While the Fujifilm XH2 has been a joy to use, it’s not the same unique joy I’m accustomed to from Fujifilm. It feels like the result of attrition. That’s not to say that the Fujifilm XH2 is a bad camera; it’s very powerful and capable. But in some ways, it feels like a Sony camera minus the soul of a Playstation. In other ways, it feels like a Canon or Pentax camera. While the photos it outputs are heavily saturated with Fujifilm’s soul, the body isn’t. Gone are the retro ergonomics I adore. To that end, the photo-making process feels like less of a joy.
I think any photographer who has loved Fujifilm’s colors is going to love the XH2 if coming over from another camera system. However, everyone I know who’s jumped ship to Fuji has told me that they do it for the ergonomics. And those ergonomics fundamental to Fujifilm’s identity are missing here. As a tradeoff, you get a lot of great things like subject detection, improved autofocus, and the most beautiful photos I’ve ever seen from a Fuji X-series sensor.
Indeed, this is a camera worth trying out.
Transparency statement: Fujifilm flew press and YouTubers in from all around the world to NYC for the X Summit. I live in NYC and chose not to take the accommodations and hotel. All travel was paid for by the Phoblographer. Fujifilm, on the first night, treated us to dinner. On the second night, there was a cocktail hour, but I’m not drinking this month. Some of the images in this review were shot during this event. The vast majority, however, were shot on our own. If you ever question our ethics, please visit our Editorial Policies page.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
The Fujifilm XH2 speaks more to the brain than the heart. If you want the practicality of all the DSLR form-factor cameras others produce, then you’ll like the XH2. I, however, really like Fuji’s retro-style cameras. A camera doesn’t have to do one or the other; it can do both. With that said, the XH2’s ergonomics are good from a practical standpoint. But at the same time, it feels a bit like your favorite band sold out. Good on the band for trying to make money, but you’ll miss the way they used to sound. With all that, the Fujifilm XH2 has the best image quality I’ve seen from an APS-C sensor in a while. And in good lighting, the autofocus is very capable.
At the same time, this camera has various issues with autofocus. In conversations with Reviews Editor Hillary Grigonis who reviewed the XH2s, we agreed that Canon and Sony still perform better. We found issues with rolling shutter, star ratings, and autofocus performance pretty much across the board. With ample lighting, the XH2 is a beast, but so is any other modern camera. In low lighting, you need the fastest Fujifilm primes for it to make a difference.
Oh, and the high ISO image quality is pretty good as long as you’re nailing the exposure. Think about shooting with the camera like slide film in that situation.
The Fujifilm XH2 receives four out of five stars. Most of what we want fixed can be done via firmware updates. Hopefully those come. You can pick up the Fujifilm XH2 at Amazon if you’re interested in purchasing one.
- Very quiet
- Fantastic image quality
- High ISO images are fairly clean, or you can embrace the noise.
- The best color from an APSC sensor in a while
- Subject detection is great in sufficient lighting.
- Weather resistant
- Good for street photography
- Alright battery life
- Still works well with older lenses
- Cropped shooting mode in continuous drive mode is brilliant. (Let me get it right in camera and frame it perfectly there rather than fixing it later.)
- Continuous AF is great in good lighting.
- Very good at 10pm for tracking birds
- I miss the ISO dial so much.
- Desperately needs to find a way to make switching between subjects faster
- Rolling shutter in pre-shot ES
- I wish it had more customizable buttons.
- Fuji needs to update how their focusing modes work.
- Star ratings don’t transfer over to Capture one or Lightroom.
- Continuous AF isn’t so great in low lighting.
- Fuji needs to update their AF-C customization modes.
- Autofocus performance deteriorates with exposure preview on and lots of underexposure.
- High ISO editing versatility isn’t all that great, but for wildlife it really needs to be.
- Fuji currently lacks a major selection of fast telephoto lenses, and they really need them.
The Fujifilm XH2 we received is a loaner unit from Fujifilm. We tested it with the following:
- Tamron 18-300mm (on loan from Tamron)
- Tamron 17-70mm f2.8 (on loan from Tamron)
- Tamron 150-500mm f5-6.7 (on loan from Tamron
- Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 R
- Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 R WR
- Fujifilm 27mm f2.8 R WR
- Fujifilm 56mm f1.2 R WR (a prototype loaned to us by Fujifilm)
- Profoto B10
- Flashpoint Zoom Lion R2 flash
There isn’t a whole lot that’s innovative in the way of the Fujifilm XH2. At the moment of publishing, it’s the highest-resolution APS-C camera on the market. It also sports lots of the features Fujifilm has given previous cameras. It’s an overall good camera that does things differently from other Fujifilm products. But in the grand scheme of the market, it’s not innovating.
Here’s a look at the top down of the new Fujifilm XH2. It looks a whole lot like the previous one, but the dedicated dials are gone. And indeed, it looks like the XH2s. There’s a giant LCD screen, a mode dial, and buttons for dedicated controls.
Those buttons control white balance (important!) and ISO, and then there’s a customizable one.
Moving to the back of the camera, you’ll see the new style of joystick, playback on the top left, the D pad, and a port area where the screen is supposed to be flat. There’s also the EVF here.
Here’s what the screen looks like when it’s flush against the camera.
On the bottom, you’ll spot the battery door. It’s just like the XT4 and the XH2s.
Here are a bunch of the ports in that area. To complete weather resistance, make sure these are closed.
The Fujifilm XH2 is weather-resistant. Though Fujifilm refuses to give it an IP durability rating, you should know we tested it in the rain with WR series lenses, and it performed just fine. We also use it with Tamron’s weather-resistant lenses, and they performed admirably. So as long as you’ve got a weather resistant lens on the camera and all the ports are closed, you should be fine.
In the hands, it feels like a smaller version of a Fujifilm GFX camera. My personal thoughts on the retro ergonomics aside, the XH2 feels practical in many ways. However, I wish it had more customizable buttons and that certain buttons had unique textures to make them easier to find in the dark. Alternatively, if the buttons all lit up in the dark, I’d be happy. Being visually impaired can make navigating the camera difficult unless you go directly into the menu options to change things.
Ease of Use
Without a doubt, the XH2 is one of the most complicated cameras Fujifilm makes. And that’s for various reasons. One thing that annoyed me is the inability to quickly change the subject detection type. If you’re walking through a national park and find a woodpecker and then a chipmunk, you’d want to be able to quickly change the subject detection. But you can’t. Instead, you just have to choose the focusing point yourself. It’s annoying and nothing like the fantastic system OM SYSTEM and Sony give photographers.
One of the most tedious things about the XH2 (and Fujifilm in general) is how Pre-Shot ES works. Pre-shot ES works similarly to OM SYSTEM’s Pro Capture mode, and so it lets you capture a moment you might’ve missed. To get this working, you have to set the camera’s drive mode to continuous high, then set it to electronic shutter, then enable pre-shot ES. And you have to do that every single time in that order. It’s a long process. When you want to get out of it you have to go through a few different menu pages. Ideally, Pre-shot ES would do all this without needing to set up all the rest of that stuff.
If you’re using a Tamron lens without an aperture ring, the XH2 is one of the best cameras to use because of a design that doesn’t rely on a lens’s aperture ring.
My qualms aside, it makes a few things like ISO access easy while eliminating quick and direct access to things like film simulation. Seriously, this doesn’t feel like a Fujifilm camera and there are lots of new photographers and traditional photographers who would like that.
Updated February 2023:
The latest round of firmware updates — version 1.20 and 1.21 — fix a few minor bugs and add compatibility with the Tripod Grip TG-BT1. The tripod grip is likely going to attract more videographers than still photographers. But, the firmware with the tripod grip allows for remote zoom with the XC 15-45mm f3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens, along taking photos and starting videos right from the grip. The update also increases the live view frame rate when using the FH-XH file transmitter grip for wireless tethering.
With the update, a few of the menu items look a little different. Image Transfer Order is now called Communication Status. There’s also a new Bluetooth Device List inside the Bluetooth/Smartphone setting menu. But perhaps most important for Fuji color lovers, a bug that allowed the monochromatic color options to be used with Nostalgic Neg and Eterna Bleach Bypass has been corrected. Those monochromatic settings are now grayed out when using color film simulations.
Our metering tests pit cameras against Sunny 16, and this camera nailed it without issue. So if you’re looking to shoot landscapes with the Velvia simulation the way you would any film camera, you’ll be all set.
Focusing on the XH2 is where things get very complicated and that’s because Fujifilm did quite a bit to improve it over previous cameras. However, it still has a way to go to catch up to Canon and Sony.
If you’re doing straight portraits, then the face detection is pretty simple to use. Eyelash AF isn’t a thing anymore. However, I wouldn’t keep it in continuous autofocus the way that you can with Sony and Canon. Instead, I’d set it to single AF because of the way that Fujifilm insists that AF-C needs to also be tied to a focusing point or zone of some sort. Of course, you can also turn on face detection and as long as the face is well illuminated, the XH2 will find it.
The autofocus is very fast. It’s also just better. Even with a strongly backlit subject, it was able to find the eyes with face detection and nail the subject. I didn’t test it for street photography, but I’d probably not use this lens and combo for that. I’d use it for some sort of candid photography.Our test with the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 on the XH2
Where face detection gets really complicated is with events. I tried shooting an event with the Fujifilm XH2 and choosing faces became pretty annoying to do in both AF-S and AF-C modes. The camera wouldn’t always find the right subject in time. That’s also when you want to use zoom lenses like those that Tamron has. And while I came back with a lot of keeper shots that I ended up delivering, I could’ve gotten a lot more if I were shooting with Canon, Leica, or Sony. Leica, yes, Leica has been fantastic in my professional work when shooting photojournalistic events around NYC. And while Fujifilm is capable, I still feel like the way that Fujifilm’s autofocus works needs a continued overhaul. At the moment, it’s not a system that I’d want to use every day.
Let me put it this way, while I got the job done with the Fujifilm XH2, I’m a trained professional journalist that has to just adapt to whatever camera is thrown at me. I’ve got 15 years of experience doing this. If you’re moving from one camera system to another, the XH2 would be pretty annoying. I usually bring out my Leica, Sony, or Canon cameras when I’ve got events and they’ve never failed me.
Subject detection with the XH2 is pretty good as long as the subject is well illuminated. If you’re photographing birds in trees, I strongly recommend that you set your camera to a high ISO, set exposure preview on, and then use exposure compensation for the camera to clearly see the subject. Then you’ll pull the images back down in post-production. If the birds are unobstrcuted, then Fujifilm won’t have any problems at all. It will do the same thing with dogs and cats amongst other animals.
The other subjects it does are automobiles, bikes, trains, and airplanes. I found that the best focus across the board in the AF-C mode and tracking these subjects comes when you’re shooting at 10 frames a second and below. When tracking the 7 train coming towards my direction, the XH2 nailed each and every shot admirably. The same happened with bikes. More importantly, this happened when focusing with the Tamron 17-70mm f2.8 wide open. That’s quite impressive to us, although that’s the equivalent of f3.5’s depth of field in full-frame language. If you think about it that way, it’s not difficult to do.
Usually, I felt that the autofocus performed best when exposure preview was turned off. Once your subject starts to be underexposed by two stops, the XH2 starts to cause endless amounts of frustration no matter if I was using Fujifilm or Tamron lenses.
Overall, Hillary and I both agree that you’re not buying into Fujifilm for the autofocus. Instead, you do it for the image quality.
This is the reason why you get the XH2 over the XH2s: the image quality. The XH2 has the highest resolution of any APS-C camera on the market as of October 2022. And that can be scary if you’re shooting portraits. Thankfully, the skin smoothing effect is present and it can save people’s poor pores. The RAW files are pretty versatile too.
The Fujifilm XH2 feels like the first Fuji camera in a while that I really want to shoot RAWs with because of how much extra depth you can pull from the sensor. Desite that, the JPEG output is still pretty fantastic. However, shooting raws makes more sense because of how the camera works as explained in the autofocus section around exposure preview.
RAW File Versatility
At high ISOs, the RAW files aren’t so versatile. But at lower ISOs, there is so much beautiful depth. On top of that, applying the film simulations in Capture One makes the photos look like vivid dreams. For sure, this camera delivers Fujifilm’s best color that I’ve seen in years from the X series. And in many cases, it looks like very well exposed and processed medium format film.
Something else very worth talking about is the fact that Fujifilm told us that they’ve got something called AI White balance. The reps told us that they were told to go into malls and shoot thousands of photos to feed an AI in order for it to figure out how to get better color. In my honest opinion, I don’t always think that it does a great job. In the photos above, sunset was happening and the left side is how the camera rendered the scene. It didn’t look anything like that and instead, it was more like the scene to the right.
In another test, I used mixed lighting in the NYC subway. And honestly, I still don’t think that the AI white balance did such a great job at all.
High ISO Output
The Phoblographer’s high ISO tests involve printing. And I printed a 17×22 image on Canson Infinity paper using the Canon ProGraf 1000 printer. At ISO 6400, the results are more detailed than the XT4 for sure, but the XT4 is cleaner. Obviously, the older camera also has fewer megapixels. However, all of these wouldn’t even be noticeable unless you’re really looking for them and trained at look at prints under the correct lighting like we are.
Digitally speaking though, the high ISO image quality is quite good as long as you’re not editing the files all that much. Of course, we’re getting better high ISO images out of Capture One than we are with Lightroom. That’s just part of how the image editing engines work though.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy the Fujifilm XH2?
This is a very hard question to answer. I think that if you’re a Fujifilm photographer and need more serious output, then you’ll get the XH2. It’s very capable, and can deliver beautiful photos; arguably the best of the X series system. While there’s a lot that’s improved about the autofocus, it still feels behind a lot of the other camera systems out there. Even my Canon EOS R and Sony a7r III both feel more capable at doing professional work in some ways in regards to photographing people and events.
The camera’s biggest competition is the Canon EOS R7. And truly, I think that the Canon EOS R7 wins in nearly every way. Fujifilm has better image quality in many ways and a selection of much more beautiful glass. But Canon just performs on a whole other level at a more affordable price point. However, if you’re considering the lens investment, Canon is also more expensive.
The photographers getting the Fujifilm XH2 would be the same ones considering the GFX series in the form of the GFX 50S II. And that makes the XH2 quite an odd duck. As I type all this, I’m really truly not sure who would consider this camera. However, I do know that it’s capable, yet frustrating at times.
If you’re interested, you can pick up the XH2 at Amazon.
For more on this product, check out the LensRentals listing.
- 40MP X Trans sensor. This is X Trans 5
- At the moment, Fujifilm says this is the highest resolution sensor in the world in an APS-C camera
- Pixel-shift multi-shot, which makes 160MP photos. These files are created with a piece of Fujifilm software
- Max of 1/180,000 electronic shutter, so you can shoot at f1 if you want in bright light
- CFExpress B and SD card slot
- X processor 5
- AI Autofocusing
- HEIF Output
- Pretty much the same body as the XH2s
- No new film simulations
- Not as advanced for video shooting as the XH2s
- Fujifilm says the XH2 doesn’t have as good autofocusing as the XH2s, but that it’s still more than capable
- Weather resistance
- ISO 125 is the new low ISO setting
- Uses the XT4’s battery, which seems like its going to be a new standard for lots of Fujifilm cameras
- Targeted more to photographers than videographers
- Pick one up over at Amazon if you’re interested.
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