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brianwahl

Two weeks with the Fuji X-H1 (coming from a Sony user)

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Here's a bit of a review after using the X-H1 for about two weeks, both in a hobbyist/family setting and in my more professional workflow (video production is part of what I do for a living). As a caveat, I wouldn't consider myself a pro video guy, though. I'm a hobbyist who turned video into part of my full-time income. I started a company called 'Worship Tutorials', and a youtube channel is a big part of it - I do a lot of video work (probably 3-6 uploads a week to YouTube), so while I'm not doing work for clients, and I don't have a pro background, video quality is important to me. I also realize that the limitations I encounter are almost purely coming from me, not the gear.

Background

I've been using Sony bodies for about the past 2 years. Before that, I used Blackmagic stuff - Studio 4k bodies, and then an Ursa Mini 4.6k. That was overkill. My church used to use those, and I loved what they could do, but the workflow for me (working on my own pushing out that many videos) just wasn't good. So I sold all of it and jumped to Sony. First with an a7S ii, then the a7R ii (as a 2nd body), then I sold both of those and went with an a9 + a6500. The colors on the a9 are far, far better than the previous gen. a7 stuff.

My frustration with Sony is color. And it's a huge deal to me - I believe color is one of the primary emotional pieces of video. And I hate the way Sony handles color. I do realize, though, that the IQ is there - plenty of people create beautiful work with Sony a7-series bodies, and I finally got good enough in post to make stuff that I thought looked great. But it's always a struggle for me - I feel like I'm always fighting for the colors I want. Then I started reading about the X-T2.

So I rented (and then purchased) an X-T2, and honestly I loved it. I loved the handling, the physical controls, and especially the colors. Even still images in Lightroom were easier to get what I wanted (with the Sony raw images, I still felt like I was forever fiddling to get the colors I wanted). In video the image was just more pleasing to me. But it lacked things I really wanted - 120p slow motion, IBIS, smooth gradients from different light sources when ISO was set to auto, better auto-focus, etc. The Sony system was just better spec'd. Plus by this time I had invested in the 24-70 G-Master and the 70-200 G-Master lenses from Sony. These lenses are incredibly good. I returned the Fuji, but I've missed it.

So another year of fighting with Sony footage, and then X-H1 is released. Again I rented one, and now I've purchased one (along with the 16-55 f/2.8). Several of the key features I wanted have been implemented - IBIS, high frame rate, etc. But to me, again, the killer feature is color, and with the introduction of Eterna, Fuji's color superiority is even better.

Pros/Cons - Fuji vs Sony

Over the past two weeks, I've shot a lot of video and stills side-by-side with my a9. Here are a list of thoughts...

  • Auto-focus: The a9 (and presumably the a7 iii) is better with AF. Much better. But honestly the Fuji isn't bad, and it's good enough for what I do. This may be a make/break feature for some, though.
  • High frame rate recording: Sony is better here again - the 120 and 60p footage is cleaner. But I've shot a lot of it with the X-H1, and it's certainly not bad. If you avoid things that you know are going to give you aliasing and moire problems, you'll be fine. For me, it will work.
  • Dynamic range: Again, the nod goes to Sony, but it's very close. Especially if you use the 200 and 400% settings on the X-H1.
  • Low Light: Sony wins here. Full frame, plus their magic with high ISO is hard to beat - honestly does anybody beat them? The X-H1 is acceptable, though. Honestly at 10,000 ISO it's a pretty useable image. We are spoiled with ISO performance. Five years ago (and especially 10 years ago), ISO 3200 was the top you could go, and many cameras looked like crap there.
  • IBIS: Fuji is better in my opinion.
  • Handling/ergonomics: I like the Fuji better - a lot. One thing I do like about the Sony cameras is the ability to set up custom presets for 4k 24p, 60p, and 120p (that's how I set mine up, anyway), and be able to instantly recall shutter speed, frame rate, and aperture in one move. On the X-H1, it's a 3 step process, although it's very fast after some practice.
  • Lenses: Tie (but not if you consider how much they cost). The G-Master lenses I have are awesome. But they are very expensive, and big/heavy. Fuji lenses are very good and very affordable.

And finally, the most important things - for me, personally...

  • Image Quality: Fuji, by a lot. Now I agree with Tony Northrup's assessment of the 2x IQ thing, regarding stops. I get that technically, the Sony sensor is able to resolve more light, etc. I get that I can shoot at lower ISO's with the Sony, so from a noise-perspective it's cleaner. But when I look at footage shot side-by-side from both cameras, I pick the Fuji every single time. Especially when shooting with Eterna. It's not even close.
  • Workflow: Fuji wins. Because the image is so much better out of the camera - for my tastes - the workflow is much faster. And at the rate that I make videos for my business (as well as candid home videos of family, etc), it makes an enormous difference for me. Even things like render times are way faster, because I'm doing much less manipulation to the image.
  • Emotional impact: Fuji wins. I love using the Fuji system more. Because of my experience with the X-T2, I think I can say it's not a honeymoon thing, too. Although the a9 is a ridiculously awesome camera to use. I really do love it. The other emotional impact thing is the image quality - and I think the fuji wins here, too - because of color.

Final thoughts

The 'best camera' doesn't exist. Some are better technically than others, some produce a certain look that users may or may not want. Some lack features or have an abundance of features, but honestly the quality of work that is produced is going to lie with the person creating the work. These days cameras are so good that I don't think it matters what brand or model you use.

The Sony stuff (especially the current gen stuff like the a9, a7R iii, a7 iii) is better on paper than the X-H1. There's no question. Is it better in actual use? Depends on who's using it. Personally, I think I could create the same quality work with either system, but I'm convinced the X-H1 will get me to the end goal faster. For you, it may be the other way around.

Finally, I think the internet can be a toxic place for people who are looking to buy gear. People come into these discussion with biases, or they are far more concerned with spec's on paper than anything else. Personally, I'm actually kind of upset at myself for even considering switching from my Sony gear to Fuji - at some point I/we just need to ignore all the hype with new stuff and just make content - and get better at using the gear we have.

Having said that, I'm probably going to sell all my Sony stuff and invest in Fuji, although I still have about two weeks where I can return the Fuji and keep my Sony gear.

Sample Work

Here's a video I just produced using the X-H1. I did about 6 takes of this song from different angles (which is why I need at least two cameras for what I do - three would be better). Edited/graded in Resolve. I shot it in Eterna, and honestly I did very little to the image. Just a tweak with white balance and contrast/saturation to taste. With my Sony cameras, this would have required 4-5 nodes using a LUT, color manipulation to lows/mids/highs, skin tone isolation/correction, etc.

Another video I made with the X-H1, more heavily graded:

Here's a very similar project (to the first one) using the Sony a9 and the a6500 together: It's a bit different look, and I like it. But it took a lot to get there.

Here's a video I shot with the X-H1 - again using Eterna, and graded in Resolve:

And another with the a9, also graded in Resolve:

I know there are lots of people probably trying to decide between the X-H1 and the a7iii. I'm one of them, so hopefully my experience can help you make that decision.

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On 27/03/2018 at 7:11 PM, brianwahl said:

And finally, the most important things - for me, personally...

  • Image Quality: Fuji, by a lot. Now I agree with Tony Northrup's assessment of the 2x IQ thing, regarding stops. I get that technically, the Sony sensor is able to resolve more light, etc. I get that I can shoot at lower ISO's with the Sony, so from a noise-perspective it's cleaner. But when I look at footage shot side-by-side from both cameras, I pick the Fuji every single time. Especially when shooting with Eterna. It's not even close.

Thanks for that.

I agree with pretty much all you found. The Sony advantages are slight, aside from full frame. The Fuji advantages are large, and unique to Fuji.

I watched Northrup's follow up video last night. The clickbait headline was "2x better image quality" basically, and he knew full well what sensationalism that was, fresh from the Sony press junket, then tries to back peddle in a follow up video full of disclaimers, and that "2x = 1 stop" line, which should be infamous... should be on t-shirts... If I ever see him at a show or PR event, I'll shout "2x BETTER = ONE STOP!" :)

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 23.54.56.png

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On 3/27/2018 at 7:11 PM, brianwahl said:

Here's a very similar project (to the first one) using the Sony a9 and the a6500 together: It's a bit different look, and I like it. But it took a lot to get there.

 

For me this one looks significantly above other: capturing light reflections is brilliant, color distribution is smoother with better range, also distinction of face details looks to me more 3Dish prominent. Thanks for very usable post, sort of real life comparison.

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Thanks for the responses! The Sony stuff in the song videos certainly has a different look than the Fuji, but in my testing I've found I could pretty easily get the Fuji footage to look like the Sony footage if I wanted (I used a Kodak LUT to get most of that look). However, I can't really get the Sony footage to look as natural as the Fuji footage, if that makes sense.

Probably the biggest factor for me was more candid everyday type footage. In my studio setup (and with enough time in post), I feel like I can get either camera to give me what I want, but for my own personal stuff - taking video/photos of family and that kind of thing - the Fuji looks better with less work, which is important for me.

Regarding Tony's '2x better' video - I do appreciate how he starts it off by saying "None of this really matters". I just saw another video he posted - shot on the X-H1 even - where he again drives home the point that gear matters very little these days, especially since so many camera makers are putting out great stuff.

1 hour ago, TwoScoops said:

Maybe I'm just being facetious but the colours/skintones in Northrup's vedeos look terrible.

Yeah I've always thought their studio setup has strange/anaemic looking lighting, but that's all a personal preference thing. The stuff they do in natural lighting always looks great. I think they go for that high key fashion kind of look, which is a lot different than what we see these days from most talking head review channels. Their content is excellent in my opinion.

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On 29/03/2018 at 5:18 PM, brianwahl said:

Regarding Tony's '2x better' video - I do appreciate how he starts it off by saying "None of this really matters". I just saw another video he posted - shot on the X-H1 even - where he again drives home the point that gear matters very little these days, especially since so many camera makers are putting out great stuff.

Again, it's just another disclaimer. It's what a reviewer says when they don't have any conviction in their belief.

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Very nice write up!

sony ibis is really weak, probably because there is not much movement inside the camera.

I used Sony for full 2 years but still dumped them at end and never look back, at the end I never really bond with them due to ergnomics and colour (though I just got x3000 because its the only action cam with OIS on it and the price is even cheaper than Chinese competitor due to Easter sale XD)

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Seems ergonomics is actually as much as subjective me and others had referred about after all... ; )

The same for SOOC outcome too where Eterna does shine indeed; not even need to apply for Fuji's color science paradigm, I'd dare to add now for the nth time... not always too much though for a few incomprehensible voices of hate here :X No matter how long the usual suspects have claimed against, isn't it? ;-)

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In fact, industrial designers spend years at university studying subjects like ergonomics for a reason. For example, placing the shutter button on the bottom of the camera would be poor design. So ergonomics is not entirely subjective and arbitrary.Design that allows photographers to use a camera with the least amount of fuss and make changes to shutter speed and aperture and scroll through the menus with as little effort as possible are all part of handling, which is one of the very first topics most good reviewers discuss when evaluating any camera. To dismiss ergonomics as nothing more than subjectivity is silly. It's little different from saying, 'none of this really matters'. Because it does matter.

Pointing out missed opportunities is also not hate speech.

But @Emanuel , not sure why you're bringing up that bs again. Maybe gloating over your own superior judgement? Have you even bought the camera yet? Did you ever even own the X-T2? 

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The ergonomics are one of the most enjoyable things about the X-H1... And the responsiveness. Much prefer it to X-T2.

It is closer to an NX1 in handling terms.

I am getting used to the drive selector by shooting stills in Film Simulation bracket mode, which is right next to movie mode on the lever.

That stores the raw still, as well as 3 JPEGs with different looks. So in my view, a handy feature!

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13 hours ago, jonpais said:

In fact, industrial designers spend years at university studying subjects like ergonomics for a reason. For example, placing the shutter button on the bottom of the camera would be poor design. So ergonomics is not entirely subjective and arbitrary.Design that allows photographers to use a camera with the least amount of fuss and make changes to shutter speed and aperture and scroll through the menus with as little effort as possible are all part of handling, which is one of the very first topics most good reviewers discuss when evaluating any camera. To dismiss ergonomics as nothing more than subjectivity is silly. It's little different from saying, 'none of this really matters'. Because it does matter.

Pointing out missed opportunities is also not hate speech.

But @Emanuel , not sure why you're bringing up that bs again. Maybe gloating over your own superior judgement? Have you even bought the camera yet? Did you ever even own the X-T2? 

So, "more than secondary, subjective scope is even less than that"... I dare to understand from there.

Really?

Jon, take a look on your previous input we already know on topic (I guess you didn't change your mind...) versus Andrew's now as for instance following this post of yours.

Subjectivity means there's no superior judgment anywhere. Better than saying the other side is wrong, I guess. Far away to be silly instead. As much as no people should address personal attacks in these boards as well. People should have their chance to express their own opinions, isn't it? Actually, it is what that subjectivity is all about, let consensus flow for once here at least ; ) Let alone this holiday season, go figure. Makes me truly unhappy and should make somehow part of a rest of goodwill left inside any of us. The same when you are the target.

Happy Easter to all!

Oh yes, that XH-1 (I think my sins are forgiven now because I let the X-T2 in the shop shelves :D) along the GH5S make my days beyond the season (E :-)

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On 3/31/2018 at 3:25 PM, ntblowz said:

sony ibis is really weak, probably because there is not much movement inside the camera.

 

The larger the sensor is the harder it is to stabilize it. So no FF is going to work as well as say a m4/3 sensor will.

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@brianwahl

Thanks so much for posting your opinions and for posting the sample videos. It is nice work you've done there.

The footage of the Haw River looks nice. the 60fps 1080p coming out of my a6500 doesn't look nearly as nice as that. Far more... "wonky" I guess (sorry I can't think of a better technical term).

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On 4/1/2018 at 8:15 AM, Andrew Reid said:

...shooting stills in Film Simulation bracket mode....

That stores the raw still, as well as 3 JPEGs with different looks. So in my view, a handy feature!

Sounds very interesting.

Anyone with an X-H1 can answer the following question... whats the fps in 'Film Simulation bracket mode'?

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1 frame... It takes one shot, and reproduces the exact same frame 3 times in different film simulations. 3 JPEGs, 1 raw.

Do you mean continuous shooting FPS in that mode?

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34 minutes ago, Andrew Reid said:

1 frame... It takes one shot, and reproduces the exact same frame 3 times in different film simulations. 3 JPEGs, 1 raw.

Do you mean continuous shooting FPS in that mode?

Yeah. Continuous Shooting FPS?

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