Review: Fujifilm X-H2S
The much-anticipated successor to the enormously popular Fujifilm X-H1 is here - and Fuji fans rejoice: it’s no let-down! As Fujifilm’s most capable video-stills hybrid to date, the specs on the Japanese company's latest APS-C mirrorless camera are a big step forward for Fujifilm’s market competitiveness in the resolution arms race. And, to boot; it still maintains that unique Fujifilm feel.
I’ve been lucky enough to have reviewed almost every new Fujifilm camera in the last five years and each time I open a Fujifilm box it’s kind of a feeling of coming home. Importantly; I don’t put that down to just how many of these cameras I’ve had in my hands but more so how they make you feel.
At a time when cameras can do almost everything including making you a double-shot soy latte, it’s easy to pick up a modern camera and simply feel lost within the sub-menus and sub-menus of acronyms and auto-focus modes.
It was for this reason that I was a little uneasy when I read the specs on the X-H2S. words like “5th generation X-Trans CMOS 5 HS sensor and X- Processor 5”, “phase-detection pixels” and “deep learning technology” seemed to dampen that typically warm, by-the-fire feeling of unboxing a trusty Fujifilm.
However, to my surprise and delight, what I discovered was a stupendously capable camera that somehow still sports simplicity. Maintaining the retro-styled dials and top screen of the X-H1, the X-H2S is intuitive and pleasure to use, while a power-packed processor somewhere deep inside the camera silently does it’s work with little acronyms to distract you from, well... making photographs.
It would seem that one factor that bolsters Fujilfim shooters’ loyalty to the brand is the company’s commitment to making cameras that are simply a pleasure to use. It’s the retro-styled dials, the simplicity of menu systems, and the natural feeling of their cameras in-hand that make their devices so appealing. Thankfully, the X-H2S is another great example of this philosophy of camera design.
That said, at first glance it's hard to see many diﬀerences when you look at the X-H2S and the X-H1, with refinements largely focussed on ergonomic features. However, there are some changes - including no dedicated shutter speed or ISO dial, meaning most settings are changed using the front and rear command dials.
The body includes a decent array of customisable buttons, including two on the front panel (one of which replaces the AFS/AFC/MF control), and four buttons on the right of the camera's top-plate display - WB, ISO, Rec and a blank button which can be assigned as you wish. In fact, there's a total of ten customisable buttons on the X-H2S, which really allows you to personalise the camera to your own shooting style.
On the rear, the X-H2S has the same fully-articulated 1.62M dot, 3:2" rear touchscreen as that on the X-T4, and it offers a 5.76M dot viewfinder with up to 1600x1200 pixel resolution. It's worth noting that boosting the refresh rate to 120fps in the camera's high framerate Boost mode does lower the resolution a little.
In regards to battery life, the X-H2S also uses the same NP-W235 battery as the X-T4. This is a 16Wh unit, which helps the camera deliver a battery life rating of around 580 images per charge when using the rear LCD and about 550 when using the viewfinder.
Considering the camera's video chops, it's nice to see the inclusion of a full-sized HDMI port. And in addition, the X-H2S's USB port is brought right up-to-date - it's now a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) port, offering twice the speed of the Gen 1 port on the X-T4.
Finally, and again underscoring Fujifilm's target users of sports and wildlife shooters, refinements to the shutter release see it more responsive and precise than ever, and the X-H1’s well-loved handgrip has been deepened, making the camera feel very secure in-hand, especially when paired with longer lenses like the newly announced XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR.
Speaking of which, the X-H2S is also surprisingly light (660g) even with that same XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR attached.
The X-H2S is designed for sports, wildlife and generally any photographers seeking to photograph fast-moving things. Describing the blistering burst rate capability of the X-H2S, Fujifilm has borrowed Henri Cartier-Bresson’s book title and subsequent mantra to declare that with this camera in hand you will “never miss a decisive moment”.
HCB probably never dreamed that cameras would one day be capable of capturing 40 frames per second of black-out free shooting but nonetheless, Fujifilm are probably right. Like many new generation mirrorless cameras, the X-H2S uses a stacked CMOS sensor which brings with it a significant speed boost for the camera's readout.
In burst mode, the X-H2S’s sensor’s phase-detection pixels are controlled independently from the image display meaning that it triples the number of possible calculations allowing the camers to make more frequent AF calculations between frames.
This, alongside the camera’s increased memory write capacity, makes for some quite astounding capture capability. Shooting in JPEG, the X-H2S is capable of capturing up to 30fps for over 1000 images continuously and 20fps in RAW when using the electronic shutter.
Partly this is helped by the X-H2S becoming the first X-series camera to use a card format other than SD, with a CFexpress Type B slot adopted for its highest quality video capture modes.
The X-H2S also sees a big jump in autofocus ability over the X-H1, with an improved AF prediction algorithm for subject tracking in almost any lighting conditions, most notably in ZoneAF and low-contrast conditions.
The camera’s X-Processor 5, which Fujifilm says is 65% faster than the previous generation of processor, also features subject-detection AF based on Deep Learning technology that automatically detects and tracks animals, birds, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, airplanes, trains and human faces and eyes.
It's also worth mentioning that engaging subject detection or eye detection will over-ride your other AF selection, but won't return you to the other mode when disengaged, so you'll need to pay attention to which mode you're in at times.
Resolution and Video
In addition to significant improvements in speed, the X-H2S also boasts a boost to resolution. While stills capture from the stacked CMOS 26MP sensor doesn’t quite stack up with competing models from Sony and Canon, the X-H2S’s video capability does. Open Gate 6.2K movies can be recorded internally at 30P in 4:2:2 10-bit colour and readout speeds of up to 1/180 sec make for more control over rolling shutter eﬀects.
The X-H2S also features a new heat-dissipating structure, increasing the recording time to up to 240 minutes of 4K/60P video, supports Apple ProRes and RAW output via HDMI as well as F- Log2, which records an expanded dynamic range of 14+ stops.
Facilitating recording at these resolutions is an all-new five-axis in-body image stabilisation system, providing up to seven stops of compensation and again underlining that this is a camera designed for photographers and videographers focused on sports or needing to shoot in low-light conditions. I found image stabilisation as a whole significantly improved when compared with the X-H1 and X-T4.
Fujifilm’s signature controls and grips are hard to beat. Simplicity and ease-of use in a body that looks great, too.
There are plenty of cameras on the market that will outshine the X-H2S stills resolution. But the camera largely makes up for it by being such a solid all-rounder.
On paper, the X-H2S’s auto-focus has the goods. In practice it performed well but was ocasionally hit-and-miss in some front-lit scenarios.
Image Quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Tested with the XF150-600mm F5.6-8RL MO IS WR lens, images were tack-sharp and Fujifilm’s in-camera JPEG film emulation is always very impressive.
Open Gate 6.2K and 4:2:2 10-bit colour make this a real camera of interest for serious video shooters. This is probably the best performance from any Fujifilm camera i've used to date.
The Fujifilm X-H2S is a camera that will not only keep Fujifilm shooters happy, but may even be the camera that sees Fuji-curious photographers take the leap and switch brands. This is because the X-H2S certainly ticks a lot of boxes, and especially so if you're a hybrid shooter.
It's worth considering too that the “S” designation (standing for speed) could imply that sister models in the X-H line may be in the pipeline as well - although we can't be sure. If this does prove to be the case however, I can already imagine how powerful a higher-resolution model designed for portraiture and/or photojournalism could be.
But back to the X-H2S. Thrown over my shoulder with the neck strap attached to the lens’ mounts, it would be easy to dismiss the camera’s light weight for a lack of ability, but once raised to your eye, you'll remember what this camera is truly capable of. Startling speed paired with a silent shutter and serious stabilisation: “S” indeed. This camera will perform but perhaps more importantly; delight.