Fujifilm XH2S review
Written by Gordon Laing
The Fujifilm X-H2S is a high-end mirrorless camera with a new 26 Megapixel stacked sensor, 40fps bursts, built-in stabilisation and 6.2k video. It’s the most powerful and feature-packed APSC camera to date, but at $2499 or pounds, it’s also the most expensive.
I’ve now spent some quality time with the X-H2S over several events, allowing me to put together two in-depth video reviews for you. The first is about using the X-H2S for stills photography. The second is all about using it for videography. These are followed by my initial hands-on preview for a brief overview on the physical design of the body, its controls and ports. This preview is repeated in written form below, along with my separate verdicts on the X-H2S for photo and video on the last page! There’s loads to watch and read, so I’ll let you get on with it!
Fujifilm X-H2S overview
Announced in May 2022, the X-H2S actually becomes a joint flagship in the series, alongside the upcoming X-H2 arriving later this year. Right now, Fujifilm’s being coy about how they’ll differ other than their sensors. Both are new fifth generation X-Trans, but the X-H2S employs a 26 Megapixel stacked sensor versus a 40 Megapixel back-illuminated sensor for the X-H2.
Stacked sensors are designed for speed, so while the X-H2S may share the same resolution as the earlier X-Trans 4, it’s much faster, shooting uncropped electronic bursts up to 40fps with less rolling shutter and skewing for both photos and movies, support for higher video frame rates, while also squeezing 120 focus and exposure calculations per second.
But stacked sensors don’t come cheap, and while the X-H2S includes a number of other high-end components, the sensor is a major contributing factor to the $2500 or pound price tag.
To be fair, other stacked sensor cameras aren’t exactly cheap either. The Olympus OM-1 costs $2200 and has a smaller Four Thirds sensor, while full-framers like the original Sony Alpha 9 start at over $3000, with newer versions like the A9 II, A1 and Canon EOS R3 all costing considerably more. In short, you have to really want or need their fast bursts and reduced rolling shutters.
And that’s why Fujifilm will also have the X-H2, an alternative model that’s focused more on resolution, and while a price hadn’t been announced at the time I made this, I’d expect it to be cheaper than the X-H2S. It would also give Fujifilm a chance to make it a more photo-centric camera, although the resolution could support 8k video too. We’ll have to wait and see.
But back to the X-H2S and what we know right now. As well as 40fps electronic bursts, it can fire up to 15fps using the mechanical shutter. The AF array may share the same resolution and full-sensor coverage as the X-Trans 4, but the new X Processor 5 now supports more sophisticated object detection and tracking, including separate settings for humans, animals, birds, automobiles, bikes, aeroplanes and trains.
The movie capabilities also enjoy a serious upgrade over previous generations with the sensor and processor now supporting uncropped 1080 from 24 to 120p, or uncropped 4k from 24 to 60p. Fujifilm says all are oversampled from 6.2k’s worth of data and like earlier models you can choose to film in either the 16:9 UHD or 17:9 DCi shapes.
You can also record the output from the entire sensor in 6.2k resolution from 24 to 30p in the 3:2 shape at 6240×4160, and slow motion fans will also be pleased to find both 4k 120 (with a 1.29x crop) and 1080 240p (with a 1.38x crop), albeit both starting with less data than the over-sampled frame rates.
As before you can encode in H.264 or H.265 formats, although new to the X-H2S is the ability to record ProRes internally, although the higher bit rate will demand a CF Express card.
Graders will appreciate the higher dynamic range of F-Log 2 rated at 14 stops and operating at a base of 1250 ISO, although F-Log is also still available at 640 ISO. Meanwhile the HDMI can output RAW video in either ProRes RAW or BM Raw formats.
Like most recent cameras, the X-H2S dispenses with the old 30 minute recording limit and, given enough power, can now record 4k clips up to four hours long under temperatures of 25 degrees C. One battery should be good for 60 to 90 minutes of video recording, but by adding the optional battery grip you can triple your shooting time.
One of the more interesting accessories for videographers is a $199 fan unit which screws into the back of the camera, behind the screen, and is powered by the camera itself.
There’s various menu options for the fan, but Fujifilm claims it allows the X-H2S to film up to 51 minutes of 4k under temperatures of 40 degrees C when it would have overheated after just 17 minutes without. Sure it may not match a fully-vented heatsink and fan solution, but remains a nice option for videographers, without compromising the body design for those who don’t need it.
I mentioned the battery grip, which costs $399 or pounds and like earlier Fujifilm models packs two extra batteries in addition to the one in the main body, thereby tripling the overall life. This can be particularly useful if you’re shooting in the most power hungry boost modes with the viewfinder.
Fujifilm has also announced a future File Transmitter Grip costing $999 which adds ethernet connectivity, improved Wifi and more advanced wireless options in addition to the two extra batteries.
The body itself measures 136x93x87mm including the generous grip, thinning to 41mm at the narrowest point, and weighs 660g with battery. This makes it a little smaller all-round than the X-H1 and a tad lighter too.
Design-wise, the most obvious difference from the top is a change of exposure control from the separate shutter and ISO dials on either side of the X-H1’s viewfinder head to a single PASM dial on the left side.
Fans of Fujifilm’s vintage aesthetic won’t be pleased, but I don’t think this approach will necessarily be deployed on future versions of their classic models. On the upside, the PASM dial sports no-fewer than seven custom presets, and also frees up room on the right side to include dedicated buttons for movie recording, ISO, White Balance as well as a custom Function alongside the upper information display.
As before there’s finger and thumb dials, although they longer have the push-to-click function. I am pleased to report the AF joystick on the rear, inherited from the GXF100S, is now larger and slightly relocated, making it much more comfortable than before.
Interestingly the previous dedicated front dial for manual, single or continuous AF has now gone, so you’ll need to push the button in its place while turning a control dial to access this setting.
The side-hinged touchscreen is fully-articulated and can be flipped or twisted to almost any angle including facing forward or back on itself for protection. The 3in panel has 1.62 million dots.
The viewfinder enjoys a big upgrade, sporting a 5.76 million dot panel with a generous 0.8x magnification and 60 or 120fps refresh, making it larger, more detailed and smoother than the X-H1, not to mention making Canon’s R7 look a little basic.
Note you’ll only enjoy the full viewfinder resolution or refresh in the boost mode though which will burn through your batteries.
In the grip there’s twin card slots, following Canon’s R5 with one for CF Express Type B and the other for UHS-II SD. CF Express is necessary for recording internal ProRes, as well as providing the deepest buffers for the burst modes. Fit a CF Express card and the X-H2S can fire-off 800 uncompressed RAWs at 20fps, 180 at 30fps or 140 at 40fps.
Ports include 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks as well as full-size HDMI – take that Canon.
And finally the body has built-in sensor shift stabilisation, described as providing up to seven stops of compensation. There’s also additional digital compensation for movies if you like, albeit with the usual minor crop and only up to 60p. Fujifilm also claims to have reduced the IBIS judder when panning.
I’ll be putting all these claims to the test when I get a chance to spend some quality time with a final production model, hopefully before too long, and I’ll link to that in-depth report here when it’s ready.
And that’s all I can tell you about the X-H2S for now, although it does pose the question which sensor will end up filtering down through the range as those models are gradually updated.
The new stacked sensor is impressive, but carries a high price and is only really justified by speed demons, while the upcoming 40 Megapixel sensor is arguably overkill for some of the lower-end models.
Personally I feel the 26 Megapixel resolution of X-Trans 4 is already sufficient for most of us, and what future versions of, say, the X-T and X-Pro series would most benefit from are the AF improvements. Maybe we’ll see the old X-Trans 4 paired with the new X-Processor 5, and while it wouldn’t match the speed of the X-H2S, it should equip them with its advanced subject detection and tracking.
So the X-H2S may have the dream specification for a truly ultimate APSC camera, but carries a price tag to match. It’s certainly interesting to compare it to Canon’s recently announced EOS R7, which many wished also had a stacked sensor, high res viewfinder and CF Express slot, but Fujifilm has clearly illustrated how much more that would cost.Check prices on the Fujifilm X-H2S at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!