good film stocks to mimic, and frankly we’d rather they didn’t drift any further into ‘effect’ territory).

Fujifilm’s frame rate claims tell us a lot about what’s going on, under the hood. If 14-bit readout mode in video gives a rolling shutter speed of 1/94 sec and 12-bit mode readout gives 1/180 sec, then it suggests the 1/150 sec rolling shutter Fujifilm quotes for stills mode must come from 12-bit readout (the difference is accounted for because stills need to read the full sensor height, not just the 16:9 region in the middle). This suggests there’ll be reduced dynamic range when you use the camera’s electronic shutter.

Beyond this, the X-H2S feels very familiar, having shot quite a lot with the X-H1, X-T3 and 4 and the recent GFXs. I doubt I’ll ever use the seven (7!) custom positions on the mode dial, but I can live with the loss of the shutter speed and ISO dials, relative to the X-T cameras.

Yes, the headline figures get faster and video frame rates get higher, but for many people this will be unnecessary: pro sports photographers were shooting at around 15fps quite recently, so 40 fps could end up being excessive in a lot of situations. Equally, it’s all very well being about to capture 4K at 120 frame per second, but for most applications, that’s going to end up as 1/4 or 1/5th speed slow-mo, which is nice to have but again hardly essential.

What this overlooks, though, is the degree to which faster readout and processing makes every aspect of a mirrorless camera that bit better: autofocus can be made more responsive and more sophisticated if it’s receiving more frequently updates about what’s in front of it, rolling shutter rates in video improve, meaning even your 24p footage looks better (and promises higher DR, in the case of the X-HS2) and the viewfinder experience can become smoother as well as more detailed.

I’ve not had a chance to put the X-H2S’s 40 fps shooting to the test, nor its 4K/120p options, but even when shooting individual stills, the initial impression is of a super-charged X-Series machine. It’s familiar in all the ways you might hope, but everything just feels a bit better.

DSCF0140
The X-H2S has an extensive range of Film Simulation modes, including ‘Nostalgic Negative.’

Fujifilm XF 18-120mm F4 LM PZ WR @ 34mm | ISO 160 | 1/1500 sec | F4
Shot using a pre-production X-H2S
Photo: Richard Butler

Even without engaging the subject recognition modes, it’s immediately apparent that the autofocus is significantly better than before. The past few years have seen autofocus improve in leaps and bounds, both in performance and in ease-of-use. It’s too early to say whether the X-H2S’s performance is a match for its more recent rivals, but the integration of face/eye detection into the main AF system (to it defers to your chosen AF point) is a great improvement.

We’ll need to do more testing, but our initial impressions are that Fujifilm may have caught up to where the best of its rivals are, in terms of power and ease-of-use. This would represent a huge step forward for the brand, as it’s not always been their area of strength, and the big three brands have all made major steps forward even since the X-T4 was released.

Fujifilm X H2S with fan
The optional fan unit means that users who want to shoot video can add dependability to to the camera, but stills shooting aren’t burdened with the bulk or cost of it.

People waiting for a successor to the X-H1 will be delighted by this camera. Frankly, anyone committed to the X-mount should be pleased with how capable it shows the system to be. The only question is: how much of this capability can be trickled down to the rest of the range, without imposing the cost of Stacked CMOS on them?

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Sample galleries

All images shot using a pre-production Fujifilm X-H2S

Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don’t abuse it.

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