Monday, September 26, 2022
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Fujifilm X-H2S 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 (though without ‘true HDR’ option)
  • 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. Fujifilm has said there will also be an X-H2 model with a 40MP BSI sensor.

The Fujifilm X-H2S has a recommended price of $2499. The VG-XH battery grip that takes two batteries costs $399, while the screw-on fan costs $199. A 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 use face/eye detection at the same time as 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 standard 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 a 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. The high-speed modes cannoth be captured in H.264, ProRes or H.265 4:2:2 Long GOP, leaving 4:2:2 All-I as the highest quality option.

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 enough 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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Image Quality

Studio Scene

Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you’ll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.

We suspect the small difference in apparent sharpness between the X-H2S and the X-T3 and 4 is primarily down to the fractionally darker exposure giving a hint more contrast to proceedings, perhaps with a minute difference in focus. Look at the Raw and the difference essentially disappears.

What’s good to see is that there’s not too much of a cost to be paid in terms of high ISO performance, in return for the X-H2S’ Stacked CMOS speed. The difference becomes apparent at the very highest ISO settings, but in most circumstances it’s not significant.

As before, high ISO noise reduction is pretty reasonable, doing a decent job of holding on to detail at high ISOs, and not completely smoothing-over low-contrast detail. There’s little change in color rendering compared with the X-T4, though again, the optimal exposure fell between 1/60 and 1/50 second exposures for these two cameras, so the X-T4’s image is a touch brighter than perfect, while the X-H2S’s is a fraction darker.

Overall, this is a good result: we were impressed with the X-T3 and 4, so maintaining comparable image quality despite the big speed increase is a creditable result.

Dynamic Range

DSCF3276
The camera’s DR modes let you exploit the camera’s dynamic range by reducing exposure or amplification and capturing one or two additional stops of highlights, for shooting in high-contrast settings.

Fujifilm XF 16-80mm F4 R OIS WR @ 16mm | ISO 320 (DR200) | 1/900 sec | F8.0
Photo: Richard Butler

Our dynamic range tests look at the deep shadows of the images, to see whether differences in electronic, read noise are having any impact on the deepest tones the camera can convey.

If we look at a base ISO image, raised up to the level of an ISO 3200 shot with the same exposure, you can see there’s a distinct increase in noise. It’s more than the X-T4 and the difference widens in the darker tones. This noise level increases a fraction if you use the camera’s electronic shutter mode (and fast burst modes), meaning you’re probably better off using a higher ISO, rather than sticking to base to try to protect highlights.

It’s a similar story if we look at base ISO images underexposed and then brightened (as you might when shooting a high-contrast scene). You can see that the X-H2S is noticeably noisier than the X-T4 in the very deepest shadows, and noisier again in E-shutter mode. With less significant pushes, you can see that the X-H2S matches the X-T4 down as far as a +4EV shadow lift, or a +3EV lift in electronic shutter mode.

This essentially matches what we saw with the Nikon Z9‘s Stacked sensor, compared with the BSI chip in the Z7 II: a very slight increase in read noise as a result of the fast readout being seen as a reduction in usable dynamic range. These differences become slightly larger in the fast burst modes where the camera uses fully electronic shutter.

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Autofocus

The X-H2S uses an evolution of Fujifilm’s existing AF system, with a few small changes. The most obvious is the replacement of the AF-S/AF-C/MF switch with a button that, by default, accesses those same functions.

DSCF3252
Animal detection AF mode can help catch your dog’s eye, even when they’re otherwise distracted

Fujifilm XF 16-80mm F4 R OIS WR @ 76mm | ISO 160 | 1/1250 sec | F5.0
Photo: Richard Butler

The main change to the behavior is the addition of subject-recognition tracking modes. As mentioned in the ‘What’s new’ section, engaging subject detection or eye detection over-rides the other, but doesn’t return you to the other mode, when disengaged again, so you’ll need to pay attention to which mode you’re in, if you find yourself switching back and forth.

AF performance

The first thing we noticed is that face and eye-detection is much more persistent than on previous Fujifilm cameras (though still a little prone to seeing faces in other objects). We didn’t have quite as much luck with the subject recognition modes. We couldn’t fully test them all but while animal and bird recognition modes could work very well, they seemed to need the subject to be at a specific angle to the camera, eg: perfectly side-on or facing the camera. If the subject was looking or moving away from you, the camera would often lose it.

Recognition is only part of the challenge of autofocus, though, and we wanted to check whether the camera could predict and assess distance, and drive the focus to that distance, fast enough for its 40fps shooting rate.

We shot our standard AF test, to see how well the camera can refocus on a steadily approaching subject, and found it did a very good job, with nearly 90% of images in perfect focus and only 5% significantly out-of-focus, even at 40 fps.

DSCF0111 001
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

16 images taken from a 128-shot, 40fps sequence. Includes two of only around seven significantly misfocused images

When set the most complex task of having to track a subject moving around the frame, approaching at a less predictable rate, it did less well. The tracking aspect did a great job, with the AF point always positioned on the subject wherever it moved. However, the camera was not so good at assessing what distance to drive the focus and would regularly re-focus to the background, seemingly regardless of the camera’s C-AF settings.

DSCF2390 001
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

16 images taken from a 221-shot, 30fps sequence. This includes two of only eight significantly out-of-focus images.

Dropping to 20 or 30 fps significantly increased our hit-rate and eliminated the propensity to re-focus on the background, with the camera doing a much better job of maintaining focus. In our testing, we got more in-focus images by shooting at 20fps with release priority than by shooting at 40fps with focus priority selected, taking the proportion of perfectly focused images back up to ~90%.

This gives the impression that trying to follow a subject in the scene, assess its distance and drive focus to that distance is simply too much work for a camera also trying to generate forty 26MP images every second. Dropping the shooting rate to 30 or 20fps also significantly decreases the likelihood of you ever hitting the limits of the camera’s buffer, while still leaving you shooting as fast as the latest $5K+ pro sports cameras.

Getting the best out of the camera for fast-moving subject requires that you spend some time learning how to configure the C-AF settings, to tell the camera a little about how your chosen subject is likely to move.

Overall it’s by far the best performance we’ve seen from a Fujifilm camera. Eye-detection isn’t quite as ‘sticky’ as the best Canon and Sony cameras (or Nikon’s Z9) and the hit-rate isn’t always up with the best pro-level cameras, but with a bit of work and the right lens, it’s a highly credible performer, especially if you’re willing to drop the frame rate a little.

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Video

The X-H2S, like the original X-H1, represents a significant step forward for Fujifilm in terms of video capabilities. The most obvious change is its ability to capture ProRes footage internally. Even in the smaller ‘LT’ form, it still generates very large files, but also reduces the need for some editing software to transcode the footage before you can work on it. The addition gives you a wide choice of codecs in the majority of the camera’s shooting modes.

In terms of quality, at low frame rates the X-H2S produces detail levels much like that of the X-T4, but there’s no crop in 60p mode, so this detail level is maintained at higher frame rates. Moving up to 120fps slow-mo capture applies a 1.29x crop and limits your choice of codecs but the output is still good. (The same can’t be said of the high-speed 1080 modes, which get significantly worse beyond 120fps).

The difference our scene can’t show is the much faster readout speed. The most obvious benefit is that there’s very little rolling shutter distortion when there’s movement across the frame and less chance of awkward interaction between rolling shutter and the movement of the image stabilization system.

6.2K UHD 4K DCI 4K
24p 6.2ms 5.2ms 4.9ms
60p 5.2ms 4.9ms
120p (1.29x crop) 3.8ms 3.5ms
24p F-Log2
(14-bit readout)
11.5ms 9.7ms 9.1ms

But this fast readout also allows the camera to capture footage in higher than usual bit-depth. Capture bit-depth can limit the dynamic range of a camera, and most cameras drop from 14-bit capture to 12-bit capture when they move to their video modes. The X-H2S can shoot 6.2K or 4K at up to 30p from 14-bit readout in its F-Log2 mode and increases base ISO by 1EV to capture additional highlight information (which inevitably means every other tone is made from less light, and hence will be noisier). The 14-bit readout rate is slower than the camera’s other modes but still faster than the X-T4’s 4K.

We shot our DR test wedge, with F-Log2 exposed so the very brightest patch clipped, then switched to F-Log mode and used comparable settings. You can see the waveforms of these shots by selecting from the top two ‘buttons,’ in the diagram above. As we would expect, F-Log2 is able to resolve an additional stop of highlights, compared with F-Log.

Interestingly, the F-Log2 mode doesn’t appear to use the full extent of the 10-bit file, only recording values up to 864 (F-Log uses everything up to 1023). This makes us wonder if F-Log2 uses the same philosophy as Panasonic’s V-Log curve: leaving headroom in the design of the curve for future, higher dynamic range sensors (perhaps in the GFX series).

The lower two ‘buttons’ then show the effect of applying Fujifilm’s LUTs that convert this Log footage to a wide dynamic range tonal response and standard TV gamut. Both represent the same scene brightness as middle grey, but with a more gentle roll-off in the case of F-Log2 (6 stops above middle grey, rather than 5).

Even from the waveforms you can see there’s more noise in the shadows of the F-Log2 footage, with less well-defined steps at the lower left of the diagram, but it’s a mode that lets you push the X-H2S a little harder in high-contrast conditions, to take advantage of its uprated performance.

Video autofocus

The X-H2S’s autofocus options in video are less advanced than those in stills: you can specify an AF area or ask the camera to identify and track one of the subject it’s been taught to recognize, but you can’t tell the camera to track whatever’s under the current AF point (there’s no generic tracking function). This means there’s more work to be done, making sure the camera hasn’t jumped to a different face in the scene if your subject looks away, or making sure to manually reposition the AF point if your subject moves away from their initial position.

You can tell the camera how quickly to refocus (fast to keep a moving subject in focus, slow to perform slow, intentional focus pulls between subjects), and how sensitive to subject movement it should be.

The performance varies fairly significantly with lens design, with some lenses able to drive the focus smoothly and silently and others being a little louder or jumpier, so it’s worth testing your lenses before committing to using AF full time.

Image stabilization and thermal stability

Image stabilization is significantly improved, compared with the X-H1 and X-T4, with the camera much less prone to dramatically recentering, once it’s hit the extreme of its travel. It’s not quite as polished as Panasonic and OM System’s cameras, which are good at recognizing when the camera movement is intentional, and will sometimes fight against the movement you’re trying to make. The ‘Boost’ mode, designed to fight all movement for static shots is very good, though, giving slight but smooth movement where it can’t maintain a tripod-like lock.

Fujifilm X H2S with fan
The optional fan extends the temperature range the camera comfortably work in, but a lot of videographers may find they don’t need it.

We’ve been impressed by how well the X-H2S resists overheating, given how many high datarate modes it offers. At room temperature, it was only the 4K 120fps mode we managed to get to overheat (after more than an hour). 6.2K and 4K/60p capture recorded essentially without limit. Adding the fan nearly doubled the amount of 120fps footage we could capture, so its main benefit appears to be for outdoor shooting and providing additional peace-of-mind on can’t-miss shoots.

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Conclusion

What we like What we don’t
  • Excellent image quality with broad selection of JPEG processing modes
  • Comfortable hand-grip and well-positioned, customizable controls
  • Up to 40fps shooting with usefully deep buffer
  • Improved AF system can be tuned to give a very high hit-rate
  • Impressively detailed video with minimal rolling shutter
  • Wide choice of video resolutions, framerates and codecs
  • F-Log2 mode can give wider dynamic range (up to 30p)
  • Good battery life
  • Can record for long periods without overheating
  • Optional fan adds dependability for video shoots without adding cost or bulk for photographers
  • Command dial interface works well for both stills and video
  • Boost IS mode gives nice video results when you don’t have a tripod
  • Continuous AF can struggle at camera’s fastest frame rate
  • Subject recognition modes work less well if subject isn’t at expected angle to camera
  • No generic tracking mode in video
  • AF system needs a fair degree of fine-tuning
  • Custom settings banks don’t let you control which parameters are saved
  • Video IS can fight against intentional movements, reducing smoothness
  • Command dial interface won’t be to everyone’s taste

The X-H2S represents the highest-end camera we’ve ever seen in the X-series: a fast-shooting sports and wildlife camera designed for both stills and video. It’s essentially a mirrorless successor to the high-end APS-C DSLRs that Canon and Nikon used to make, except it’s capable of shooting many times faster and can convincingly turn its hand to high-quality 4K video capture.

It certainly sets a new standard within the X system in most regards. Its much-improved AF and deep buffer make its higher shooting speeds genuinely useful, and its video output moves on from the already very good X-T4 in a number of ways.

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

Autofocus performance is central to much of the X-H2S’s stills-shooting. We found its AF system can be tuned to give very good results but tracking complex motion at 40 fps was a step too far. Similarly, its slightly picky subject recognition modes can lead to focus misses, if your subject isn’t in a photo-friendly pose. With a little tuning and some understanding of the potential pitfalls, we achieved very high hit-rates, even when shooting at the 20 and 30fps that its pro-grade peers offer.

It’s a similar story with video: it does almost everything extremely well, even if it sometimes falls a fraction behind the best out there. So, for instance, its video AF isn’t as simple and powerful as Canon and Sony’s, and its stabilization isn’t up to Panasonic and OMDS levels, but it’s not far off in either regard. Its overall performance and beautiful footage mean its peers are the likes of the Panasonic GH6 or Sony’s a7S III/FX3, and it’s not overmatched by either.

DSCF3298
Even away from the action, the X-H2S is an excellent photographic tool

Fujifilm XF 16-80mm F4 R OIS WR @ 55mm | ISO 160 | 1/1320 sec | F5.6
Photo: Richard Butler

More generally, the X-H2S is a superb all-rounder with the full suite of imaging options Fujifilm has built up over the first decade of X-mount cameras, along with a good degree of customization, tethered shooting options, anti-flicker modes… Some X-series users have been disappointed by the move from dedicated exposure dials to a command-dial design, but it’s been the dominant approach across all other brands for decades now (and recent GFX cameras), so it’s difficult to make the argument that it’s inherently less effective. On a high-speed/hybrid camera, we found it worked well.

As you might expect, there’s a price to be paid for all this performance, and whether it’s a premium worth paying is likely to depend on how much your shooting requires or could benefit from that raised performance level. The X-H2S is pitched as a stills/video hybrid, but its performance is high enough that it makes a solid choice even if you only plan to use its high-speed stills capabilities or its impressive video.

Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about what these numbers mean.


Compared to its peers

As a spiritual successor to the likes of Canon’s 7D models and Nikon’s D300 and D500 high-performance APS-C cameras, there are few direct peers left for the X-H2S, with the OM System OM-1 perhaps being the most comparable. Its price brings it into competition with lower-performance full-frame options, and specialist cameras such as Panasonic’s GH6.

The OM System OM-1 can shoot faster and can form smaller lens/camera combinations, particularly for long-tele/nature shooting. Its subject recognition is very good but its generic tracking is rather poor, whereas the X-H2S’s generic tracking is very good and it’s the recognition modes that are a little less dependable. The OM-1 does a better job at stabilization but the X-H2S’s video gives you more control, more options and better footage. It’s hard to pick an outright ‘winner’ but the X-H2S has the edge in terms of image quality and is probably the more consistent all-rounder.

Against the full-frame likes of the Sony a7 IV and Canon EOS R6, the X-H2S is at a disadvantage when it comes to image quality (though X-mount has an excellent selection of fast primes that can help minimize that gap). Its autofocus also isn’t quite as effortless to operate as on the two full-framers. With a little tuning, the Fujifilm can focus extremely well and can do so when shooting at up to 40fps (though it’s more dependable at 20 and 30fps): making it much more adept for sports, action and wildlife shooting.

It’s essentially it’s a question of whether IQ or performance matters more for your photography and video.

Its video is also on another level, with excellent detail and much less rolling shutter than either camera (though in low light their larger sensors give them a boost). It’s essentially it’s a question of whether IQ or performance matters more for your photography and video.

The X-H2S’s video puts it into competition with Panasonic’s Lumix DC-GH6. The Panasonic includes features such as waveform displays and a built-in fan that gives pro-production certainty that even X-H2S’s bolt-on fan can’t match. The GH6’s stabilization is also much more smooth, if you plan to move the camera. The X-H2S’s autofocus is more dependable (with the right lenses), and it’s got a sensor size advantage when it comes to low-light quality. In many situations its footage is arguably better and it’s certainly a better hybrid camera, if you also plan to shoot stills. DPR TV’s Jordan Drake will be assessing both cameras from a one-man production perspective in the coming weeks.

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Sample galleries

Review sample gallery

Pre-production sample gallery

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

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